I suspect many people have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) - a sort of challenge to get writers writing, with the goal of getting 5000 words written in the month of November. It's a pretty cool idea, and though I'm not a writer, I know a couple of people who seem to have benefitted from that challenge.
Since I'm a member of another creative community, it did not surprise me to see people making a similar challenge for game design with NaGaDeMon (National Game Design Month), which incidentally has a very apt abbreviation, as a Naga Demon is a snake-beast from fantasy role playing games :)
The stated purpose of NaGaDeMon is:
There are people who are interested in games and might like design, and NaGaDeMon is a pretty neat challenge to encourage those people to get their feet wet. I happen to do this all the time, so it's not very pressing for me to dedicate any particular month to it.
My friend Gil Hova had an issue with the whole idea though. In this post on his blog, Gil describes how the idea of focusing on components and rules and only playing a game once is not the correct focus. He says that ideas are a dime a dozen, and the real work of game design is in the iteration from playtest to playtest, honing a game from that initial draft to a final, full fledged game.
I agree with him 100%, and I recommend all amateur game designers check out his post about 4P, where Gil issues a different challenge - playtest the same game 4 times in the month of January, incorporating feedback between each playtest.
As I mentioned, I do this sort of thing all the time, but every designer could probably use more playtesting! As it happens, I have a brand new design that I have started working on. So when Gil started posting about his 2nd annual 4P challenge again, I figured I might as well participate.
I got started about a week early for the official 4P challenge, but so far I've had 3 full playtests of The Pony Express, making changes each time. So far I think the progress has been good. At this point the next major change I need to make is to redesign the board, which I think will fix several issues I see in the game.
I guess that gives me 4 more weeks to design a new board and test again!