Designing board games and toys sounds like a fun job, but the various aspects that need to be looked into while developing them, can leave the designer scrambling for ideas. Patricia Mascarenhas lays out the skills and career scope of this niche industry.
When you sit down to play a game of Scrabble or Monopoly, you probably don’t think much about how the game is a system of rules and balances, initially figured out by one or two people. Since India has one of the world’s youngest populations, the toy industry is one of the most prominent industries to witness healthy growth projections for years to come. There is immense potential for those who want to make a living through developing games.
“Games play an instrumental role in the development and behavioural skills of children. The necessity to keep developing these skills is constant. Innovative games like Scrabble and Word Plus are meant for family recreation and strengthens your vocabulary and intellectual skills,” informs Venkatachallam, professor, IIT-Chennai, who has designed a game called ‘Word Plus’.
If you want to be a game designer, the first thing you need to know is what exactly he/ she does on the job? Apparently, this could be very simple, but as it frequently turns out, people dreaming about a future in games, don’t really get what this means, and what is expected from a game designer. In India, most game designers look at board games from an educational perspective. There has always been a tendency to focus on studies. “It is easier to get an idea across to a parent who believes that the product has educational value, hence designers steer product development through education,” says R Jeswant, senior vice president-sales and marketing, Funskool.
“Safety, value or functionality, price and content (educational) are our important focus points to license any product,” informs Jeswant. With more exposure to media and high internet penetration, kids know the latest products and are aware of the popular ones. “The designer needs to keep the demands of kids and young parents in mind before developing a game. For example, we have interesting variations of games like Monopoly, where the use of an e-banking unit instead of regular paper as currency notes has become a top seller and welcomed very well by today’s youngsters,” he adds.
The next essential question is, ‘What should I study to become a game designer?’ The answer is not that simple. A good game designer should have a wide range of general knowledge, plus an in-depth knowledge about a few other topics. “Game design is mostly learnt by making games. Today, there are many institutes that offer design in toys as an elective course, and there are also some dedicated design centres like the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad that offer specialised toy development courses,” informs Junaid Ahamed, creative designer, Play Design.
Since in India, the general trend is to pay royalties, on the basis of sales to the inventors, the percentage of royalty varies according to the type of game developed. “It depends on mutual terms set between the inventor and the company which is distributing and marketing the game. In some cases, the game may be purchased outright for a fixed sum, either at the development stage or later,” explains Jeswant.
With App based games slowly gathering momentum, where does it leave the traditional board games? Experts suggest that India is still a great market to explore traditional toys. Board games priced between Rs 249 to 499 are quite popular. Jeswant says that with growing consciousness among parents, who understand the hazards of continuously being on the internet, traditional games, puzzles and toys still rule the scene. “Apart from this, board games are also a great bonding tool for a family, which ensures that parents spend quality time with their children,” he adds.
According to Venkatachallam, another reason for popularity of board games is that parents want the best for their child, and are bound to be extremely choosy and selective before buying anything for them. “After a certain amount of time, children get bored to play the same game. So to keep them involved regularly with educational or mind developing activities newer and more innovative games are needed,” points out Ahamed.
To sum it all up, there is a demand for fresh gaming ideas and concepts that are simple to understand, but at the same time, challenging for children of today’s generation. So if you are overflowing with ideas and love games, then where else should you be other than the toy industry?