Okay, seriously: grants

edited October 2007 in Game Design Help
We know about people who've gotten grants to support their game design work in Scandinavia. I do not accept that there is no way to do this in the United States. I think there must be a way, and it is just a matter of combining our web-research might so that we can find the right organizations/foundations.

I've made a number of attempts at this on my own, and all I've learned is 1) arts orgs tend to be very specific in what they want to grant to, 2) almost none of them want to grant to individuals at all, and 3) on my own is no way to do the searching.

Also, I do not even have the most basic of starter links handy right this second, but I want to start the discussion anyway. What would motivate you to pursue this seriously?


  • Off the top of my head, I wouldn't look to the arts. I would look at designing something Education related and looking for a Dept of Education grant. Or, something geared towards military and/or homeland security scenarios and look for a Dept or Homeland Security or Dept. of Defense grant to do that.

    I have no idea if this is even remotely possible, and I assume electronic media would have a better chance, but that's where I would focus my efforts.
  • I've worked under grants a few times, and each time I've found that I didn't like it. Each time I was required to report to someone and defend my work, and I found that... I just can't do that. It's not for me. But I think it's a great idea. An educational grant likely as a good chance.

    Wouldn't it be nice if there was a game design version of the comics grant the Peter Laird started with his Ninja Turtles money?
  • Isnt one of the main difficulties in the socialist tendencies of Scandinavian governments? I mean, theres a fundamental difference in attitude there between our nations that makes things like this difficult, isnt there?
  • Poking around a bit, I came across the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab - Wargaming Division - I wonder if they might give an outside grant? Slim chance, I know, but look:
    Wargaming is a highly flexible exploratory and assessment methodology that can apply to a broad range of situations outside of "war" proper. An operational definition of the function is "the artificial replication of a situation of competition or conflict not involving actual military forces, and is characterized by human decision-making which impacts the course of events throughout. It revolves around the interaction of two or more opposing forces guided by predetermined objectives, rules, data, and procedures designed to depict an actual or assumed real world situation." Wargaming is particularly suitable for generating, refining, and assessing concepts, plans, issues, and technologies; assessing alternatives (COAs, etc.); identifying capabilities and deficiencies; replicating conditions difficult to reproduce in peacetime; and reducing surprises.
    That doesn't sound too far removed from our discipline, does it?
  • The military and homeland security establishments, in the U.S., and swimming in money for this sort of thing. Right now it is all going to computer-based training and simulation, but I'm not sure that's necessary. If you pitched it right you could definitely illustrate the virtues of tabletop or human-mediated gaming for teaching and learning.
  • edited October 2007
    NPR just ran a segment about the US military's cross-cultural roleplaying scenarios. It's a LARP with a lot of actor-NPCs.
  • This is lame. I don't want a grant to do something that might be sorta-like what I'm doing if you squint. I want a grant for doing what I'm doing right now (ala our nordic counterparts).
  • (looks like the story JBR is talking about can be found here)
  • There might be something at the Social Impact Games site that could lead you in the right direction. They're at socialimpactgames with the dot and the com.
  • Posted By: Ben LehmanThis is lame.
    Fight the power, Ben.
    Working as a grantee would just impose an additional set of constraints. I'm OK with that, myself.
  • edited October 2007
    LARP has been a part of the military training establishment for years, and you can participate in a version of this at GenCon, Origins or other conventions. Looks like Gettysburg coming up:


    These people are the real deal, retired military trainers from the command college.


    P.S. This might not be what you're about, Ben, but it certainly could be what others are about.
  • Yeah, while I can see a lot of interesting aspects to working for educational entities (or even maybe for the DHS!), I have to say I'm kinda with Ben here.

    My dad has done some grant writing for housing and educational initiatives in his town, and he says there's a lot of values-education money out there. That seems like it would be in line with what a lot of us are doing anyway (think The Princes' Kingdom).
  • Posted By: misubaalmost none of them want to grant to individuals at all
    Seriously? How do your literary novelists get by, then?

    It would be a hard sell, but another possible angle would be "this is a fiction-generating activity - rather than a grant for writing fiction, I want a grant for writing a fiction-generating thing".
  • Posted By: MikeRMSeriously? How do your literary novelists get by, then?
    From what I can tell, most fiction grants have a filtering phase that's essentially by referral - they don't really throw the doors open to applicants the way other sorts of grants do. Instead there's a selection committee and a lot of word of mouth.

