Game Design Alumni Story: Becoming a Game Designer Trevor Harron Turns His Game Design Dreams Into Reality
Game Design Alumni Story: Becoming a Game Designer Trevor Harron Turns His Game Design Dreams Into Reality

Trevor Harron has loved playing board games and card games since he was a kid.

“It was a treasured family moment,” he recalls. “We would finish dinner, and then we’d break out games like Five Crowns, Quiddler, and just play as a family.”

While Trevor started out his career as 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 explains. “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

Then Trevor discovered the UW Certificate in Game Design. In taking the program, he found a way to turn his game ideas into reality — and eventually launch a career in the industry.

“The lessons from the game design certificate prepared me for every step of a game's production,” he says, “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 notes. “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 says.

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 rose to $2.89 billion in 2022 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 observes, 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 says. “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 agrees. “Regardless if you want to do video games, mobile games, board games, a combination of both ... it doesn't matter,” he says. “You'll get all of the training, all of the skills, and the rigor you need to make good games in the certificate program.”

I owe a lot of my success to the UW game design program. Part of it is the connections that I made, but it's also what I learned.

Trevor Herron

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 says. “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 notes.

“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 says. "They brought all of that to the classroom in every lecture, every assignment, every bit of feedback.”

Living the Dream

The connections that Trevor made in the program have helped him realize his dream of landing a job in the game design field.

“I got my master’s degree in computer science with a specific focus on game design,” he says. “Jay [Schneider] recommended me for a job at a digital games developer called Good Luck Games, and I got it. And there were other UW game design certificate graduates working there as well. It was a fantastic experience.”

Although that role ended when the company's funding disappeared — “the industry volatility is also something we learned about in the certificate program” he says with a chuckle — Trevor continues to collaborate on projects with others in the field and develop games through his own company, Blue Heron Entertainment.

“Honestly, I've been loving it,” he says of his most recent efforts. “I’ve been working on my own board games – I've been pitching a few of them to more established publishers. I have an abstract strategy game that's in the very final stages of development. And I’m still open to full-time jobs in the games industry.”

No matter where his career takes him in the future, Trevor knows that his experience in the UW certificate program will continue to benefit him.

"I owe a lot of my success to the UW game design program," he says. "Part of it is the connections that I made, but it's also what I learned. Being able to create those game-playing experiences for people is really what I want to be doing, and the certificate program has given me the tools to pursue that.”

Learn More

Interested in becoming a game designer? Check out the UW Certificate in Game Design program, as well as the UW Specialization in Game Prototyping With Unity, a new, nine-week program that focuses on building digital game prototypes.

For more alumni stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

Author David Hirning

David Hirning

David Hirning is an accomplished writer and editor with extensive experience in both tech and higher education. He began his career in journalism, then spent over a decade as an editor at Microsoft, where he worked on Encarta Encyclopedia and related reference products.

David worked for six years as a full-time writer and content manager at UW Professional & Continuing Education. He also operated his own editorial consulting business, with stints at leading companies like Amazon and Expedia, and taught English for two years in Costa Rica.

David has served as an instructor for the UW Certificate in Editing program and as a teaching assistant for the UW Certificate in Storytelling & Content Strategy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Stanford University and a Certificate in Literary Fiction from the UW.

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