The BSA’s library of 138 merit badges teaches young people an array of skills they can use right away.
You get the idea.
But every so often, a Scout proves that the skills acquired while earning seemingly separate badges can be combined in interesting ways. And the result can be something game-changing.
Meet Dylon Nottingham, an 18-year-old former youth member of Troop 131 of Allen, Texas, part of the Circle Ten Council. Before turning 18, Dylon earned the Eagle Scout Award and 138 merit badges.
“The Game Design merit badge has a requirement to create a game of some kind,” Dylon says. “I wanted to create a game similar to games I enjoyed playing. I have a lifelong love of dinosaurs, and I didn’t see a dinosaur card game in the market anywhere — except for educational cards.”
But Game Design wasn’t the only badge that was instrumental to Dylon’s creation. He says he tapped into skills he learned from four other merit badges, too.
Graphic Arts merit badge
Dylon says one of the most rewarding parts of creating the game was getting to control every element of it. It was a blank canvas for his creativity.
When designing the back of the Primal Jaws playing cards, for example, Dylon got to select his favorite color — blue — for the design.
“That’s the thing about creating something. You get to choose what you want to use,” he says. “It’s kind of freeing but also challenging because you have to make all the decisions.”
The Graphic Arts merit badge gave Dylon a reason to visit printers and start learning about the commercial printing process. That helped Dylon know what questions to ask as he was searching for a supplier for his made-in-the-USA game.
“People are willing to help when they learn you are working on a merit badge and are more patient and willing to answer questions,” he says. “I learned about different paper qualities and layouts for printing, how the costs are impacted depending on the size of the cards and how many can be printed per sheet.”
Entrepreneurship merit badge
What’s the market like for a Dino-themed card game? Who are the potential customers? Who might be Dylon’s competitors in the space, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
While earning the Entrepreneurship merit badge, Dylon thought about those questions and many more.
“I had to determine how much money I’d need, the cost of the game and what I would do with the money from the sales of the product,” Dylon says.
He also considered marketing — how to use the internet and social media to increase awareness about his game.
American Business merit badge
Dylon says the American Business merit badge helped him “understand capitalism and the history of business and banking.”
These are skills that will help Dylon not just with Primal Jaws but with his dreams of developing an expansion pack to Primal Jaws and another game he says is “just conceptual now.”
Inventing merit badge
Earning the Inventing merit badge helped Dylon learn how it important it is to protect his game.
“I have a trademark for the name and a patent pending on the gameplay,” he says. “The badge helped me understand what I needed to do and gave me the confidence to do it.”
What else he learned
Like earning the Eagle Scout Award, inventing something takes patience. Even if that “lightbulb moment” happens early, the journey to market is long and steep.
“Getting anything from idea to real product is very challenging and takes a long time,” Dylon says. “I have worked on this game for years now.”
Dylon also learned to strike a balance between packing every design idea into the game and selling it at a price that is “tolerable to a customer.” He did have one non-negotiable when it came to the game’s design.
“I could have had it printed much cheaper in another country, but I really wanted the game to be made in the USA,” he says. “I feel that is important. I realized I highly value the ‘Made in America’ label.”
‘Such a pat on the back’
All that work, all those hours spent tweaking and rethinking, paid off when Dylon finished his game.
Seeing his game — once just a sketch in a notebook — printed by a professional printer “made it seem so real.”
“An order came in from a museum store, and the buyer expressed excitement about my game. Well, that is just such a pat on the back. It’s hard to describe,” Dylon says. “I’m kind of relieved that there are no more changes and excited that kids and families are going to be playing my game.”
His message to Scouts
Dylon has a message for Scouts who hear about his story: you can do this, too. And earning merit badges can help.
“Merit badges are a way to navigate and learn about things that interest them,” Dylon says. “I would not have created this game had I not been working on merit badges.
“Scouts need to know that the merit badge books are so helpful. My parents bought nearly every merit badge book — yes, I have a huge library of them. But they contain so much helpful information and can help Scouts do whatever it is that they want to do.”
Thanks to the BSA’s Don Day for the blog post idea.