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Advice for Gencon?

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kevnburg
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This year will be my first time going to Gencon, and I will be bringing some prototypes that I would like to be seen. My goals for Gencon are as follows

1) Get prototypes tested
2) Show prototypes to publishers
3) Meet/network with other designers
4) Attend seminars relevant to my interests in game design
5) Volunteer if there is something game design related to volunteer with

I've been to other game conventions like the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (volunteered as a judge for their Young Inventor Challenge) and Tennessee Game Days, but none that have had the sheer levels of opportunities for game designers that Gencon has. I'm a bit overwhelmed, but I am determined to get a solid gameplan developed so that I can make the most of the experience. Any and all advice would be appreciated.

Thanks.

radioactivemouse
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Everyone wants to hawk their game at GenCon

kevnburg wrote:
This year will be my first time going to Gencon, and I will be bringing some prototypes that I would like to be seen. My goals for Gencon are as follows

1) Get prototypes tested
2) Show prototypes to publishers
3) Meet/network with other designers
4) Attend seminars relevant to my interests in game design
5) Volunteer if there is something game design related to volunteer with

I've been to other game conventions like the Chicago Toy & Game Fair (volunteered as a judge for their Young Inventor Challenge) and Tennessee Game Days, but none that have had the sheer levels of opportunities for game designers that Gencon has. I'm a bit overwhelmed, but I am determined to get a solid gameplan developed so that I can make the most of the experience. Any and all advice would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Last year was my first time going to GenCon. I was in your position when I went (my game was on the verge of being published, but still in prototype form), so I can certainly relate.

I looked at it like this: I'm coming in brand new. There's a lot of things I need to learn about this game industry and I knew it. Realistically, there's got to be a level of networking to get your game where it needs to be, but if you're going in blind, you're going to make a lot of mistakes.

As such, I wanted to also understand GenCon. It's a different beast than the conventions I usually go to (Game Developers Conference, Strategicon, E3, Comic Con, Anime Expo, and various other smaller cons), so I wanted to get a feel of GenCon as a convention...as a fan.

Rather than trying to get the game in front of as many people as I could, I focused my "testing" to people that mattered. My goals were very simple: Get to know GenCon, Have Zee or Sam from the Dice Tower play and critique my game, and meet with (and play my game with) a game designer at Fantasy Flight Games (for game crit, not to submit).

With the few goals I had, it allowed me to focus my efforts. I met ALL of those requirements (Sam even mentioned our experience in his Top 10 experiences of 2015 and Zee personally reviewed my game). As this was my first game, I wasn't expecting a Cinderella story. I was expecting to know my industry and see what influential people in this industry have to say about my style of game design. It's slower, but it's solid.

The fact is, many many many would-be designers are trying to get their game looked at by publishers when all they are doing is trying to promote their game. GenCon is a place to make connections, establish personal meetings later (like at another con like BGG Con).

Looking at your list, I'd say focus on #3 and #4. Take some time to know the industry, who the players are, what kinds of personalities they have...then network your way in. Don't come in like, "Hey I'm new, look at my game"...you'll be waiting in line like all the other new designers trying to worm their way in. If a publisher is interested in your game, they'll ask. If you really want to get publishers to look at your game, go to BGG Con. THAT's the place to go with your prototypes.

Much of what I learned I learned being in the video game industry for so long. There's an art to networking.

djayshaggy
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Joined: 04/21/2016
My question is, simply, how

My question is, simply, how do you know where to start? I'm not good at initiating social interaction. I'm very soft-spoken, and I have severe social anxiety. The idea of going to a convention to try and network (when I've never actually been to a convention of any type, though I have been to Game Developers Association meetups in Dallas years ago when I was in college to be a video games designer) seems overwhelming in and of itself. How do I make sure that I'm prepared for just that task? If I wanted to show a couple of people my game, do I just go there and carry it around with me? Do I talk to people beforehand to try and get someone to come meet with me there? I just don't understand how these conventions work exactly, and I'm not great at figuring that stuff out without just asking people for advice.

Sorry for piggybacking off of your thread.

Tedthebug
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Just try, slowly, to approach it step by step

I don't mean to be facetious as is suffer similar problems. It was gencon or anything that massive but this year I took what for me was a scary baby step. We took some prototypes of our game, as nice looking as we could make it, paid our entry to the game library area, & camped in a corner that was on the external edge of the play area. We put up signs saying players wanted & we'd teach new players, we put up home made signs asking for people to help us test our game. As we were near the edge people wandering around the stalls saw the bright simple colours of the prototypes & wandered over to have a look. After a minute or 2 I managed to ask if they were interested in looking at the rules or if they wanted to play.

The best thing I found was that once we had some people playing some of them (who liked the game) kept playing & teaching new players. They also talked to people watching, explained the rules to them & convinced them to come & try it so it reduced how much I had to do (& also let me see how they & others reacted to various aspects of the game & what they said about it when I wasn't in the conversation).

So, maybe don't go trying to meet publishers etc. instead do it bit by bit & try to set up so people can notice your game without you needing to walk up to them.

