Friends and Business

I’ve had a bad experience with friends and business. I started a company with a couple friends and things went bad.  Real bad. Losing friends bad.  Three guys that worked together on some great and challenging projects, hit deadlines, spent late nights together discussing everything under the sun, now haven’t spoken in any meaningful way in over a decade.  In my defense, I was young and dumb. We all were. There was no plan or budget for marketing, no ideas to generate buzz about us, nothing that a modern business needs to thrive. I have accepted my role in our failure. There are a million little things I could have done better, communicated better, budgeted better, worked harder. It was a humbling, painful, learning experience. The worst part wasn’t that I had to take a retail job, or feel adrift in life again, it was that I lost my friends. So when Jeff approached me to start a gaming company I was understandably nervous.  I would not risk the friendships I had for anything, much less a shot in the dark on something we’d never done before.  But being in your thirty’s (OK, late thirty’s) is a different world than a 24 year old. I’ve been through a lot of growth; kids, Master’s degree, steady and fulfilling career, home ownership.  I trust my partners to do their best, to commit their time and effort to creating the best games we can.  But more than that, I trust myself.  I know more about research, marketing, and networking than I did back then. I also know how hard I can work. I know how to budget my time. I know how to harness my passion to be great.

I can admit to myself that the failure of my first company was due to a lack of trying and hard work. That is a painful admission.  No one wants to admit that they didn’t try their best. It’s way easier to blame the market, or the timing, or other people. Were there things I didn’t know? Sure. But I did nothing about that.  I didn’t spend time learning about the business we were in, the market that was out there, or a host of other things that contributed to our failure.

Lesson learned: If we are to fail, it won’t be because I didn’t work, learn, or plan hard enough.

Okay, here goes…

My name is Pat Wright and I’m starting a game company. Whew, that’s hard to say. Makes it more real somehow. More specifically, a board game company. It’s a grand, terrifying experiment and one that I would like to chronicle and share.  Even if no one ever reads this blog, I’ll have a record of achievements, of failures, of good times and bad. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to the point that I won’t even have time to update this!

I’m starting this blog for a couple reasons. The first couple are selfish and one, I believe, is a little egotistical, but here they are:

1. I want to become a better writer.  My favorite games are the ones that have tons of errata.  As an avid reader, I love when games have sprawling backstories that allow the players to immerse themselves in the world.  The mechanics of a D20 system are fun but knowing about the game world, the politics, religions, histories, really brings games alive for me. I know that to be a better writer you have to WRITE. This blog is the first step for me.

2. I want to create something. I’m a high school teacher. Everyday I create lesson plans, assignments, and assessments to help students learn and showcase their talents. It’s fun and fulfilling work. BUT. I want to put something out into the world that is for everyone.  That shows my passion for games. That shows my talent for design. That exists in the physical world and that I can point to and say, “I created that”.

3. I want to be authentic to myself and to you. I think that starting this blog at the very beginning of this company is going to be a cool experience over time.  Hell, we don’t even have a name or a business entity yet. (I’ll be writing about these in the future, to be sure).  Look, I want to start a business. I want that business to generate revenue. I hope, in part, that by reading this blog that you will be inspired to buy a product, support a Kickstarter, whatever, to help that business grow so that I can keep making cool games. That’s authentic.  But it’s also authentic that I want to make fun, interesting, challenging, intelligent stuff. It’s authentic that I want to share this adventure with you. It’s authentic that the relationships I’ve built through gaming are what I want with every person that plays my games. I want this to be a place where I talk about struggles, frustrations, and challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be airing dirty laundry here. It’s not a behind the scenes, soap opera, he/said she/said blog. I hope to pass along what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, how things are progressing so you feel we are in this together.

4. I want to help other people.  As I have started this process, I’ve been amazed at the sheer magnitude to help that is out there that other people are just giving away.  The forums on BoardGameGeek are packed with advice on how to do everything, from the creation of the business side, to design tips, mechanics, playtesters, etc..  These tips are also coming from people that were right where I am now, just starting out.  Not only that, they then link to other blogs, sites, and forums where even more advice awaits.  I am planning a blog post in the future of all of the threads, lists, sites, and blogs that have helped, and will continue to help, us start out in the right direction. I would like to be one of those people. Hopefully, one day, someone will come to our website, link to this blog and be inspired like I am. They’ll get to learn from my mistakes and follow their passion. Or, someone might stumble upon this undeleted blog in 10 years, and read through the epic flameout that occured. Either way, I hope it will help.

So, welcome to the journey. It’s going to be perilous. It may not end where we thought. It might end in a glorious explosion or die with a whimper.  Maybe we’ll save the world, defeat the monster, and live happily ever after.  We might get lost along the way.  There’s danger around every corner but treasures await as well. I hope I’m ready.

PW