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Advice for Designers and Publishers: How to Submit Listings for Games, People and Publishers to the BGG Database

W. Eric Martin
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Some of the articles in this series will be relevant to designers and publishers whether or not they're active on BGG, such as the introductory article on how to write a press release; other articles, however, will pertain solely to the ins-and-outs of BGG, but a side benefit of such omphaloskepsic posts is that they should also be useful to BGG users at large, such as today's article about how to submit items to the BGG database.

I've heard from more than one user that they found the submission process confusing. I can't argue with that. As with many parts of BGG, the submission process has changed over time, with bits being added or removed as the needs of the site and requests of the users change over time. If this submission process changes greatly in the future, I'll write another article to address those changes; for now, though, this should cover what you need to know. If it doesn't, ask questions in the comments section and I'll answer them and update this article.

Before we get to the how, let's start with the what?

•••


What's the mission of BoardGameGeek? And what is this database I'm referencing?


The short answer: "BoardGameGeek is a database and social community that's centered around board games, and its mission is to be the definitive resource on every board game ever created."

When you look at the BGG front page, you see tons of posts and reviews and questions about this-or-that game, and by clicking around you'll find yourself on some part of the database: a game listing, a video highlighting how to play a game, etc.

To get a sense of the entire database, you need to scroll over "Browse" (circled in the image below) in the upper menu bar, then click on one of the items listed under "Database"; doing so brings up a list of the 74,000+ games in the database (organized by rank with Twilight Struggle at #1 and Tic-Tac-Toe at #10453, followed by more than six hundred pages of unranked games; a game needs at least thirty ratings in order to become ranked), or the 20,000+ designers (organized alphabetically), or the 14,000+ publishers (ditto).


Definitive resource? We're not 100% there since new games are being published every day and thousands of older games remain uncatalogued, but with sites like Luding.org listing 25k games and TricTrac.net listing 16k, BGG has a better claim to that title than anyone else.

To keep that database growing and to try to reach the unobtainable 100% completeness bar, we input some game information ourselves — primarily through me adding titles in advance of game conventions like Spielwarenmesse, Gen Con, and Spiel — while getting most of that information via user submissions, which leads us to the following question and our true starting point:

•••


How does one submit items to the BGG database?


To start, you need to scroll over another term in the upper menu bar: "Misc", which encompasses a whole mess of topics and information as you might expect a term like miscellaneous to do. Scrolling over "Misc" shows you the following:


I've boxed the important stuff for this topic: the links for how to submit games, publishers, and people (i.e., designers and artists) to the database. I'll skip how to submit accessories, podcasts and families (with a family being a group of games related in some manner) to focus on these other things. Clicking on "Board Game" brings up this crazy-long form:


Whoa. Lots to absorb there, but thankfully we can start with something simpler, namely how to add people and publishers to the database. What's more, if a designer or artist or publisher isn't already in the database, we suggest that you submit listings for them first. In practice, you can submit games first and the other stuff later or vice versa, but by submitting people and publishers first, you should ideally then be able to submit a more complete game listing — and since game listings are the raison d'être of the database, better to have them be as polished as possible.

Before you submit anything, though, I'll point out the following pages that you might find of interest:

Pending game submissions
Pending people submissions
Pending publisher submissions

These pages show the pending submissions that BGG users have already submitted. If you search these lists and find the game, person or publisher that you had planned to submit, you can relax as someone else has already done the job for you. If, however, you are the publisher or designer in question, feel free to continue with this process and point out in the "Note to Admin" section on each page that you are the publisher or designer in question, or you are responsible for the game in question.

With that out of the way, we'll now jump to...

•••


How to submit a publisher listing


Click on "Publisher" under "Misc / Add to Database", and you'll see the following screen (but without the red numbers in place):


You didn't realize it was that easy to create a publisher, did you? Fill out this form, and *poof* you've got yourself a publisher! Well, okay, to be technical you have created a submission for a publisher listing in the approval queue, but it's something.

To complete this form, add the following information:

1. Primary Name: Type the publisher's name as it appears on the publisher's website, perhaps in the "Contact us" or "About us" sections as those should give you the precise way that the name is spelled. Why is that important? Because you can't always grasp a publisher's name from its logo. Look at the publisher's logo at right for example. Is the name "Fun Forge", "FunForge", "Funforge", "FUNFORGE" or something else entirely? A quick look at the publisher's "About us" page reveals that the name is "Funforge", which is how we list it in our database.