It won't get your game published quickly, but it also shows you are serious about trying to make your game better. Occasionally a publisher may walk past & be willing to give feedback as they themselves are free to play the game without having to internally assess whether it is a right fit for them.

djayshaggy
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Joined: 04/21/2016
So is there always an area

So is there always an area where you can just find a place to set up your game in these conventions? I guess that is where I'm confused as I've, again, never been to one of these.
Is it a separate charge to get in that area, and do you pay that ahead of time or when you get there?
Thanks. Your post is very helpful.

Tedthebug
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It depends

It will depend on the Con. I looked at the online programme & emailed the convenors asking if I could set up to test somewhere, clearly stating I had no product to sell. In my case they emailed back saying they'd never been asked before so they went away & then came back to say as long as I used the game library area I was ok. This convention had a small daily charge for everyone to get into the game library, probably to help defray the cost of replacing damaged games afterwards. I just rocked up on the day & paid for a 3-day pass.

My personal view, it never hurts to ask because the worst that can happen is they tell you to go away but the best that can happen is they say yes & probably appreciate you asking first.

djayshaggy
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Joined: 04/21/2016
Awesome. Thanks. I'm gonna

Awesome. Thanks. I'm gonna try that then, and see what I can get done.

kevnburg
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Thanks for the advice

Thanks for the advice everyone. I am all signed up and got my hotel. I have been having some trouble finding seminars and events to sign up for related to game design. Anyone know where / how to best look for those? Is it the case that some simply haven't been announced yet?

questccg
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Question for you

I was wondering how much a booth cost at GenCon?!

I suppose that you will have one at which you will be demo-ing your game, no?

Personally I can't say that CONs have been the best. My first CON, I met my Illustrator and we hashed out a deal for "Quest Adventure Cards(tm)" and that subsequently led me to working with my current Illustrator.

But the Hamilton CON (Protospiel North) was a total bust. Hardly anyone came and showed up for the CON. I had two (2) players who actually sat down at the table to play my game. That's right TWO!

I guess it's a good place to meet artists and try to find someone that can help you to illustrate your game. But meeting publishers or the likes of, I have never really been successful at that. Like I know Protospiel North was sponsored by Steve Jackson games, but I never saw or met anyone working for SJ Games (during the CON).

The other thing is that you need 2 people to work a booth. One person goes out into the CON to try to convince IMPORTANT people to visit your booth and checkout your game, while the other person works the booth and tries to demo the game to the people interested. Not having a second person is a real handicap. You'll be confined to your booth and not have somebody to TRY to wrangle the publishers that you want to check out your game.

I had someone for the Protospiel North, but like I said nobody was to be found.

There must be some secret society that I am not a part of (to know where to go to network with the right people).

Another thing is this: CON business cards. Especially in a LARGE CON. You can give you card to somebody and just say: "If you have 10-15 minutes why don't you drop by our booth. Here's a card with our booth location and our website."

Giving people something is good - because they can look at it AT THE CON or even AFTER the CON. It's something to remind them about their visit to your booth or a reminder to check out your game's website (or Facebook page, etc.)

Anyhow just some tips from my "limited" CON knowledge. CONs to me are a "Meh..." thing. They have their purpose - but unless you KNOW who to meetup with, they're not as practical or "efficient" as they could be.

Best of luck to you at GenCon!

Note: I have not attended a CON featuring Publishers. But from what I remember James Mathe (Minion Games) is someone you can schedule CON time with. There may be other Publishers you can contact and see if your can meet them during the CON.

Soulfinger
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My friend play-tested his

My friend play-tested his game at GenCon last year and ran the sessions out of his hotel room. It was very successful. What I learned from him is:

A) Have one clear goal in mind. If you want to test your game then focus on that and that alone. You don't have as much time as you think you do. My friend had at least two other people helping run sessions and organize. He wasn't there to pitch, network, etc., just test. If you are going there to test prototypes then do you really have time for #2-5 on your list?
B) Have promotional materials on hand. My friend had custom beer coasters made, which he distributed to players. He had an easy infrastructure in place for a secondary goal of generating word of mouth, which went hand-in-hand with the playtesting. So, maybe you could manage showing your prototype to publishers and other interested parties by having printed materials inviting them to observe your playtest sessions.
C) Be prepared to deal with at least one rude and/or odoriferous person.

My own personal observances from promoting product at GenCon:

A) Gamers are docile beyond all belief. You can freaking point at someone and tell them to come to your booth, follow you somewhere, and so forth. Eight-out-of-ten gamers will do this. If retailers from some of the other industry trade shows I've worked ever made it to GenCon, they'd clean up. If you can't fill your tables, find a bored looking group of people and flat out tell them to join you for a game.
B) Visit Lou Zocchi's booth, and buy yourself some Game Science Dice, because that man is awesome, and he won't be around forever. Make sure you do at least one loop of the vendors room, which is your chance to drop off those aforementioned invites.
C) Since this is a gaming forum, I'll mention, don't dress like a schmuck. Remember, you are there representing your business, so while cool and casual hipster may match the environment better than business casual, don't be that guy with the neck beard and sixteen ounces of gut hanging out from the bottom of his wrinkled Triforce t-shirt. Overall, be organized, smooth, and professional, because you are selling yourself as much as the game. With publishers remember eye contact, firm handshake, and all of that other stuff your mother taught you in elementary school.

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