The Journey That Brought Us Here
After a two-year long journey, Proliferation is finally making its way to backers’ doorsteps this week. The feeling is truly surreal, and the team of people that came together for this project couldn’t be happier or prouder as we continue to receive photos and videos of you guys unboxing the game. And above even those emotions, we feel humbled for the opportunity to bring you guys our brain child, the thing we have dedicated so many countless hours and drops of blood, sweat, and tears to.
As the lead game designer for Proliferation, I wanted to take a moment in the midst of the chaos and excitement of game fulfillment to reflect on the journey that brought us here. I know that I have grown as a person and seen my closest friends grow at the same time, an honor which is beyond description. The team also met a lot of awesome people along the way.
Proliferation was based on a late-night conversation.
After sharing a few beers with some friends after a game of Risk in November 2019, a friend of mine and I got into a conversation about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After talking for a bit, I asked him how interesting it would be to create a game where you played as a world leader, faced with some of the same decisions as ones today were, attempting to gain dominance on the world stage. And thus, the idea for Proliferation was born.
That night, I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning drafting the base ideas for the game. My hypothetical comment on a hypothetical game wasn’t taken too seriously by anyone hanging out that night, and I had the challenge of creating one stuck firmly in my head. After a couple of nights like that, the first prototype was formed, a true masterpiece of torn-in-half index cards, incomplete rules, and mostly-readable handwriting.
This is all to say that sometimes, inspiration comes truly out of nowhere. Our team of would-be dedicated game designers had never designed a game before, and we surely weren’t experts when we launched our Kickstarter campaign in 2021. I personally had only dedicated my time toward college, medical billing, and rap music up until that point, and couldn’t have conceived of the journey we were about to embark on.
My friends really showed up for me during the game design process.
I called our first official team meeting for designing and publishing Proliferation on March 1, 2021, after asking a few of my graphic design friends if they were up for the challenge. The original team was supposed to comprise myself, my roommate, and two friends who were proficient at graphic design and illustration. However, when it was time to meet that night, something magical happened: My friends showed up for me, and wanted to help any way that they could.
Over the course of the next few months, our original idea of a four-person team expanded to include eight. The eight of us had been part of a friend group in the Honors College at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, so we all tried to be there for each other and use the experiences that were about to unfold as methods for personal growth.
I first miscalculated just how many hours of human effort it would take to create an entire tabletop game, so I will forever appreciate my friends stepping up to the plate when I needed them the most. Our design choices and business decisions were positively affected by the larger diversity of viewpoints.
There were tons of surprises and opportunities for learning along the way.
I hinted at it for our second blog post, but one thing I continually reflect on about this tabletop journey is the amount of opportunities for learning there were along the way, and how I could either choose to wholeheartedly engage in them, pass them along to someone else, or ignore them altogether. It took a while for me to get into the rhythm of it, but I eventually decided on the former, diving head-first into learning about graphic design, editing, publishing, trademarking, creating and structuring a business, taxes, bookkeeping, human resources, and so much more.
There were many times along the way that our team and I could have complained about these new challenges. There were also times where it could feel overwhelming, especially when it came time for things like fulfillment and video shoots.
A great example of this was my Co-Founder, Cory, and I’s back and forth with ShipBob, our fulfillment company. We had to learn how to purchase UPC codes to give our tabletop games a unique identification for retail. We had to schedule calls with ShipBob personnel to learn the fulfillment software, details about the process, and how shipping would look once we got rolling. We also had to learn, sometimes the hard way, how tedious it is to manage communications between other companies, such as between our manufacturer and fulfillment company. Pasting labels on packages might seem like a small step to some, but only God knows how chaotic and stressful something that small can become!
I’m a fallible human being.
I also got to see a deeper reflection of myself throughout the process. At the start of the project, I was overly confident in my abilities to figure out just about anything. As boxes arrive at backers’ doors, however, I find myself in a much different position, having become at least partially aware of my own shortcomings.
It turns out that the surface-level glossing they do in business school doesn’t prepare you fully for the reality of running a small business. My hubris was shattered when it came to figuring out how to do the company’s taxes on Turbo Tax, for example. After filing the company taxes for 2021, I was made aware that I did them completely wrong by a person who would go on to become our bookkeeper. It was a humbling experience, to say the least.
Finding team synergy and communication styles was definitely a mountain to climb, and it didn’t come easy just because we had all previously been friends. However, through the process of refining our team synergy, our friendships truly deepened along the way, and I got to see parts of my friends I hadn’t seen before, from the good to the ugly, and everything in between.
I will never forget when five of our team members flew out to Michigan last year to seal the deal on our manufacturing process. I’ll never forget the party we threw the night of the Kickstarter launch, or the excitement we had when we passed our fundraising goal, or the tears of joy (and many other emotions) last week when the first copy of the game arrived and we unboxed it on Instagram live. And I’ll certainly never forget the countless late nights that stained our prototypes red with wine, where we would dream big and bond deeply.
We now know for a fact that we can be there for each other through the thick and the thin. Most groups of friends just won’t have the opportunity for that kind of confirmation, and I am forever grateful to be part of one as rock solid as the War Games team is.
People in the tabletop community are truly awesome.
I think each member of the team believes it, and it’s been proven to us time and time again.
When we originally pushed our delivery time back from December 2021 to Spring 2022, we had no idea what to expect. We certainly didn’t want to disappoint any of the backers that had just pledged their support to our game, but we also wanted to be transparent and realistic. When we announced the push back, however, we were met with nothing but understanding and patience from a community we hadn’t even delivered a product to yet. And that definitely set the tone for how the rest of our design and manufacturing period would go.
We also fostered new friendships with people during the process in the Las Vegas valley, such as our pin manufacturer, 3-D turn tracker printer, and video crew. Through orchestrating local events centered around the Proliferation Kickstarter campaign, we got into contact with lots of game shops and small businesses. Through these new relationships, we were able to receive some great guidance and collaboration, along with some great game nights.
Mostly every online interaction we’ve had with our backers or Instagram followers has left us feeling more energized and excited about the delivery of Proliferation. Since March 2021, we’ve been posting online content aimed at educating people about nuclear proliferation, along with behind-the-scenes content of game creation, updates about the process, and photos of our furry friends. We continued to host game nights well after the end of our Kickstarter campaign, and each one gave us tons of solid, workable feedback, making the game even better.
In fact, one of the things we’re most excited about is continuing to connect with the tabletop community in more expansive ways. For example, we will be launching a Twitch channel in the upcoming months, where we will play tabletop games, discuss tabletop news, and chat about topics such as nuclear history and international politics. We also hope to increase the number of local game nights we have in Las Vegas, start attending trade shows like Dice Tower, and forge relationships with other creative forces in the industry.
With that being said, thank you to each and every one of you that backed our Kickstarter or purchased a game after the fact. We couldn’t have completed this journey without your support. We hope you have a blast and stay out of your friends’ line of fire, because #GameNightJustGotNuclear.