In some cases, as with Chinese, Japanese and Korean publishers, a publisher has more than one name, say a name in its original language ("カナイ製作所") and a translated name in English ("Kanai Factory"). I suggest using the English name as the primary name since that is easier for the majority of BGG users to search for and to type on their keyboards; in the "Note to Admin" section, write something like "Alternate name: カナイ製作所" and whichever admin approves the submission will ideally add this alternate name to the publisher listing.

2. Description: Feel free in this section to quote from the publisher's "About us" — preferably first writing "Description from the publisher:" — but if you know something about the publisher firsthand, write the description in your own words. If you know nothing else about the publisher, simply write "Japanese publisher" or something similar and cross your fingers that someone else will fill in the details later.

3. Board Game Credits: Given that the publisher is not listed in the database — and it's not listed, is it? you did search for it first before heading to this form? — the name of any games published by this entity will likely not be listed in the database either.

Or will they? New publishers sometimes come into being in order to release a new version of an out-of-print game or a game published only in some other part of the world. Stronghold Games is one such example, with its first release being a new version of Robert Abbott's Confusion, which had appeared only in a tiny edition from German publisher franjos in 1992. Thus, when you're submitting the publisher listing, click "Add Board Game Credits", enter the game's name, and see whether a game listing for this title is already in the database; if it is, click on the game name. When this publisher listing is approved, the publisher's name will then appear on the game listing and the publisher listing will show a credit for this game.

If the game's name doesn't come up (or a matching name is for a different game), leave this section blank as you'll submit the game listing later.

4. Note to Admin: Use this section to include information about alternate names, to list the URL of the publisher's website or its Facebook page (to provide proof of its existence), or to tell us whatever else seems relevant to this submission.

5. Click the "Save" button.

Okay, that was relatively easy, so let's move on to...

•••


How to submit a designer or artist listing


Click on "Person" under "Misc / Add to Database", and you'll see the following screen (but without the red numbers in place):


Create Person?! My, what promises from such an inviting header! This form allows you to submit the name of either a designer or artist to the database, and it works much like the publisher submission form:

1. Name: As with the publisher listing, you want to submit a name that represents how that designer or artist wants it to appear in print. "Eric M. Lang", for example, is how that designer's name appears on games, so that's how it should be listed in the BGG database.

Also as with publisher listings, please use the English transliteration of a person's name as the primary name ("Seiji Kanai") while adding in the "Note to Admin" box something like "Alternate name: カナイセイジ". Please submit names in the order of (given name) (family name) to ensure consistency across the database. With Kanai's name, for example, his Japanese name is in the order used by that country — (family name) (given name) — but for his primary name we use (given name) (family name), which is also how it appears on most game boxes.

2. Description: As with publisher listings, you might be able to pull a biography of the person from a personal website, but you might be limited to "Japanese designer", "French artist", or something similarly lame. So be it.

3. Board Game Designer (Artist) Credits: As with publisher listings, the game which this person has created (or illustrated) may or may not already be in the BGG database. Sometimes a person finds out about a game without knowing the creator or artist and submits it. Thus, you can search for the game name and click it if the game is already in the system; if not, don't click anything and move on.

4. Note to Admin: Feel free to include alternate names, links to personal websites, and other details that help prove your case that the person in the submission is the correct person. Proof is always better than your say-so, but often your say-so is good enough for us until proven otherwise.

5. Click the "Save" button.

That was also simple, yes? Once you've submitted the designer, artist and publisher listings, feel free to get yourself a fresh cup of coffee in order for the BGG cache to record your submissions. From experience, I'd guess this takes one to several minutes, after which you'll be able to choose this designer or publisher when submitting a game listing — even though these earlier submissions have not yet been approved.

Okay, now it's time to move to the big challenge:

•••


How to submit a game listing


Click on "Board Game" under "Misc / Add to Database", and you'll see the following screen (but without the red numbers in place):


Note that I've broken the game submission page into three pieces in order to provide interludes and cover stuff in related groups. With that said, let's get started, examining each of the numbered sections in turn:

0. Guide to Game Submissions: Note that BGG already has a "Guide to Game Submissions" in its wiki, and to some degree I'm duplicating that effort through this post. Perhaps I should have merely updated and expanded that page, but it's been there forever and is somewhat invisible, whereas people can comment on this post, ask questions, and perhaps better figure out all of the details to this process. Perhaps in the future, I can transfer this material to that wiki. Duplication of effort — it's the American way!

