Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mensa MindGames game competition - too rich for my blood?

I talked about boardgame competitions in my earlier post here. Here's another one: MindGames from Mensa. I thought initially that the competition would favor strictly intellectual games (I knew Set won, for example) but they have some others too that are more traditional or mainstream, like Magic, Rat A Tat Cat, and some others.

It looks like you have to be submitting a game published in the last year. I don't know how releasing through The Game Crafter works there - it seems like a kind of gray area between unpublished prototypes (which they totally don't want) and full commercial products (which they do accept).

I won't be doing it this year, or maybe ever, because of this:

They want a registration fee of $200-$300 (which they strangely won't tell you up front - you have to download the application form or fill it out online), plus six non-returnable copies which they give out to their members who play them. For no prize, other than their seal of approval, which you only get 500 stickers for, and have to buy more if you want them.

Nice work if you can get it. It seems like the game companies are basically funding a game party for Mensa members, in exchange for some small subset of them getting the seal of approval. The Mensa members also have to pay $90 to go judge, so maybe the MindGames folks are harvesting both ends of the cash flow. The site seems somewhat weaselly, too - they have one of those smarmy pseudo-FAQs that doesn't actually answer real questions that people might actually have (e.g. How many games are entered?  "More than 50" doesn't really answer this. Do any of them ever come from small companies? How many judges are there? How long does the judging take? How many people will play my game? How many times? Do I get any feedback if I don't win? Can I see an example judging form? What are you doing with all this money you're collecting?)

So, this would be no problem if you've got a big budget for marketing and national distribution, and if you think the Mensa seal would help you market your game, which it well might. Not possible for me now, since only seven copies of my game exist in the world, and I only have two of them myself. Maybe not possible for me next year, because the game went live on TheGameCrafter in January of this year, and was maybe thus published.

Like I said before, I'm all for a modest entry fee to keep out the riffraff (to which group I currently apparently belong).  Submitting six copies of the game seems high, but maybe reasonable depending on how the event goes. But it shouldn't cost that much just to enter - they're ensuring that they'll primarily be looking at games with bigger budgets and print runs this way, not the broader market of game ideas.

For me, Hippodice seems like a much friendlier, less corporate competition, and they seem to be in it more for the games and the designers, not for the big companies and the cash.


  1. I was looking up some information on Mind Games when I saw your blog post. Since I've been a judge at the last couple Mind Games, I can address some of the issues you've raised:

    1) In addition to the potential to win the Mensa Select Awards, all entered games receive individual, detailed comment cards from judges.

    2) Winners only get 500 physical seals, but they also get a digital copy of the seal to use.

    3) According to the screenshot you have, the entry price was $200 prior to March 29, 2010 and $300 after that date (not an unknown range between the two).

    4) This year (2012), there were over 300 judges.

    5) There were 68 games entered this year (the highest yet).

    6) One of this year's winners was from an individual in Poland, so there are definitely winners from small companies.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Charles - I'm glad to know more about the competition. It still seems pretty costly, but you do seem to get pretty detailed feedback, which is much better than other competitions I've entered.