To prepare aspiring board game designers for a tabletop career, the Game Design Academy features a variety of panels/lectures/roundtables over the two-day event, covering topics from facets of game design, to playtesting strategies, publishing considerations, and more.

The ETX Game Design Academy is also proud to present a Publisher Meet & Greet, allowing select game designers to get feedback on their designs from various game publishers. Additional information as well as Meet & Greet game submission details can be found here.

Schedule is tentative; panelists and seminars subject to change. Additional panel information will be posted as it becomes available.


50 Games Every Designer Should Play presented by Paul Peterson
9:00-10:00, Michelangelo

A game designer can learn a lot by analyzing a great game. They can learn even more by analyzing a… less great game. Paul Peterson will present 50 great, and not so great games from both the board and electronic realms that each have a specific lesson to teach an observant game designer.

Onward to Adventure! presented by Doug Kaufman
9:00-10:00, Van Gogh

How to write and playtest an award-winning RPG adventure module with only one playtest.

Graphic Design for Game Inventors presented by James Ernest
10:30-11:30, Michelangelo

Poorly crafted prototypes detract from the playtesting process; your players should be playing the game, not struggling to read it. Learn the basic principles of graphic design and how a few simple changes can make your prototypes easier to understand.

The Art of Managing Ideas presented by Nicholas Trahan
10:30-11:30, Van Gogh

“That’s a great idea, but is it right for my game?” Learn nine crucial questions to ask yourself about any game design, and use the answers to focus your vision and make better games.

Building Your Portfolio and Finding White Space presented by Mike Elliott
1:00-2:00, Michelangelo

Mike shares how to decide which game ideas to pursue, and how to make your games unique in a crowded market.

Balance All The Things! presented by Nate Heiss
1:00-2:00, Van Gogh

Ever wonder how games like Magic: The Gathering can maintain balance when they have over 10,000 cards? Learn the methods that game designers have been using to find balance in all things. This talk focuses on TCGs but the methods can be used on any pool of game objects!

Kickstarter for Game Designers  presented by Derek Mantey, Mike Selinker, Polo Schlemmer
2:30-3:30, Michelangelo

Kickstarter is a powerful tool that has funded some amazing games. However, it is not a silver bullet; it requires a lot of work. In this panel, learn about the efforts that go into running a Kickstarter campaign to help you find your path to success.

Designers as Top-Tier Operators presented by M. Craig Stockwell
2:30-3:30, Van Gogh

The military and police have their special forces, and so does the gaming community; they’re called game designers. From concepting, to prototyping & playtesting, to pitching and post-release support, a top-notch designer has mastered the facets of moving a game from formless idea to marketed game.


The Intersection of Design and Development presented by Rob Heinsoo, Jaym Gates
9:00-10:00, Michelangelo

What are common misunderstandings between designers and developers, and how do you avoid them?

Ludus Ratio: Using Ancient Tools to Build Game Economies presented by Thomas Gutschmidt
9:00-10:00, Van Gogh

AKA Game Economy 101. Take a closer look at games leveraging economic systems (like trading, crafting, player progression and resource allocation) and the tools used to build these experiences.

LUCI Final Judging & Awards
10:30-11:30, Michelangelo

Building Community Around Board Game Design presented by Shawn Stankewich
10:30-11:30 Van Gogh

Like many forms of making, board game design works best when it is informed by a rich dialogue between creators. This panel will explore the experiences of several Seattle area board game designers and community builders and will present attendees with a series of perspectives and tools that they can use to help build community as they create games.

Whip it! Evo-Devo in Designing Games for Humans presented by Liz Spain
1:00-2:00, Michelangelo

In a whirlwind hour of behavioral science, ethology, and evolutionary developmental psychology, find out how your game designs can be whipped into shapes that engage the human mind.

Rules are Meant to be Played presented by Aviva Schecterson
1:00-2:00, Van Gogh

Before millions can play your game, they need to learn how! Tutorials in video games are often an afterthought, forcing players to click through sad pop-ups and mindlessly follow hints to get to the actual fun without internalizing how to play the game. In tabletop games, tutorials (AKA rulebooks) are intrinsic to every step of development and play. Discover new approaches to tutorial creation founded in rulebook writing techniques to better acquaint players with your game.

Marketing for Game Designers presented by Cassidy Werner and Marguerite Cottrell
2:30-3:30, Michelangelo

Superb design only gets you so far. Learn how to reach other humans and convince them to buy your game.

Runaway Leader & Catch-Up Mechanics presented by Joseph Z. Chen
2:30-3:30, Van Gogh

In-depth analysis of catch-up mechanics in various popular games and how each approach can affect the game. Both a philosophical and practical discussion, are catch-up mechanics the only solution to solving the runaway leader problem?