Trevor Harron has loved playing board games and card games since he was a kid.
“It was a treasured family moment,” he recalled. “We would finish dinner, and then we’d break out games like Five Crowns, Quiddler, and just play as a family.”
While Trevor grew up to be a software developer, his love of games — and the desire to create his own — never left him.
“It was in the back of my mind that I wanted to make games,” he explained. “But going from the ‘I have a bunch of ideas’ phase to the ‘I have a physical game that I’ve made’ stage was something I couldn't really imagine doing on my own. I didn’t know how the process worked.”
Making It Happen
When Trevor discovered the Certificate in Game Design, he found a way to turn his game ideas into reality.
“The lessons from the game design certificate prepared me for every step of production,” he said, “from the initial design to working in teams, coordinating work, playtesting, refining, taking feedback — and constantly improving along the way.”
In His Own Words
Trevor Harron talks about how the Certificate in Game Design program taught him how to create, market and sell his own games around the world.
With this knowledge, Trevor was able to develop a prototype of his first game, Collectors and Capers. He describes it as a set collecting and bluffing game, “gin rummy and poker mixed together.”
Then came the second — and potentially more challenging — part of the process: funding and marketing the game. So Trevor created a Kickstarter campaign, with some help from the certificate program.
“I didn’t know a lot about how to do a Kickstarter campaign, so the instructor put me in contact with someone who had gone through the process themselves,” he noted. “It was a successful campaign, and now Collectors and Capers is being played in the United States, Germany, Singapore, Brazil and other places.”
The Kickstarter funding helped Trevor pay off his initial investment, and he now pockets all the proceeds from each game sold. “You can make money from board games,” he affirmed.
Teaching the Fundamentals
Board, card and dice games, often referred to as tabletop or hobby games, aren’t just a popular pastime — they’re a big business. According to an industry report, sales of these types of games topped $1.4 billion in 2016 in the United States and Canada alone.
Video games and casual games on mobile devices are also a huge category, of course. But as certificate instructor Jay Schneider observed, the essential principles of compelling game design are the same for all platforms.
“If we play a game of Monopoly — whether online, on our phones or around a table — we're playing the same game,” Schneider said. “In the certificate program, we teach how to design that abstract game. The actual format you produce that game in, while a factor, is a secondary design aspect.”
Trevor hopes to someday develop mobile games or video games, too, and felt the certificate program has prepared him for that.
“Regardless if you want to do video games, mobile games, board games, a combination of both ... it doesn't matter,” he said. “You will get all of the training, all of the skills, the rigor to make good games.”
I want to revolutionize the game world — with each and every game, I want to examine some part of humanity and the human condition.
Creating Industry Connections
Seattle and the Puget Sound area make up one of the main hubs of the games industry, home to well-known companies like Nintendo, Valve, PopCap Games and Wizards of the Coast. There’s also a large community of independent designers here.
“Seattle is the crème de la crème for game design,” Trevor said. “It’s a great area to be a game designer, because you have not only the UW program but also a massive community of people who are self-publishing, as well as small, medium and large game publishers.”
This wealth of talent shows up in the quality of the instruction in the certificate program, Trevor said.
“The instructors were tried-and-true veterans of the industry, who have been on great projects at big companies or small companies, or have worked by themselves," he observed. "They brought all of that to the classroom in every lecture, every assignment, every bit of feedback.”
The program also excels at connecting students with opportunities in the field.
"I owe a lot of my success to the UW game design program, and part of that is because of the connections I've been able to make through the instructors," Trevor said. “There’s a number people I know from my class who have gone on to get jobs in the game design industry.”
Changing the World, One Game at a Time
Buoyed by the success of his first game, Trevor has created two more: Affectionate Cats & Cuddles, a dice game “about cats being sweet” that was inspired by the passing of one of his own feline friends; and Who Wears the Crown?, a card game “to help resolve the issues people have with kings and king making.”
And while he hopes to be commercially successful with his game design business, Blue Heron Entertainment, Trevor also feels a higher calling in following his passion.
“I want to revolutionize the game world — with each and every game, I want to examine some part of humanity and the human condition,” he said. “I believe people play games to learn to challenge themselves, and to be with others. If you play my games you can learn something, even as you’re having fun and building community."