Looking back at the year and ahead to 2018

I think by most accounts 2017 was an outstanding first year for The Thoughtful Gamer. Honestly, going into this project I didn’t set clear goals because I had no idea what my goals should be. I think I work better that way. I’ve been fortunate to be very flexible with what I do here, so I decided to focus on one thing: making game reviews, strategy, and commentary at a high level that I would be proud of. I didn’t always succeed in that--some reviews I pushed out despite dissatisfaction, and some of the podcasts had annoying technical problems. But overall I am proud of the 39 podcast episodes and 70 articles I’ve released since the end of March. I’m easily my own worst critic, so that’s a success.

I’ve also launched this Patreon campaign, which was, frankly, a terrifying thing to do. Again I didn’t have any particular metrics for success because I had no context from which I could measure success. But I’m delighted to see your support and I’m optimistic for 2018.

The biggest success, I think, has been the podcast, which actually wasn’t something I planned on doing early on. When I was beginning to launch the site, I bought a mic to try podcasting, figuring that I could use it for streaming or videos later on if that wasn’t successful. But from the very beginning I’ve loved the process of podcasting. Quickly it went from a once a month trial run to every other week to every week, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m slowly approaching 10,000 total downloads, which seems like A Lot.

But I never came in thinking about numbers, but rather thinking about how I could contribute to the discussion of board games. In the initial plan for The Thoughtful Gamer I tried to break down the board game media scene and figure out if I could find my space in that. I knew I couldn’t keep up with all of the new releases, but The Dice Tower did that already. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go out of the gate with excellent video reviews, but Shut Up and Sit Down has that covered. I wouldn’t focus on how to play guides because Watch It Played already exists. My interests are outside and beyond the sort of specific niche that Rahdo covers. But I didn’t see a lot of games reviews in the style I wanted--in depth, critical, and with an emphasis on the mechanisms of the games rather than simply the facts of how the game plays.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent review sources out there, but the scene is mostly Dice Tower-style reviews with an emphasis on providing an overview of the game. That’s a fine style and many people like it, but it’s not for me. I wanted to write reviews and articles that I would want to read, and I think I’ve found my place doing that.

Along the way I’ve had some great discussions with people in the hobby, from my very first interview with Emil Larsen to my interviews with various publishers at PAX Unplugged. I’ve found that the hobby is still largely small and that people I admire are easy to reach and converse with. I’m still terrified of reaching out to said people, but there’s no gatekeeper for board game media keeping me out. In 2018 I hope to talk with even more people in the board game world. Right now I’m writing up a wishlist of people I’d like to interview for the podcast, and I head into the year confident that I’ll be able to work with at least most of them.

I’ve also established good relationships with a variety of publishers and have gotten way more review copies than I had anticipated, even to the point where I’ve rejected more than a handful due to scheduling problems or simply not being interested in the game. I’m looking forward to being able to review more new games that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to because of this.

So what’s the goal for 2018? I again don’t want to make any numerical predictions, because I don’t feel like I have any grasp for where I ought to make those. But I would like to do these things:

-Continue to provide quality articles and podcasts on a regular basis. I will not let my standards slip because The Thoughtful Gamer is staked on quality content.

-Dramatically increase the number of videos I do and establish a good number of youtube subscribers.

-Attend and cover more conventions. I’m researching regional/local conventions right now to set a calendar, and I will still be going to PAX East and PAX Unplugged.

-Try to focus on more deep dives into specific games for the podcast--these got the most positive responses from the community.

-Get some great interviews with people I admire in the industry--written or podcasted.

-Produce an excellent video series that I’ve been slowly working on behind the scenes.

-Try to contribute to other publications and guest on other podcasts. I’m not great at reaching out to others, but I would like to see where I could collaborate.

-Improve the regularity and quality of my streaming output for board games.

-Generally be better at interacting with the board game community and my own community here through social media and other means. There are a lot of amazing people out there and it’s truly a fantastic community, by and large.

-Complete, at the very least, a late-stage prototype of a game design that I’m proud of.

-Find a good way to talk about mental health in the context of the board game community.

-Be a more humble, attentive, and cautious thinker.

If there’s anything you’d like to see more of from me, please let me know. I love hearing feedback and taking suggestions, and you all, as supporters, are who I will listen to the most. Thank you again for your support and I can’t wait to see what surprises are in store for me in 2018!