I Have a Board Game Idea – Now What? Part 16: Interview with Matt Holden from the IGA

Welcome back everyone!

As a follow up to part 14 on not having to do at game design on your own, I reached out to Matt Holden of the Indie Game Alliance to learn more about him and what his organization offers to the board game community. Enjoy!

Introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself – ie favourite games, what do you do to relax – what game got you into the gaming community things like that

My name’s Matt Holden, and I started the Indie Game Alliance. It’s so hard to pick a favorite tabletop game, because I’ve played and been involved with so many at this point. I think I’ll have to go with my two current favorites: tower defense card game Gingerdead House, and the upcoming scenario-based survival horror game Coma Ward. Relaxing… what’s that? 🙂 When I get a chance, I love spending time with my fiancée, Victoria. Lately, we have been going around hunting Pokémon at night when I need to step away from the grind for a bit. (#TeamMystic!)

As for getting into the community, you can thank Dave Arneson for that. When I was attending Full Sail for (video) game design, we had a class called Rules of the Game, which Dave taught. I wasn’t at all interested in board or card games, but here was the co-creator of D&D in the flesh! How can you not hang on every word that guy says? He taught us Catan, Munchkin, and Nuclear War, using them as examples of how game design principles about fun and fairness could be applied, and abstracting them from the code we’d been writing so we could really focus on the underlying mechanics that really made games great. It stuck, and here we are.

What is the IGA and what made you start it?

The IGA is a guild of over 400 independent designers and publishers. After college, my first gig was as director of marketing for an electronics manufacturer. I eventually ended up overseeing the warehouse and our OEM manufacturing partners, as well as editing contracts for our sales team. This left me with a decent working knowledge of how to get the word out about things, how to get things made and shipped, and how to find loopholes in written rules. Putting that together with my love of games seemed to make sense, so I reached out to Brotherwise Games in 2014 about starting a demo team and marketing operation for them. I was a Brotherwise employee for about three days when we hit a snag. At the time, all that was available was the original Boss Monster and Tools of Hero-Kind. What would we give our volunteers as a reward when they ran demos of Boss Monster — more Boss Monster? It didn’t make sense.

Then, I remembered that some of our clients at the electronics manufacturer were co-ops; loose, guild-like organizations of otherwise unaffiliated businesses in the same industry. They’d worked together to secure lower prices and share common efforts that could benefit all, to allow smaller companies to be on more level footing with bigger ones. I thought that adding more companies to the demo team would allow a fan of one company’s games to discover another company’s games, and in so doing expand both the volunteer pool and the reward pool. Brotherwise agreed, and said they’d rather be the first client of that service than run it themselves. Thus, IGA was born. Johnny O’Neal told me that night that if I could get 5 companies to join up, IGA would be successful. By our first Gen Con four months later, we had 63 members.

What were you hoping to achieve when you created the IGA? Has what you wanted to achieve changed?

When we started, it was all about the demo team. We were thinking about organized play, and tournaments, some playtesting, and all that fun stuff. Over time, we’ve evolved to be more of a complete guild; a community that supports its members in every way we can think of. We’re always trying to expand into more and more services that can help level the playing field for indie publishers, especially given the increasing pressure on the industry from corporate conglomerates like Hasbro and Asmodee. I’d love to get to the point where IGA’s offering is basically “you design the game, and we do everything else,” but that’s a long way off right now.

It gets a bit overwhelming at times, because our fingers are getting into more and more stuff, but it’s so rewarding when that 5% discount you negotiated with a printing company in China six months ago, that prototype you overnighted to New York just in time for a big convention, or the tweak you suggested in the combat rules was the difference that put a Kickstarter over the top. I’ve seen game designers cry with joy when they hold their first production game in their hands. It’s absolutely incredible knowing my organization has been a part of making that dream happen for people who are just as passionate about games as I am.

What would you say to someone who wanted to know why they should join the IGA?

It really makes sense for all indie designers and publishers, because even if you don’t need all of our services, everybody needs at least some of them. If you’re a designer working on your first prototype, you need advice and playtesters. If you’re an established designer with no inclination to self-publish, you need a hand to get the word out to publishers about the game and find a good match, and maybe some development assistance. If you’re a small publisher, you need help getting the game on store shelves, getting feedback and a mailing list together, and getting your Kickstarter in front of more eyeballs. And if you’re a publisher of any size, saving money on the actual production and fulfillment of your game and promoting it to a wider audience is always helpful.

Our Pro membership, which includes everything I just listed, is $20 a month. So, you can have an international army of Minions for demos, all the discounts, all the advice, all the community support, the whole ball of wax for the same price you’d spend on your favorite blind loot box. We think it’s a phenomenal offering at an extremely reasonable price, although, we’re admittedly a little biased! 😉

Thanks to Matt Holden from taking the time to share his story with us today. If you are interested in joining the IGA as a member studio, freelancer, minion (volunteer playtester and demo rep) or all of the above sign up at the IGA page.

That is everything for this post. Until next time, happy designing.

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