1. Primary Name: This is the title of the game, with the ideal format being "Title: Subtitle – Additional Subtitle", with a colon separating the title from subtitle and an en dash separating the subtitle from additional subtitle. (We have a program that automatically compiles titles not in this format so that we can standardize them, but if you want to do that up front, we'd love you just a little bit more.)

Once again, as with publisher and person submissions, we prefer to have a title in English for games released with non-Arabic letter titles. If the title is in, say, German, then leave it in German and don't use an English title because we can type "Die enorme Fuß und die winzigen Toe" without much trouble. Typing "ラブレター", on the other hand, is more challenging, so rather than require almost everyone to cut and paste, we allow an English title even if an English-language version of the game doesn't exist. As before, use the "Note to Admin" section to write "Alternate title: ラブレター".

2. Description: Ideally in this section you can submit a 1-4 paragraph description of the game written in a neutral voice that covers the game's setting, goal and gameplay. I have a lot more to write about game descriptions and will cover the topic in a future article.

In general, though, your goal is to describe the game in enough detail that the description wouldn't fit another game while not going into so much detail that you're describing the entirety of the game. By covering the setting, you tell us our role in the game world; by explaining the goal, you tell us what we're trying to do in this world; by describing the gameplay, you tell us how to move toward achieving that goal. That sounds abstract and clinical, but your description doesn't have to come across that way. Feel free to include personality in the description, but keep away from marketing talk — "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master", "fun for the whole family" — and other nonsense like that.

If nothing else is handy, go ahead and use the description from the publisher, but please include a "''Game description from the publisher:''" header (with the double apostrophes creating italic text in the wiki) and remove fluff sentences that relate more to selling the game than describing it.

3. Year published: In which year was the game first available for purchase through retail outlets? That year counts as the game's debut, so that's what we want to list.

4. Minimum and maximum players: In general, these fields are easy to complete because you can look at the box or publisher's website or retailer listing and see this information.

That said, the question isn't always clear because sometimes that information changes from one version to another, or from one publisher to another. When Uberplay released its version of For Sale, it added more components so that up to six people could play whereas the original edition maxed out at five players. Some versions of Puerto Rico include rules for playing with two, whereas the earliest editions allowed for only 3-5 players. What to do, what to do? We tend to allow for the widest range of players possible because even if your particular copy of PR doesn't have two-player rules, you can probably find rules to make it happen. Perhaps we should list a player count for each version of the game, but that way lies madness.

5. Minimum age: Again, this field seems easy, but different publishers have different standards. Many publishers in the U.S., for example, adopt a minimum age of 13+ so that they don't have to undergo expensive CPSIA tests required for children's products when of course a game labeled for ages 10+ is by no means a children's product! In these cases, we again tend to go for whatever the widest range is, working under the assumption that kids in Europe and Asia aren't that much smarter than kids in the U.S.

6. Playing time: When BGG was set up, someone decided to make this field accept only a single numeral instead of a range of numerals, so when confronted with a playing time of 30-60 minutes, we tend to split the difference and list the playing time as 45 minutes. Ideally we could split this into two fields so that games at the extreme such as Caverna (for 1-7 players and playing in 30-210 minutes) would be more accurately represented, but I'm not a tech guy and have been warned that it would be hard to do this now, especially since such a change could invite 70,000 game corrections, with different versions of games having different playing times in addition to different suggested ages. Fun!

7. Category and mechanism: For these two areas, you click on the link and choose whatever is appropriate on the lists presented to you. I understand the arguments that BGG blurs categories and mechanisms in these lists and not everything is represented, but righting these "wrongs" is outside my area of expertise.

8. Family: I mentioned families above when I talked about submission types that I won't cover. For many games you can search for reasonable sounding families and often find ones that already exist in the database: families related to countries and cities, families related to animals and professions, families related to media properties and authors, and on and on and on.

9. Expands: Use this field if the item you're submitting is an expansion for an existing game and not itself a standalone game. This last bit is important because when something is categorized as an expansion, then it cannot be ranked in the BGG system, no matter how many ratings it has. (We removed expansions from the rankings some years ago because expansions are nearly always rated higher than the base games. After all, if you hate the base game or are even indifferent to it, you'll likely avoid the expansion, which means that it's played mostly by those who are more prone to like it.)

Thus, for items like the next Ascension set (which is both a standalone item and an expansion for all other Ascension sets) or a Smash Up set that functions in the same way, please don't use the "expands" link because the item can also function as a standalone game and we want to classify it in that manner. For now we use an "Integrates with:" list to get around this pothole, as can be seen in the description of this Ascension game, but I'd like to see a dedicated "Integrates with:" two-way linking system added to a game's main info box in the future. I've lobbied for this, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm not the tech guy, so I ask for all sorts of things without having any idea of how complicated they'd be to implement.

