Yesterday I posted “State of the Channel” video on my game design YouTube channel, sharing my thoughts about the channel and opening the forums for constructive feedback. This concept was inspired by a variety of other creators who have posted similar videos, including BoardGameCo and Man vs Meeple.
I’ve now finished reading through all of the 200+ comments on the video, and I’m incredibly grateful for everyone–a mix of gamers, game designers, and Stonemaier fans–who took the time to share their opinions. This input will really help me as I try to add value to those who watch the channel. I’m writing about this today because I think there’s quite a bit of feedback here that might benefit other content creators too.
Top 10 Elements to Keep
Positive, Welcoming, Enthusiastic Approach: I’m not a reviewer; I’m a designer/publisher who uses my channel to talk about my favorite mechanisms in games and my favorite games that use a specific mechanism. Due to this approach, if you watch my videos, you know you’re going to get a dose of positivity.
Celebrating Other Designers and Publishers: While Stonemaier Games products come up in discussions on my channel, 99% of the content is about games from other companies. It really seems to resonate with viewers that a designer/publisher puts so much positive focus on other games.
Conversational, Intimate Vibe: While I have notes of a few elements I want to cover about a specific game–as well as lists prepared in advance for Top 10s–I pretty much just turn on the camera and talk. Viewers seem to like this cozy approach, to the point that many of them commented that they don’t mind the background (my home office) and the hit-or-miss lighting. An added bonus is that my cats are often seen snoozing in the background of the videos.
Top 10s: My Sunday videos are primarily top 10 lists, and there appears to be a desire for another approach (see the next list). However, a lot of people said they really like the top 10 format because it increases they chances they might be interested in at least a few of the games on the list.
Design Tips, Techniques, and Applications: I don’t do this as much as I should, but when I do, viewers seem to like when I go beyond saying what a mechanism is and why I like it. It’s specifically my perspective as a game designer that many viewers tune in for.
Frequency, Variety, and Length: I can’t tell if it’s just what subscribers are accustomed to or something else, but they seemed to like the video frequency (4 videos each week), the variety (3 different types of videos, and different variations on Top 10s), and the length (particularly the 5-minute game design videos and the 20-minute list videos).
Time Stamps and Image Overlays: Since late 2019, my coworker Joe has added visuals and title banners to each Top 10 video, and I’ve added time stamps to them, which now appear in YouTube’s progress bar. I think the time stamps in the progress bar are crucially important for any video that is 10+ minutes.
Comments Participation: Beyond adding value to people, the whole point of me posting public content is to start interesting conversations. Viewers seem to appreciate my participation in the comments. I don’t reply to every comment–I focus most on those with questions–but I read every one.
Sound Is the Most Important: A number of people said that they listen to my videos but don’t necessarily watch them (which is further aided by the podcast version of the channel). This is important for a me to know–even with some of the feedback I heard about visuals–as it de-emphasizes the need for any huge visual changes.
Inclusivity: A few specific examples people mentioned were (a) in my lists, I say the name of the game at the beginning and end of each segment, (b) I try to use inclusive language regarding game mechanisms so someone who is newer to gaming isn’t excluded, and (c) for a while now I’ve included favorite games from Stonemaier Ambassadors in many of the lists to broaden the range of recommendations people see.
The positive feedback is helpful in that I know what to continue to do; constructive feedback is also helpful so I can grow, improve, and better serve my viewers.
Top 10 Elements to Improve
Design/Production Diaries: It was interesting to read this comment over and over, because that content exists…in written form. It was a good reminder to me that a lot of people would prefer to watch/listen someone talk about a topic than read about it. I’m happy to add videos that go over some of the highlights of design diaries I’ve written.
More Structure to Game Design Videos: This feedback was expressed in a number of ways, often by people saying that they like when I really cover one specific mechanism about a game (not just what it is and a few thoughts about why I like it). Because I work unscripted, I think I’ll create a checklist for me to have handy whenever I’m ready to start recording so I can better cover the mechanism.
More Depth per Game via Top 5s: One of the questions I posted in the video is if viewers like the top 10s or if they’d prefer videos of the same length (~20 mins) that went deeper into the design of each game. While there are plenty of people who enjoy the top 10 format, a significant number of viewers expressed a desire for me to spend more time on each listed game, saying they’re open to more flexible list counts, particularly top 5.
Better Images and More Props: I talk about a lot of games I don’t own, and spending time editing videos is a barrier that would significantly dampen my desire to make video content. So I often end up holding up a printed page showing the game, which many people said isn’t particularly helpful. I think I’ll talk to Joe to see if he’s open to adding a few simple visuals to the 5-minute game-design videos.
I Mention the Same Games Too Much: This was interesting and insightful. Many of the games I love appear on multiple top 10 lists, and for some subscribers, they’ve heard me talk about certain games enough. This is a tough balance, because I want to be considerate of both first-time and long-time viewers. Perhaps this can be another way for me to delve deep into some games on the lists and not others; better time stamps also help if people want to skip around.
Timely and Trendy: Several people said they want more videos about hot topics in the game industry (at least in the design/publishing space). I currently put that type of content on this blog, but I’ll keep this in mind for YouTube too.
Design/Publishing/Production Process: A number of commenters mentioned they want more videos about the design, publishing, and production process. Some combination of how-to and a peek behind the scenes. From a creator standpoint, it’s more interesting for me to share examples of what I’ve done than instruct people about how to do something–I mean, what do I really know about anything? I’m just a guy who likes to make games. Also, a few years ago I had a crowdfunding series on the channel, and it was fine, but definitely the least popular part of the channel. So my inclination is to make design diary videos (see #1) but not instructive videos.
More Experimentation: There seemed to be a call for me to just try different types of videos to see what sticks, which is one of my favorite pieces of advice to give to new creators–why not apply it to a long-running channel too? It could even lead to offshoots or a new series Some ideas were live Q&As about specific games, interviews, videos covering this blog (for those who don’t want to read it), and more “if you like X you’ll like Y” videos.
Tweaking Games by Other Designers: On theme with the “go deeper into game design” requests were several comments from people who want me to talk about what I would change about other games. While that isn’t exactly in the spirit of the channel, I think there’s probably a way I can explore this in a constructive and respectful way, like in my recent deep dive into Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.
Background: For the most part, people seemed fine with my current lighting (a Vitade webcam) and microphone (Blue Yeti). Opinions were more mixed about my background, though no one wanted me to add too much polish with a greenscreen. My office is a weird shape, with a cabinet that cannot be moved, so my options are limited, but I’m going to play around with some ways that I can position my game shelf and desk in such a way that they create a better “studio.”
Even as I type this, I’m blown away by the sheer amount and quality of the feedback I received. People are awesome. If you’d like to learn more about what I’m thinking and feeling about my channel, the full video is here:
Also read: I Am Soliciting Your Advice
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