42 Days: The Journey Out of Homelessness

I often find myself looking for unique games, and for that reason this Kickstarter game called to me. 42 Days: The Journey Out of Homelessness is a game about, well, escaping homelessness. More specifically it's a game about how "homelessness is deal with" in the United States. The game appears to include a board, over six decks, player pieces, and tracking chips. Now, before I go any further this game is not going to fund. But it's worth a look.

First Thing's First: Why Won't It Fund?

With 35 days to go, 42 Days has raised $427. But it's too early to tell with a Kickstarter campaign, so why is it so unlikely to fund? Well, a simple look at the listing will tell you everything you need to know

  • It's the first project that this person has created, which generally means fewer backers will be interested.
  • It's looking for a fairly large amount of money. Though the game is priced right (at around $40), the project itself wants $26,000.
  • It's thrown together. I can't even tell how many decks there are because there aren't commas between decks. There are many typos.
  • Who would play this?

And you know, that last bullet point is the thing that I'm most interested in.

Playtested in Schools and Shelters

42 Days is an educational experience. It's been tested over the course of two years in both schools and shelters. Which means, of course, that it's targeted towards those in the educational field and nonprofit industries. Many of our niche board games have come from converging interests; the veterinarian who plays board games creates a dog game. The engineer who plays board games creates a bot rampage. And so forth.

But 42 Days is an excellent example of why this type of convergence isn't necessarily a good idea. Very few nonprofits are going to invest in these types of tools when they're untested; very few board gamers want to play a game about the bleakness of being homeless. (And honestly, for that matter, being in a homeless shelter and playing a game about homelessness just seems cruel.)

Board Game Developers Aren't Always Marketers

And there's another problem. The interesting thing is that the game itself seems to have been very well put together and there's a lot of thought in it. It's been playtested two years. A simple glance at the images show that the decks are, at very least, well-designed... at least, what we can see of the back of them. 

But there's no information about the game itself. The Kickstarter page is a few sloppy, typo-ridden paragraphs. Someone put hundreds, thousands, of hours into the development of a game and probably less than five minutes on the campaign that is designed to fund it. And that's not uncommon.

You might think at this point that I don't like this game, and it isn't true, because I know nothing about the game (there isn't even a gameplay video). I like the concept of this game, as homelessness has been one of my focus charities for many years. It's the marketing that's bad. 

You begin with a game that, first of all, no one actually wants to play. This is a game that you'd have to be forced to play in school, and that would (potentially) be a rewarding experience, but certainly no one wakes up one day and says to themselves "I'd like to simulate the grim and uncertain existence that befalls many of my fellow Americans every day." 

This is a game that requires solid marketing, but board game developers aren't always marketers - and really, there's no reason they should have to be. The problem with indie development is that developers are having to become marketers. It's not enough that they create mechanics, design them, and often illustrate them - now they also have to understand the principles of advertising.

There's probably a lot to learn from 42 Days. I can't tell, but that sure is a lot of decks. But there's also a lot to learn from their Kickstarter and what it implies for developers. The truth is that as much time as you put into developing your game, you'll probably put in an equal amount or even more in marketing. Start preparing for that now. 

Funding Date: 
Sunday, February 25, 2018