10. Contains: This field is relatively new, and we added it for items like Puerto Rico: Limited Anniversary Edition, which differs from the Puerto Rico base game in that it includes some of the existing expansions and tons of juicy components and would likely be bought and rated by folks who already love the base game, thus skewing it higher in the rankings and giving PR two spots in the BGG ranking list even though at heart it's the same thing. If you're submitting something like a twentieth anniversary edition of Bohnanza (coming in 2017!) that includes multiple expansions, then you'd use this field to link to all of the items already listed in the database that it contains.

This set-up isn't perfect, as with the 2014 release Lords of Xidit, which is packaged with two bonus cards for Seasons, a separate game set in the same world. Technically Lords of Xidit contains these expansion cards for Seasons, but if we use that "contains" link, then Xidit won't be ranked, even though it should be. We know about the problem, but lack a solution for now. It's such a corner case that we'll probably see something like this at most a half-dozen times a year, yet you still want a way to list this cleanly. Well, at least I do anyway...

11. Reimplements: Is the game that you're submitting a new version of a previously released game and (this is the important part) the designer or publisher has stated this directly? The 2014 release Rattlebones plays very much like a Dominion with dice, and Rattlebones designer Stephen Glenn has stated that he was inspired by Dominion for this design, but in no way would we list Rattlebones as a reimplementation of Dominion.

12. Designer/Artist: Click on the links in these fields, find the appropriate people, then click on those names to add them to this game listing. You did add them to the BGG database earlier, yes?

13. Publisher: As with the above section, search for the publisher or publishers responsible for this game and click on them.


14. Version Information: Versions were added to the BGG database in 2009, and the goal behind listing them was to allow people to track exactly which version of a game they own, to indicate which version you're selling in the marketplace (although doing so is optional), and to compare the images for this or that version that's been released over the years.

What's the difference between a version and a new game? It's a fine line, and something that's tough to define, although some BGG admins have tried to do so in lengthy detail. As I mentioned earlier, Uberplay's For Sale that allows up to six players is listed as a new version of the original Ravensburger For Sale, even though the component counts differ, but Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue is listed as a separate game than Penguin even though they're arguably more similar than the two For Sales. I'll accept that we're inconsistent — and will stay that way, as I noted in a February 2014 BGGN post — but I also apologize for the confusion. We do what we can.

That said, sometimes multiple versions of a game are announced at the same time, say, a German version from Hans im Glück and an English one from Z-Man Games. That's where the "Clone This" link comes in. You can first add whatever information is the same for both versions of the game (box size, year of release, artist, etc.), then click "Clone This" to create a second version listing with all the info that you've already entered, then you can finish off the version listings with the unique information for each version (publisher, language, release date, etc.) "Add Another" works similarly, but copies none of the information that you've entered.

15. Version nickname: We have guidelines for how to name versions (and do many other things), but nicknames tend to be all over the place.

In general, we prefer a format of "(language) first edition" or "(language)/(second language) first edition" or "Multilingual first edition" when more than two languages are involved, but that still leaves many questions unanswered. What happens if you're submitting a version with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish rules as well as one with French, German and Italian rules? Do you have two "Multilingual first editions"? Do you summarize an edition with "FR/DE/IT first edition"? What about Libellud's Mysterium, which will be a new version of Tajemnicze Domostwo? Will this be the English first edition, even though it's really more of a second edition since the art will differ? How many editions of Love Letter and is this the same as the number of versions we list?

In some ways, I'd love to do away with the version nickname as the information is typically included elsewhere in the listing — the languages are listed, the years of publication are (probably) listed — or it's material to start an argument. What does the nickname add? I'm not sure, but we're using it for now, so I try to be as consistent as I can be.

16. & 17. Version publisher and Version artist: Search for and click on the appropriate names for these fields based on whatever version you are currently entering.

18. Year published: Again, this is meant to be the year in which this version of the game can be acquired, whether from the publisher directly, a print-and-play copy through the designer's website (in which case this is a "Print-and-play edition"), or through a retail outlet.

19. Product code: Most publishers use a code — a series of numbers or letters or combination of both — to designate each title they release. They do this because manufacturers, distributors and retailers want to use standardized codes to prefer to product instead of names that sometimes have to be parsed to determine exactly what one is talking about. Do you mean Risk: The Lord of the Rings or Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition? Which Chapter Pack for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game did a customer order: A Time of Trials or A Time for Wolves?

