The Collectible Business Card Game (CBCG) is a game that me, Doug, and Mike started to play to pass the time at the 2008 Nordic Game Conference. The game was also a kind of design challenge: we wanted to collect as many business cards as possible, and then play a Magic: the Gathering-like game with them. We didn’t have so much time to develop the rules, so we would improvise them on the fly.
One year later: the three of us, along with Benedikte and Christoffer, have just returned from New Orleans, where Copenhagen Game Collective was invited to run CBCG as the official Social Game of SIGGRAPH 2009. Over the last year, the game has developed into a hybrid of sorts: part game, part discussion, part social happening, still played with real business cards.
Our trip to New Orleans has been hard, fun, hot, and sometimes a bit strange. Those who played our game really enjoyed it, and there were some epic moments: players debating the relative power levels of employees from Pixar versus Disney; an improvised rule around the business card of Will Wright’s wife (Joell) that lets the player search their deck to bring Will directly into play; players stumbling upon old professors and friends; and, of course, our action-packed CBCG spinoff, the Mumbo Chumba game.
On the other hand, we had some serious issues marketing the game. Our location was terrible, and SIGGRAPH might not have been the right audience. But whatever the reason, our little play area was often quite empty, which was pretty depressing given the thousands of conference attendees.
All these experiences have led to some serious discussions (some with fellow designers we met at SIGGRAPH, like Ian Schriber). We wanted to run something else other than the typical gadget fetish pervasive game. But maybe people generally feel more comfortable playing with their iPhone than playing with strangers?
The lesson is that, when designing any type of conference game, context is everything, maybe even more important than the game itself. It’s not enough to just do game design; you also have to be a marketer. This seems obvious, but it’s another thing entirely to internalize that lesson the hard way.
The Collectible Business Card Game is not dead! We’re still iterating on the concept, and remain certain that, under the right circumstances, players will have even more fun than they did in New Orleans. Actually, Celia and Sam invited us to run the game at IndieCade 2009, so watch out for the new and improved version.
Until then, we want to thank SIGGRAPH, Stephen Jacobs, the student volunteers, and all our players for taking a chance on us.