Board games as a creative outlet by Cayt Mirra
Teachers are creative. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. We invent lesson plans, we play games, we find ways to make the driest content interesting. But sometimes the administrative demands of teaching can seem to pile on top of us until teaching seems anything but a creative endeavour.
I have noticed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that many teachers have creative endeavours on the side. Whether it be making cards, art, makeup, writing or further study, I have seen many teachers pursue other methods of fulfilment. I’ve found that teachers are usually a pretty talented bunch and I’ve seen some amazing things come out of many of these extra-curricular activities. There’s a pretty high level of burnout in teaching and I believe this is due, in part, to the pressure put on teachers to make teaching their entire life – their ‘calling’. So, I think having something else happening on the side can be a great thing.
For me, among other things, it’s board games. I play a lot of games and I have made many friends through this. Board games tap into a different part of my brain and I enjoy the challenge and the competition. And, a year ago, I made my own game. The past year has involved a great deal of play-testing with anyone I could convince to play the game, and rules were tweaked again and again. People play it now and ask how we made such a cool game. The simple answer is that we didn’t. We made a terrible game, and then we played it and made changes repeatedly until it was good. I think this process can be applied to most things.
I am now part of an indie game publishing company and we were thrilled to showcase our first game, Pack of Crooks, at PAX Aus last year. This year we are preparing to run a Kickstarter campaign, which has come with its own world of challenges and things to learn.
Creating a game has required problem solving, focus and an ability to design cards and write clear rules. It involved the search for an artist, and the search for a manufacturer, and a lot of trial and error.
But, the work has paid off. Whatever happens with Pack of Crooks, I am immensely proud of it. The game itself turns players into a group of criminals who must work together to compete jobs and then fight over the loot. The game’s tagline is ‘Do the job, take the cash, lose your friends’ and it has been a lot of fun to see all our friends fighting over the loot. We weren’t sure if it would work as well when we tested it outside our own circle of friends, but it turns out that, within the confines of a board game, pretty much everybody enjoys screwing over their friends and family.
It has been incredibly difficult to get all of this done around my work in teaching. But it has also enriched my teaching practice. I have used game mechanics to create classroom activities, and I have worked with students to write instructions for simple and complex tasks. My VCAL students developed their own creative business plans. I have played board games with students on camps. Having school holidays has made this project possible, as it has given me chunks of time. This is a blessing for teachers who want to try out a new hobby or goal.
Teaching is hard work, and it can often feel like there’s no room for anything else. But creative outlets can be quick and simple; maybe you want to paint and you decide to spend one day painting each term. Maybe you want to write and you decide to spend 30 minutes a week writing. Start small! And know that creativity is about what you get out of the process, far more than it is about the result. If you have something that you’ve always wanted to do, I encourage you to try.
This piece was sponsored by Mirrafire Games. For more information about Mirrafire Game and Pack of Crooks, check them out on social media: