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Game conventions for playtesting?

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BenMora
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I have never been to a (table) game convention, and that is surely to change this year. I hear about people bringing their games to playtest with convention goers. How does that usually work? Would you rent a booth/table? Find an empty gaming table there and just ask people? is there a generally acceptable or sanctioned outlet for playtesting a game?

I am in the Kansas City area (Olathe, KS) and want to start with something near by so I don't have to travel. I just found out about Midwest GameFest, which appears to be so new that this will be the first year and they don't have any information about it yet. http://www.rpgkc.org/events/midwest-gamefest

Any advice, suggestions, ideas, warnings, etc are greatly appreciated!
-Ben Mora
Mora Games

chris_mancini
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UNPUB conventions are

UNPUB conventions are dedicated to just this area of gaming...you sign up, tell them what kind of game you have, and choose a time slot. Other may then sign up based on their interest level in your game, and you can even try some impromptu testing there if your self-promotion ability is high.

You can find testers at just about any con, and many have playtesting rooms. Just always be respectful of the testers' time, get structured feedback, and it doesn't hurt to offer some little token of thanks such as a button, stickers, dice, whatever.

There are other threads about this here on BGDF...hunt around a bit and you'll find all you need to know!

BenMora
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Thanks for the advice! That

Thanks for the advice! That is a FANTASTIC idea to give thank you prizes/gifts/tokens to players! A custom button would also be a good way to get my brand name and/or game name out there! :D I'll search the threads for more, like you said.
-Ben

radioactivemouse
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Here's my experience...

BenMora wrote:
I have never been to a (table) game convention, and that is surely to change this year. I hear about people bringing their games to playtest with convention goers. How does that usually work? Would you rent a booth/table? Find an empty gaming table there and just ask people? is there a generally acceptable or sanctioned outlet for playtesting a game?

I am in the Kansas City area (Olathe, KS) and want to start with something near by so I don't have to travel. I just found out about Midwest GameFest, which appears to be so new that this will be the first year and they don't have any information about it yet. http://www.rpgkc.org/events/midwest-gamefest

Any advice, suggestions, ideas, warnings, etc are greatly appreciated!
-Ben Mora
Mora Games

Usually when you are play testing a game, you need to reserve a spot for it since (surprisingly) many people have games to playtest and table space is usually hard for prototypes (many people just want to play already published games). You can reserve by "setting up an event" or there may be a space where it just says "playtest your game". It's usually free to reserve and they ask things like game length, number of players, size of game, etc. But you'll need to contact the event/convention for further details.

But if you are going into a convention blind, you will need to note the following:

-You'll need a sign. No one is going to know your game is being played unless someone sees it's there. Make it sharp, don't do sharpie on card stock, too tacky (however, if you have no sign, it's better than nothing)

-You need to be patient. Every place (con) is different. UNPUB is a great place to get exposure, but at a bigger con you may not get many people because people are playing everything else. It may be frustrating if only 1 or 2 people play your game in a day, but you have to roll with it. I've been to gatherings where I've only got like...7 plays of my game in a whole convention and some gatherings where I attracted a crowd so big I forgot to eat. Many times it's a steady trickle of people that play, but your mileage my vary. Plan your game to be a (really) slow burn if you're a new game designer. Once you have established your name as a game designer, then you're more likely to attract players because they know you from your early work.

-Don't get frustrated. Some people will be very blunt about your game and it can take you down a notch. The only thing you can do is note it and try and fix it in a later version. The fact that someone took the time to play your game is awesome enough. I mean, you're literally creating something out of nothing and people that play are willing to take the time to see what you've created.

-Bring someone. Sometimes it's good to have people see the game in action before they decide they want to play. If you have a friend (or loved one) with you, they can help you show off the game. In addition, it's far less lonely when you have someone there and you can recruit them to pass out promo flyers (if the venue will allow that). Oh yeah, I forgot...

-Make something to give out. Even if it's a business card promoting your game, do it. Make it, then just pass it out to as many people as you can. I know it can be daunting, but you gotta spread the word somehow...

-Prepare in advance. I know I said it earlier, but you should already have a plan before you go to the convention. Reserve a table, have some snacks handy when you playtest, have someone with you or make a friend there to watch your stuff when you need a break or need encouragement during the day. If you know a person that's running a booth at that event, then you can store your stuff there if you have to go out to lunch. If you just show up and plop your game there expecting people to play, you might not get any players and you'll find yourself in a place that has little to no foot traffic.

I've demoed my game at many places this year, here's some of my results (my game is a 2 player game that plays in about an hour):

OrcCon 2015: Didn't prepare, had about 7 people play my game throughout the whole weekend. I was disappointing, but I was grateful as it was my first real exposure with my game.

Prototype game gathering at Game Developers Conference 2015: I planned this, it was a small event, but I got a very steady stream of people playing my game and got a good crowd at one point. I forgot to eat and I had to keep asking people to get me water cause I was talking a lot.

Board game area at Game Developers Conference 2015: I didn't plan for this one, I just found an empty table and just played with the first person I saw. I wasn't really supposed to be there, but i got a good crowd going...until they kicked me out. I was there most of the day.

Gamex 2015: My publisher had planned for my game to be there. I reserved a table and had a really nice sign. Results were far less than expected; it was really hard for me to get players, but I got more people than OrcCon.

UNPUB Mini: My publisher had a table there, but my game came in as a virtual unknown (labeled as a TBA). I had a sign, the event was at a game store, but I got a nice steady stream of people playing my game throughout the day.

E3: Last week I went to E3. Brought my game not expecting to play, but while waiting to get into one of the halls, I sat and played with my friend. I got several people eyeing my game and asking questions. I didn't plan for this, it just happened. I was mildly surprised since E3 is a video game convention.

Of course I have my own playtesting and the occasional one-off at some random place, but those have been the notable ones so far.

I've already planned to go to several more events this year: Gam3rCon, GenCon, Celestispiel, Gateway, BGG Con, et al. to show off my game. Some of these events I've never been to in my life and way out of my comfort zone. Hopefully I can get the game the exposure it needs to get it going, but I'm always skeptical.

The point is to just get it out there, you'll know which direction you need to go after that.

Hope this helps.

BenMora
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Thanks radioactivemouse, for

Thanks radioactivemouse, for the insight into all those events and your advice!

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