In the last installment, Kate Unrau, a professional violinist and editor freelancing in Toronto, ON and Joshua Yearsley, who specializes in games and technical materials, told us a bit about what editors work on in games. This time, they tell us what to look for and how big the market is.
“Gamers want to spend as little time as possible reading the rules and as much time as possible playing the game. So a lot of editing is geared toward that goal,” Unrau says.
Common Errors in Games
“On the simpler end,” says Yearsley. “Terminology mixups are common, things like ‘token’ versus ‘marker.’”
“Consistency is a big factor for games,” Unrau agrees. “For example, once an element is identified (a card, a token, an action), it must be referred to and styled the same way every time it appears. That includes on the board, on the element itself (as applicable), and everywhere it appears in the rules. I also strive for consistency in directions: ‘take a card’ versus ‘draw a card,’ for example. Within a set of rules, it’s better to use the same wording. There are also styling elements and conventions (use of bold, capitalization, headings) that are fairly standard in games and that make instructions easier for a gamer to scan quickly when she wants to check a rule.”
Beyond the Style Sheet
“Clarity is critical in the instructions, for obvious reasons,” Unrau says. “I’m also looking for sensible flow through the information. There’s a certain logic to laying out rules so that the reader learns what he needs to know in the order that he needs to know it as he progresses through an instruction book. It’s a little like a recipe.”
“I see lots of errors and vagueness in what I think of as the rhythm and meter of rules,” Yearsley says. “Who does which things, when, and in what order. If you get this wrong, everything about the game falls apart, so it’s important to get right.”
“Some of the most pernicious errors, and the ones I fear most, are extra and missing rules. It’s important to develop an instinct for when something doesn’t look quite right, when a rule doesn’t directly contradict another one but seems extraneous or out of place,” Yearsley says.
What You Need to Know
“As with all niches, there’s a lingo,” Unrau says. “And with board games there are certain mechanics and constructs that gamers become familiar with. In editing or proofreading for a game, you really dig into the material and figure out how the package works as a whole. If you don’t have a fairly wide knowledge of how an assortment of fiddly, complicated games work, you’re not going to recognize a good one or be able to make effective suggestions for improvement.”
The Market for Game Editing
“Relative to other markets, it’s probably on the smaller side,” Yearsley says, “but the market is growing at a ridiculous pace. More board games were published from 2010 to 2016 than from 1900 to somewhere in the 1990s, industry sales are growing in the double-digit percentages every year, and we’re not sure when it’s going to slow down. It’s almost frightening.”
“The market for games is growing all the time,” according to Unrau. “But from an editorial standpoint, it doesn’t seem like a huge area. With the prevalence of KickStarter (and similar), it’s easier for indie gamers to try to launch a product, and there are some editing opportunities there if you are part of the scene. But it seems to me that it’s a fairly small field. I feel lucky to have a little piece of it, and I hope to grow that area of my freelance portfolio.”