Play more games.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, playing more games would be it. The long-term benefits of laughter and friendship have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own game-making experience. I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of a new game. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your a new game until it’s faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at games you played and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility laid before you and how fabulous they really were.
Games are not as complex as you imagine.
Don’t worry about the endgame scoring. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to roll a 21 on a D20. The real troubles in a game are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you when someone lays a six-train route in Ticket to Ride.
Play one game every week that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s games. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Trust your instincts.
Don’t waste too much time on meta-gaming. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. Some games are long and, in the end, it’s just a game.
Remember compliments your shelf receives. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old meeples. Throw away your old prototypes.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to make today. The most interesting designers I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting designers I know still don’t.
Get plenty of water. Be kind to your resources. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll make big games, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll enjoy party games, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll love Munchkin, or maybe you’ll finish Twilight Imperium 4th edition with 6 players and immediately want to play again. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.
Enjoy your games. Play them every place you can. Don’t be afraid of them or of what other people think of it. They’re some of the greatest things you will ever create.
Play, even if you have nowhere to do it but your kitchen table. Read the rulebook, even if you don’t follow it. Do not read Youtube comments. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know the old games. You never know when they’ll go out of print. Be nice to your classics. They’re your best link to the past and the games most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that gamers come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and your collection, because the older you get, the more you miss the games you knew when you were young.
Play an RPG once, but leave before you start min-maxing. Play Cards Against Humanity once, but leave before it makes you a horrible person.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Kickstarted games will be delayed. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, Kickstarted games were on-time and new gamers respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support your games. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t mess too much with your games or by the time you’ve played them twice, they’ll look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is kind of like finding a game at a thrift store, wiping it off, giving it another play, or recycling the parts for more than it’s worth.
But trust me on the games.
(With credit to the Chicago Tribune writer, Mary Schmich, who wrote the original ‘Wear Sunscreen‘ piece Baz Luhrmann put to music.)