The story behind the platform
Fan content has always been a hobby for me. You see, I love bringing my own ideas and implementing them into games. I’m not the only one either. There’s a whole community of gamers that enjoy creating and sharing their own variants. There are so many of us, that I personally decided to take on the responsibility of building a new home for the fan-made community.
as part of the validation phase, I reached out
to more than 250 designers on BGG
For the past few months I’ve done my research and explored BGG’s enormous platform to find fan-made designers. This was the first step towards validating whether a platform that only hosts fan content is wanted. In less than a month, I’ve managed to gather a decent number of gamers who were interested, and off I went. In the back of my head, I knew exactly what I wanted. This wasn’t going to be a complex website with hundreds of features and options. It was going to be simple, easy to use, and most importantly, compatible with fan content.
For starters, there would be a search system which you could use to find variants of existing games. Users would only have to type the name of a game, and within a click of a button, all variants belonging to that game would come up.
The next thing I had in mind was a proper layout for how variants would be displayed. Rather than having long paragraphs of text that are hard to read and understand, users would fill a form that would automatically transform their submitted content into a tidy, organized template. Fields like “image cover”, “description”, “no. of players”, and a dedicated space to add URLs to the files would all make variants easier to read and study.
Last but not least, features like “star rating” and “no. of downloads” would make receiving feedback easy and fun. All you had to do was simply rate whether you enjoyed the variant or not, and that’s it. But just like every good idea, there’s always the obstacle that’s keeping you from achieving your goal. In my case, it was copyright issues.
planning the website design and layout
Fan content, in its nature, is subject to copyright and trademark laws. Unless you have clear permission to use or build something that uses existing content, you’re breaking the law. So as soon as I validated the need for a fan-made platform, I reached out to as many board game companies I could get a hold of. This was my biggest gambit, as I had no idea whether I would even get an answer. I was reaching out to brands like Magic The Gathering and Stonemaier Games– I even tried Rio Grande Games, a huge company with dozens of games. I was going for the big fish with nothing but a brief idea and the general rules the platform will abide. By the end of the second week after sending out the emails, I was beginning to give up hope. No one was answering my messages, and I had already started working on the development phase. I had invested a fair amount of money in securing a domain name, software to build the platform (I’m no developer- just a board game hobbyist) and spent hours learning how to use the tools I bought. I was so close to asking for a refund, when I suddenly got an email from an unknown person. It was a guy called Joe, and he wrote a very short message: “Hi Tomer! Yes, this seems like a reasonable plan. Go for it!”
Looking down at the email footer I immediately recognized the brand logo: Stonemaier Games.
For the next 10 minutes I telephoned all my friends and told them the HUGE news. Of course, no one was really impressed. “One brand isn’t enough, you know,” they would tell me, but I knew this was only the beginning. I finally had hope, and in the following days to come, I received 10 more emails from different brands! Companies like Greater Than Games, Chip Theory Games, Portal Games, Roxley, Awaken Realms were all giving me the green light. Within one month, I finished working on the development and published the website.
FryxGames agreeing to allow ThisIsFanMade display fan content of their games
So what’s it called you’re wondering? I had to go with something catchy that would fit the style of the community I was building it for…ThisIsFanMade…
It had all the features I wanted, and was working pretty well for a guy who didn’t write a single line of code. At first glance, you would take a step back from the yellow color I chose as a theme. It symbolized imagination and idealism, fitting exactly what ThisIsFanMade was all about. The website was simple and perhaps a little empty, but that’s because it had just been launched.
At the moment, it displays some demo content- games which aren’t real and are only meant to help visualize how your variant can look. Having launched last week, I’m still fixing some minor things, but overall, the site works. All that is missing is content. Designers’ content.
I truly believe ThisIsFanMade can help people. At the distant future, the goal is to turn ThisIsFanMade to the go-to platform for finding new content for games. Imagine playing your favorite game for so long that it becomes tiring and boring, but rather than buy a new one, all you have to do is head to the platform, type the name of your game, and find all the different homemade variants people created. And the best part? It’s all free. Yup, there’s no business side here. It’s all for fun with one goal in mind: make your ideas easy to find and share.
See you around!