20. Dimensions: Some people like to know this information, especially if they plan to ship the game or have someone else ship it to them. How much will will USPS soak me for? We have a few preset sizes that are commonly used by publishers, but if you have the exact dimensions feel free to enter them, with the largest dimension as the length, the next largest as the width, and the smallest dimension being the depth. Yes, one box might have a portrait view and another a landscape view, but (1) you can see how the art looks from the box cover image and (2) if you consistently list dimensions from large to small, you can more easily imagine how one box size compares to another.

21. Weight: Not sure what to say here. Some folks want to know this stat so that they can build their bookshelves accordingly or plan mailing costs to the dime.

22. Languages: Click on the languages to match the rules to be included in the game. Don't see the language you need? Include a note to the admin with your suggestion. In the past couple of years, we've added Bulgarian, Vietnamese and Esperanto to the database to accommodate game submissions.


23. Release date: The idea behind the release date is that we want to list the date when this game was or will be first available to the public at large and not available to a select few who show up at a convention months before the game is available to everyone else. Yes, Five Tribes debuted at Gen Con 2014, but does the availability of two hundred copies count as a release? Not in our eyes, which is why we list the release date as September 2014.

For the release date, if you have only the year, use the pulldown menu to put in the proper year; if you know the month as well, use that pulldown menu; if you know the precise day, add that detail, too. If instead you know only a range of months — say, "Jul/Aug 2015" — or the quarter — e.g., "Q3 2015" — that a game is due out, then use the "custom override" box and put that date information in place.

One thing you shouldn't do — and I'm surprised that publishers still do this — is use a season in the release date, such as "Spring 2015". For me, that term means sometime between late March and late June 2015; for someone in the southern hemisphere, however, that term means late September to late December 2015 — which is probably not what the publisher had in mind. If I've learned one thing in the eight years that I've been doing this, it's that if a gamer knows of a game that sounds interesting, that gamer will often make an effort to acquire, no matter where that game originates. Thus, publishers should make clear to all of their potential customers — that is, everyone on Earth — when their games will be available, and that means avoiding release dates based on seasons.

24. Release comment: Use this section to note extra details about a game's release, such as "Debuting at Gen Con 2015" or "Releasing in Europe in Aug 2015 & in North America in Oct 2015", to help other users know when they might be able to play the game in question or get their hands on it.

25. Release status: Is a game available to the public at large? If so, it's "released"; if not, it's "unreleased".

26. Pre-order type: Typically this section is for publishers who are taking pre-orders through their own websites prior to a game's release or for a publisher who is running a crowdfunding campaign. If someone completes this field and the next three pre-order fields, then a pre-order link will show in the information box at the top of the game page; if one of the fields is left incomplete, then no such link will appear.

27. Pre-order URL: This would be the URL of the crowdfunding project or the publisher's website where pre-orders are being taken. (And in case you haven't already noticed, we treat crowdfunding projects the same as pre-orders because from our point of view they function the same way: You pay money in advance of the game being available with the expectation of receiving the game at a later date.)

28. Pre-order start date and Pre-order end date: As I just mentioned, both of these fields need to be completed — all six pulldown menus — in order for the pre-order link to appear on the game page itself.

29. Note to admin: So much stuff could go in this space: URLs to an announcement on a publisher's website or a designer's Twitter feed or a retailer's game page, alternate names in different languages since you can submit only one name for the game, additional details about the release date, notes that you've submitted the designer or publisher details separately, and so on.

30. Click the "Save" button. Yes, we're finally there. Click that button already.

•••


What next?


So are we done yet? Well, you're done — or at least you might be done. Once you submit something, the name of that submission will appear in one of the pending queues that I linked to earlier. At some point a BGG admin will review the submission, then ask questions of you to clarify information that's unclear; approve the submission as is; skip over the submission because he has only a few minutes between other tasks and isn't clear whether he can approve this or not; add information based on what he's seen somewhere; or some combination of these.

In most cases, the game listing is approved first, then the designer/artist/publisher listings are approved later by a separate admin who has handled these things for a while and has kind of adopted these sections of the site. Once a game listing is approved, users can then submit images, files, web links, forum posts, and so on. That listing joins 74,000 others, and in most cases it's barely seen again, at least by the majority of the people who use the site. For some, though, they carefully monitor the page, subscribe to it even so that they can answer rules questions or see what reviewers have to say. Every game is somebody's baby...
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