I have been interested in games and gaming for a long time.I loved playing board games as a child and even to this day I can always be counted upon to play a game if someone asks me.

Besides playing games I have also had a long time interest in how games are designed.One site I like to visit is the Board Game Designer's Forum (http://www.bgdf.com). This website is a treasure trove of information that deals with designing and publishing board games.From a hobbyists' point of view, little is missing from here.The various forums discuss all aspects of game design from concepts to mechanics to publishing.

One of the coolest features on the site though is the monthly board game design challenge they offer.Basically the moderator of the site presents a theme and some requirements, either types of components or a certain type of mechanic, and then the members are given one week to develop a high level board game design implementing those concepts. Once designs are submitted, members and designers are given an opportunity for one more week to vote on the designs. Each designer must award a gold, silver and bronze medal to the game designs they like, excluding yheir own.It wouldn't be much of a contest if everyone gave themselves the gold medal after all.

At the conclusion of the voting winners are announced and then members have a chance to offer their critiques of the different designs. While there is no prize for the contest, the critique process is a much more valuable benefit as it provides insights not only in the decision process but also the designers get to offer their motivations for the designs. Overall it is a pretty neat idea, and I do think some of these concepts probably have the potential to be really solid games in the future.

I have followed the challenges and have wanted to participate, but I never made the time.This month, with it being a new year, I decided that it was time to give it a shot.The theme for the challenge was fossil fuels and renewable energy and the mechanics were open, which means one is free to design whatever they wanted.I thought being from the coal regions this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I wasn't sure at first how to design it, but I pondered it for a few days and finally came up with a design.

My concept was a card game in which a deck of cards contained various resources like oil, coal, natural gas, iron and dirt.The players also get a set of bidding cards and some markers to mark mines as well as production cards and action cards. The production cards would be breakers, oil wells and pumps.The action cards included various modifiers along with transportation cards for transporting resources.In addition there would also be cards to represent wind vanes and solar panels for generating clean power.Players would take turns mining for resources among the mines which are built with random numbers of resource cards and then build production and transportation facilities. The ultimate goal is to produce power and clean energy while not creating too much pollution.

Unfortunately, the design had to be 500 words or less and I made a rookie mistake in cutting out the information and mechanics dealing with the solar and wind power which I think tanked my design in the competition, but the experience was a great deal of fun.Many great designs were in the mix this month and I was flattered that one person actually mentioned my game in a critique that made me feel it had potential.

In the process of developing the game and doing some research, I actually happened upon another cool site.In the past getting anything published could be a challenge in that there was a limited number of publishers accepting a limited number of submissions each year. With the advent of technology, print on demand publishing has become much more commonplace and now it is easier than ever for anyone with a book concept to get it published and promoted and many have.My brother Jeff published two books through a company called Publish America and several more authors have been featured in this paper in recent years who have published in similar manners.

It turns out that game designers or would-be game designers have a chance to see their creations in print as well.There is a site called the Game Crafter (www.thegamecrafter.com) which publishes games on demand.You have the ability to design your game from the rulebook to the components and this company will publish and sell it for you.Several games on this site have been published by independent designers and several from the Board Game Designers' Forum.

While we lament some of the problems technology has created, design and creativity definitely has benefited from the Internet.We can now design board games, music, books, artwork and more on demand and with a small amount of the overhead we traditionally would have needed.It's a brave new world and one that creates wonderful opportunities for the artists and designers of the world.

Til next timeā€¦.