A soul to sell: when hobby turns into fulltime job

I’m sure you know at least one person who came to you one day saying they’d got the job of their dreams. An aviation fan got employed in an airline, a sports enthusiast started working for an illustrated magazine, or a fellow board game geek has finally decided to join one of the publishing teams. I personally know such a guy – myself. Was it a good decision? Best in my life. Are there any dangers in such a step? Sure there are. You just have to know how to avoid them.

One of my biggest fears before joining the NSKN team was that I’d stop being a gamer. During the last seven years board games have become a more and more consistent part of my life. They’ve been this safe place that I could always escape into after coming home from work. As I had worked in creative department my entire professional life, such a refuge was an absolute necessity – it allowed my mind to rest – or to reset, actually – to such an extent that losing this emergency exit seemed totally devastating to me.

When I came here to work for NSKN, I wasn’t sure if turning a hobby into actual work wouldn’t strip me of this way of cleansing my head. Fortunately, I’ve quickly found a way to avoid it. I simply don’t play our games out of working hours. When there is a prototype to be tested – we do it in the office or during some team getaways. If we need to blindtest the rulebook – we do it between 9 and 5. If I’m demoing our games – mostly during events that take place over a weekend – I’m taking a day or two off afterwards. And do you know what I’m doing during this free time? I play games.

Not our game, of course, but just all the games me or my best friend (who I happen to work with) have in our collections. Do I play less now in general? My BGG stats say no (and I write down every single game I play). Have I stopped liking board games? On the contrary – I got to love them even more, because now I know how much heart and sweat and hard work is put into every single one of them.

The other thing I was really afraid of was that if I start working with my friends (and you have to know that in NSKN we really know each other very well) they’d simply stop being my friends. You know how it is at work – crap happens, bad blood appears, and you quickly start secretly hating this or that person. Well, reality proved me totally wrong. The thing is: if you’re working with REAL friends, with people you know and respect, and people you’re not afraid to talk openly with, it just can’t happen. Of course, it’s not only that.

Most of my marketing agencies were basically corporations – or corporation wannabes – and one of the reasons I decided to change jobs was the fact that NSKN Games might be many things but corporation is not one of them. We make decisions together, yet each of us has their own field of specialization – be it marketing, sales, game design or art. So, even though we discuss a lot, the final world is always up to the person in charge of their own piece of the bigger picture. Some might call it proper work organisation. Others will say it’s the matter of the right character mix. I say it’s all the above plus a clear vision of what we want to achieve.

Last but not least: money. I’m a father and a husband. I know my responsibilities. Before I joined this marvellous team I’ve been offered a similar job quite a few times. I had always respectfully declined, knowing that I was good at what I was doing – copywriting – and got fair salary for it. Most of the offers I had gotten were very interesting – but each would have decrease my income significantly. So, I waited. And waited. And then Andrei Novac, the cofounder of NSKN Games came to me and said: I will make you an offer in a year and you will accept it. I smiled politely, patted him on the back and said something insignificantly pleasant. And you know what? The bastards did make me an offer I simply could not say no to.

The point is: if you want your dreams to come true, and you know you want to get into the board games industry, it’s not only about you. It’s also about these unique people who know how to do business and how to set – and achieve! – financial goals. Andrei didn’t have to convince me his and his wife-to-be company is doing good. He proved it by working hard for a year to get me in. And one can not simply ignore such a drive to success – one should want to be a part of it. And so I’m here.

To sum up: if you really want to work with board games, remember about four things: don’t stop playing board games – your heart beats for them, so don’t give it a reason to stop beating. Work with people you get to love – it’s the only way to make great things. Know your worth – it’s super easy to underestimate your skills or their price in order to get the job you want – sometimes it’s too early or you haven’t gotten the right offer yet. And finally: don’t choose ANY publisher. Choose the one you believe in and want to work with. And then fight your way to the number one on BGG list.

No one is stopping you from getting it, right? After all, it’s all just a game…

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