    (Are any known RPG designers also in the undergrad or graduate literary worlds?)
  • There are databases for arts/literature grants. Get access to those (a local university should be able to sell you access to theirs - ours is $25.)
  • edited October 2007
    Posted By: Ben LehmanThis is lame. I don't want a grant to do something that might be sorta-like what I'm doing if you squint. I want a grant for doing what I'm doing right now (ala our nordic counterparts).
    As a friend of mine might say, "Yeah, and if my grandma had a penis, she'd be my grandfather."
  • Posted By: nocluePosted By: Ben LehmanThis is lame. I don't want a grant to do something that might be sorta-like what I'm doing if you squint. I want a grant for doing what I'm doing right now (ala our nordic counterparts).
    As a friend of mine might say, "Yeah, and if my grandma had a penis, she'd be my grandfather."

    Heh, around here we say, "If grandma had wheels, she'd be a bus!"

  • There's a ton of art / literature grants out there. Rather than dismissing them out of hand, we could actually look into them (thanks for the people who have!)

    AFAIK there is no pre-screening process in theory, although in practice only a few applications form known artists may be considered.

  • Having been on a few grant review boards and selection committees, I would like to offer a few thoughts. This is taken from my experience working with multi-million dollar* NGO granting programs, so obviously some of the advice is going to be pretty much focused on just that avenue.

    You open yourself up for a stronger case to arts grants if you incorporate delivery into your project. If you ask for significantly more, but include touring community to community and kickstarting the success of this new roleplaying game, you are more likely to be considered. A lot of grants create materials that sit on dusty shelves - implimentation and follow-through are worth a lot (both money and consideration).

    Transfer of skills is important with community education or adult literacy grants. A game which taught you applicable, real-world skills (just like SIerra's educational computer games for children, or those How would you survive? scenario books) would be worth a lot of grant money to many organizations. Especially if you could prove results. Hopefully something less cheesy than, "How has your life improved since playing my game? Please fill out this survey!"

    Measurable results, ongoing reporting, and ongoing goal assessment are what change a lacking application into one you really consider. If there's no way to tell if the game is a success, or the design process is continuing smoothly, or if skills are being transfered through play (for example), then you're asking for blind faith on behalf of granters. Find a way to say "We will measure success in these ways. We will stop to assess our successes and redevelop our task objectives at these points. We will report our findings at this point and this point."

    That's just general tips for the kind of granting I've been involved with. Focusing your project on how you will deliver something to the public and how you will gauge success makes a huge difference.

    *As in, the program/organization granted millions annually, not as in we gave out single grants worth a million.
  • " Rather than dismissing them out of hand, we could actually look into them "

    Ben, who dismissed them out of hand?
  • joepub - those are all great suggestions! Let me add that you should also talk to people who have received the grant you are seeking in the past, draw on their experiences, focuses (and warnings, not all grant committees are created equal.)
  • Thanks Joe! That's really fantastic. In terms of education should it be like "this game teaches reading and math skills" or is there room for just general artistic life improvement stuff?

  • Ben, I personally think there's huge room for defining education and skills yourself, within your own project.

    Adult literacy, for example, includes and focuses on: workplace literacy, computer skills, self advocacy (knowing how to compose resumes, hold interviews, share ideas), technical writing, and in general navigating life and knowing how to meet your own ends and even support others.

    Youth literacy, for example, includes and focuses on: Investing youth in reading and appreciating literature, strengthening healthy personal expression, providing avenues for creativity, keeping kids engaged in safe and healthy activities (Ie, keeping kids off the street), developing creative writing skills, and improving their reading abilities through activities and involvement (where passion exists, skills are fostered).

    I'm describing both of these to illustrate something: literacy means a huge, wide spectrum of things. Especially when you take it to the community level. Teaching a skill like consensus-based decision making, or conversely making decisions using Robert's Rules of Order... those could both be considered personal development or adult literacy skill improvements. Similarly, fostering personal creativity, encouraging people to share their stories and imagination, and channelling that energy into an ongoing product (SIS) is a brilliant youth literacy project.

    Literacy grants exist, and are significant, and there's a lot of drift that exists within their mandate boundaries.

    While I don't think they are the only grant field that RPG designers could pursue, they are definitely a strong one. That, and general arts grants. Some places/organizations will also offer cultural development grants*. Something like a roleplaying game fair (basically, a con set up for outsiders) or gaming magazine or ongoing cross-gaming-group events could be funded by this, but there'd be quite a bit of drift to get an actual game writing grant from cultural development funds.

    *Note, there are two things that are both called cultural development. One is about a specific religious or ethnic cultural background. The other is about developing community around ongoing events, lifestyles and commonalities.
  • Wow! This is what I was hoping for.

    Having a plan for dissemination! We should be doing that anyway. I mean, it should be in the Power 19. Which I guess would have to become the Power 22 or so, because there are as many assumptions about this step that we never question as there are about any of the other aspects of design that those questions cover. (And of course, Ron is ahead of us in this department.)
  • Mike,

    I'm actually planning a game contest right now focused on RPG dissemination. It'll be popping up mid-November.
    Just so you can get excited now.
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