My name is Gregory Stinson, I am a current Graduate Electrical Engineering student at the University of Maryland College Park U.S.A. My self along with two of my rock climbing buddies Omar and Marcus started Just Jokes LLC and designed ‘Not My President’. A game to provide some comic relief to this crazy political climate.
The idea for the game, Not My President, sprung up while several of us, University of Maryland alumni, were playing the social deduction game Werewolf. The game centers on players either assuming a “Villager” or “Werewolf” role card. The “Villagers” try to figure out who among them are the “Werewolves” while the werewolves try to disguise themselves as villagers among the group. We started cracking jokes that it would be hilarious if, instead of finding werewolves, we were looking for Trump Supporters instead. The concept blossomed from there to make light of all the strange and unpredictable things that happened during the previous election.
Building the wall.. er making the game that is
In order to make the game we knew all of the characters needed to reflect a trope from our current political climate. We grouped up and started listing out random character ideas that we thought would fit, i.e. the refugee, the wall builder, the puppet master. We knew that we wanted our game to resemble a satirical version of One Night in Ultimate Werewolf, similar to Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples. So we decided to try to make fun of every group equally, both the right and the left. In the end we settled with the 4 “Trump Supporter” roles and 12 “Reasonable People” roles seen below. We thought that by making the “Trump Supporters” similar to the werewolf role, it would accurately reflect the trope on the social witch hunt that happened/continues to happen in America. To make sure we made fun of both sides we made the “Reasonable People” equally ridiculous in that each character is a stereotype on a left extremist view. Now it was time to give each character an ability that suitably matched their name.
Once we made the rules and defined the characters it was time for some play testing. We initially tested with someone acting as the narrator to test out all of the character roles and how they functioned. Testing sessions with friends would reach hilarious levels because of all the funny events that transpired. The unclear rules coupled with the politically charged conversation made for some memorable moments. One such time a friend screamed NOOOOOO! At the top of their lungs when the narrator announced that “It was November 9th and Trump was the president”. None of us could help cracking up in our seats.
The experience was great as we could adjust the unclear rules in real time to see what worked the best. Also with having such a diverse group of friends we could find out what was actually funny and was strait up offense which helped us curve the game to being fun for the whole group. One major issue we found during playtesting is that people kept forgetting what characters were in play. We would have to stop the game and write down all of the characters in play before continuing. That’s when we decided we needed tokens of each character in our final game so that we could easily remember what roles were in play.
After playing a couple of games with a human narrator we could tell nobody wanted to do that job. Nobody wanted to be a bystander and everybody wanted to be some funny role. We then decided that we needed to pray to Skynet, to make us an app, that could narrate the game. It was great that Marcus is a wizard when it comes to smart phone apps. It took him about a day and our fancy new app was alive. The only thing we were missing was a voice that could sooth the ears and reminded everyone of America. That’s when Omar’s brothers came in. He sings opera in his spare time and does one hell of a Trump impersonation. We recruited him into recording a few lines and our narration app was launched.
At this point we were stoked with all that we had made and decided that we needed a wicked artist to bring all the characters together. We recruited…bare with me on the connection.. Marcus’s little brothers girl friend, Nicole, to create some awesome characters just based off of the character names we gave her. As you can see the result was amazing. Every time she would send us a new character we couldn’t stop laughing. It was incredible seeing what we could put together just by reaching out to friends and family for help. That by having a diverse friend group we could combine all of these different skills into something fun for everyone.
In order to make this game a reality we knew that we had to drop some actual cash. We decided to contact 7 different manufactures to see if they could do the job. The big question was who was cheapest for the best quality, CHINA or the U.S.A. Very quickly we learned the answer China. For the small scale that we were looking to produce at there was just no way to make a game of this quantity in the U.S. After contacting 5 companies in China we finally found one that could suit our needs. After talking with them for a couple of weeks we found that we needed around $5,000 on KickStarter to fund our game. This was much more manageable than the $10,000 we were being quoted else where. As a piece of advice for other people looking to publish their own games, make sure you contact at least 5 different manufactures and don’t get down by a high initial quote that you may receive. I went back and forth at least 13 times with one manufacturer until I could get the price point to something manageable. Manufactures want you to succeed as much as you do, so make sure to work with them like a partner.
The time finally came, 4 months after conception, to start working on our KickStarter campaign. We divided up roles, like any presidential campaign would. Marcus was in charge of everything logistically, such as cost analysis, budget, and shipping costs. He even made our KickStarter video in Blender which allowed us to have a simulation of the game being played virtually. Omar was in charge of everything visual on the KickStarter. Banners, stretch goals, game manual, token artwork you name it he made it happen. I was deemed the marketing guru and set about finding different avenues to show off our game. The main outlets I choose were Facebook and Blogs, apparent as that may seem I just thought I would mention it anyways. I have also just started taking the games to board game meet ups as I want to see peoples reaction to the game. So far I have managed to not offend any one too seriously!
What is great about being a student at the University of Maryland, is that there are so many resources at my disposal. I learned that many business major students have a project where they partner with a local company and help out their marketing goals. After just a 10 minute conversation I learned that I was limiting myself by only writing to blogs and Facebook groups. I needed to be posting on Reddit, Ifunny, Imgur, Twitter, Tumbler, and even Instagram – AnalogGames.com as an obvious example of how well Instagram works. The thing I learned is not to limit yourself when it comes to marketing, any publicity is good publicity. You just need to make sure you stretch your game to every nook and cranny you can find. I’m not trying to say you should harass your local Radio D.J. friend or your third cousin who once worked at Buzzfeed. But sending a quick link or a small submission to even the most unlikely sources can be a huge help.
At this point we have just launched our KickStarter and my work has really just begun. I only have 28 more days to make this thing a reality. These past 4 months have been an amazing experience, it has shown me how if you follow through on one goofy idea you could actually end up making a game that people all around the world could play. I’ve learned that having supportive friends and family are a great motivation to bringing your ideas to fruition. Even if our KickStarter doesn’t get funded, I will take it as a sign that just more work needs to be done. Because in the end its all about learning from your mistakes and growing through them. I know that if I keep trying eventually I succeed.