Rough draft notes for my first talk on game design, development, pitching, and promoting for Nonepub: Life of the Party Game Designer. August 23, 2020.

Hi! My name is Ami Baio, I own Pink Tiger Games, where I aim to create sweet and  super kind games that make people feel seen and heard. Communication, connection, and empathy focused experiences that you can play with family, friends, partners, coworkers, and strangers.

My first game, You Think You Know Me, a conversational card game popped into my head like magic- like the whole concept. I started writing immediately and within a few weeks I had about 150 handwritten cards I carried around with me to play with family and friends. I’d playtest any time, anywhere, with anyone.  I quickly noticed the special moments players were sharing while playing- and my heart jumped – I knew I was on the right track. The following month I had a professional prototype made through Print n Play in Vancouver, Washington. And two months after that I launched my first Kickstarter. I ran a three week campaign and ended up making almost double my goal which was so thrilling-  this was the moment in September 2017 I knew for sure I was making a game and I already had ideas and visions for the future.

YTYKM was officially released in March 2018. It has been credited for two marriage proposals- one couple is happily married now and the other was supposed to be married this summer but postponed due to Covid. Both of these couples reached out to share with me how playing YTYKM in the very beginning of dating helped them open up and talk about things maybe they wouldn’t have even thought of without it! I’ve received messages from parents connecting with their teenage children, and people so excited to learn new things about people they’ve known for decades. This feedback is incredibly touching and inspiring, I can’t even tell you how much. So from first dates to middle schoolers to college professors to families on road trips to players who share they carry a stack of favorites with them all the time and more – YTYKM has been well received, selling 9,500 copies around the world so far. It’s been sold out since May of this year and more games are on their way this fall.

My second game, Flatter Me literally arrived a few days ago. It’s a two player compliment battle card game with similar mechanics to the classic card game of War. But in Flatter Me your strategy consists of giving and receiving heartfelt compliments. With 250 unique compliment cards there’s something special for everyone. I also wrote the cards to be given as gifts- to place inside a card or gift bag or given to anyone anytime for a kind note of encouragement. You can also carry some yourself to use as affirmations or a needed boost of self-care.

Being a woman in games comes with some memorable moments. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve shown my game at an event and I’ve been asked, what is this and I reply a game I make and the next question is always- but who created it and I respond, me. And the final question, but who helped you- and I answer, umm no one. I make my games. It’s awkward.

And I’m independent. I choose to be indie because I haven’t wanted anyone else to tell me what to do or what I should make or how my games should look. So, I’m definitely always learning, flailing, failing, flying – often all at the same time. There are ways to do all of this on your own it and it depends on what kind of time you have and want to put into it. I did have an interested publisher at the beginning of 2018 with a contract ready to go but after months of negotiations it just didn’t feel right for me at the time. But, I’m superstitious and I never say never! For now though, I feel very lucky and very happy to be building Pink Tiger Games.

My personal design rules are: Make what you love.

Simple and easy to learn rules with variants.

I want my games to deepen the relationships around us.

I want my games to be timeless.

I want to make good gifts.

I believe people are endlessly fascinating and always changing. We all have stories to tell. I also like to see games as interactive art.

I think my biggest obstacle is patience- I want to make everything I want to make right now. But things need their own space and pace to grow and I remind myself of that a lot and in my experience, everything usually takes a bit more money and time than you think.

Right now, I’m working on my next project for 2021 and while I’m mostly keeping it a secret I can tell you it’s the most demanding research and development game that I’ve done so far, it’s a social party game, it will have 500 cards (just like YTYKM), and I love it. Working on this during quarantine has made me excited and hopeful and I’m so grateful for this idea. I can’t wait to share it with you.

I also have a 250 card expansion pack for You Think You Know Me that I’d like to produce, so that’s also high on my to do list but no date yet.

Playtesting. Okay. Don’t hate me but I think I know if a game works after like two or three playtests. After a couple of tweaks if I don’t find it’s enjoyable and easy- I’m out and on to the next. For me, it’s like falling in love. And with all the time you need to spend with a game to make it you really need to be in love, committed, and give your all. In my experience, people will feel it with you.

Retail. This is who I pitch to. I send an email with links, photos, wholesale and retail prices, minimum order, shipping information, personal connections I have with the store and what it would mean to me to see it sold there. I mean every word. Remember, I’m in love, and I want to share it with the world.

So let’s talk Kickstarter. I have some guidelines I follow that I hope will be useful.

1. Before launch have a game that is 99% ready to go, if it came out tomorrow you’d be happy with it.

2. Keep it simple with rewards. Options for one game, two games with a price cut, three games with a further price cut and so on. I’ve had a larger tier available on my two projects to write a card with me and that’s been really fun and a great way to connect.

3. Never launch after October in a calendar year- spending the money in that same year for tax reasons gets tricky, ordering, and general busyness of life so this is a no for me.

4. Budget. Kickstarter fees, production costs, your video, shipping, taxes, credit card fees, and more. Get lots of quotes. Ask a lot of questions. Get more quotes. Keep it honest and be transparent with backers.

5. Keep it short, like 3- 4 weeks. Maybe closer to 4 in this time we’re currently in though.

6. Post updates when you have news to share. Not every day.

7. Pick your favorite form (or forms) of social media and post and share and create community. Instagram is my favorite so you’ll find I post the most there.

8. Say yes a lot. Figure it out later. Also, say yes to helping people along the way because we all need each other.

9. End your Kickstarter project on a date and time that you can celebrate, have a local party (someday we’ll be able to do this again!), stream, go live- whatever works. Just don’t end it at 4am your local time- I love watching the clock tick down and the last backers come through- it’s super fun.

10. Lastly I’m here and you can email me, send me a dm- I’m happy to help in any way I can. So many people have helped me along the way and I’m so happy to always be learning and always be passing it on.

 

Most importantly- listen to your gut. Stay true to yourself. Follow your heart. I really love making games and I’m so grateful to every person who is with me in every role every step of the way.

Thank you so much for having me!