To shine a light on the ‘local’ tabletop games scene in Europe we post interviews with industry participants (professionals). This time we welcome Christian Beiersdorf from Germany who has been active in the industry for many years and currently is manager of the SAZ, an international Game designers Association.
What has been your career? (which roles did you take on / noticable projects or tasks?)
I started in the print industry in Munich and then in a publishing house in Italy. 1984 I came to F.X.Schmid as editor with a rather successful time (e.g. Auf Achse, Adel verpflichtet, Bluff). Later I changed to ASS and Ravensburger (e.g. Lotti Karotti) as product manager. 2001 I started my own agency PROJEKT SPIEL with freelance developing work and being agent for other game authors. 2009 I was elected in the board of SAZ first time – keeping this job until 2015.
What is your current role at the SAZ?
Since 2015 I am manager of SAZ. This was a new function to approve the actions of the board and to handle the ever more extensive tasks. We are growing, which means more administration and more support: currently we have about 500 members. Particularly the lobby work takes additionally a lot of time and requires personal continuity. Main themes are author rights, social assurance for freelance game authors, the official recognition of the cultural asset games, public lending rights and remunerations for game authors, special tax problems. Our website gives you a good overview – also in English.
What is the SAZ and what does it offer to game designers?
The “Game Designers Association” (SAZ) represents the interests of game authors to the public as well as to publishers and other work users. Beside the already mentioned activities we support members e.g. with hints for better contracts, with some brochures containing all important knowledge all around game developing, with conventions like Göttingen to bring authors and publishers together, with free entrance to the Toy Fair in Nürnberg, advanced training vouchers, 10% discount at spielmaterial.de and some more benefits – published on our website.
The SAZ is international oriented. How do you ensure/strenghten this (from Germany)?
Yes, we are international oriented and have members in 21 countries all over the world till Brazil and South Korea. Of course, our main base is Germany. Here we have the most members and no language barrier. Nevertheless, we communicate in English with members in other countries and explain our targets to all game authors abroad. We see all our actions here in Germany as well as a blue-print for other countries. Since 2017 we have our first national group in Italy with now nearly 50 members. From our point of view, it needs for such a step a certain base of members and some persons who are willing to take on -not only short time- responsibility.
Why would it be worth thinking about a national group of SAZ in the Netherlands?
First of all, we have in the Netherlands already 13 members. And we know that there are a lot more game authors which are not yet organized. In a national group, it is much easier to respond to national particularities and to exchange ideas in the own language. And, taking into account the importance of the EC in Europe, we can engage together with political initiatives for the special interests of game authors as well as for the cultural asset of games. Additionally, we create more internationally power in order to oppose author unfriendly ambitions, e.g. from publishers.
What changes in the tabletop game industry have you witnessed?
Within the last 35 years a lot happened. The number of new analog publications has increased almost tenfold. This is interesting under the parallel development of digital games. This shows that the often expressed opinion that analogue games have no future is nonsense. Beside of that, we have hybrid games as well, using elements of both worlds. Even more important is the growing gap between games for the mass market and for multiple players, which has also led to an amazing start-up scene of new publishing houses. Some of which are or have become very successful. The publication of games is increasingly less a classic publishing business, and more a marketing driven international business. This also partly changes the relationship between game authors and companies – not always for the better.
Do you see future trends?
Hard to say. I wish there would be more games that really tell a story, than just working with mechanism. There is the (very successful!) early bird Catan, there are Pandemic and Safehouse to name at least some of them. Generally, the digital games are currently better in telling stories.
What advice would you give to a game designer?
Have an open view to all aspects of your environment, to all culture developments, to all themes of the society. Don’t think only in mechanism but more in themes. Team up with others to use the different skills for great new game developments. And … become a member of SAZ 😉!
Thank you for your time Christian!
Interview by Arjan van Houwelingen