If you were at Game Developers Conference 2013 on Wednesday, March 27th; you might have seen a man dressed up as Luigi from Super Mario Bros. holding a large sign that read "LUIGI NEEDS GDC PASS!" That guy was me; and, yes - I succeeded.
That Wednesday morning, I swung by Kinkos within a Hilton nearby the Moscone Center where GDC '13 would take place, bought a foam board, and created the sign right there in the hotel's lobby. Next, around noon, I headed over to the spot on the sidewalk corner of the intersection that lies between North Moscone and West Moscone buildings.
I chose this spot because this was where the most quality traffic would be outside of the conference itself. Folks attending GDC are able to travel between the North and South buildings either above ground or underground, and the traffic isn't as narrow. So, that's not as appealing.
Plus, I know that spot between Moscone North & West was a great choice because NOS and other advertising parties had folks there, too - handing out flyers and freebies to GDC passersby. Hundreds of GDC attendees are forced to walk past me and see that I needed a GDC pass (It helps that there's people walking around trying to find food during lunchtime)!
Also, I have done this "sign-holding thing" twice before at GDC during the years of 2010 and 2011 at that same spot and succeeded, each time. So I knew I had a chance. Though, each of those times I was "panhandling for a pass" did not involve dressing up as Luigi at all.
I chose to dress up as Luigi this year because this was the Year of Luigi (as declared by Nintendo), and I had already cosplayed as Luigi before (I had already collected and purchased all the materials needed for my outfit) - so I figured this was the year to play my "cosplay card" and adopt Luigi's persona when I hit the streets.
A little more than an hour of holding the sign, dancing along to the music put on by the NOS area behind me, and making Luigi noises while GDC attendees passed by or stopped to take pictures of me; I had received a GDC pass from a man named Danny. He took it off of his person and handed it over to me. I was in.
"Why?" is what Scott Bromley of Tech Feed asked me when he saw me on the Expo Floor of GDC. While he may have been asking why I'm walking around dressed as Luigi and not so much as to why I needed a GDC pass, I still answered him as if he asked the latter: I need a job.
I worked at a social/mobile games publisher/developer for ten months in social media/customer support/community management before I was laid off last year. This is one reason why I needed to go out there with a sign asking for a pass: because paying $250 for an Expo Pass ticket was just too much money for me spend.
(NOTE: Before you point out the "become a Conference Attendant" option, I legitimately had completely forgotten about going that route.)
However, another reason to stand out there on the sidewalk and potentially feel foolish is to, well, stand out. I don't mean to stand out from among the crowd (I'm sure I succeeded in that regard) - what I mean is to stand out from the rest of my competitors.
There are other job seekers, too. Among the vast number of job seekers, there are going to be some that aren't memorable to potential employers. And if I don't stick in the mind of a prospective employer as well as the next person, I may as well have lost my chance. When there's someone with similar skills as me, choosing "that Luigi guy" is probably more enticing than "this person that is exactly the same as 'that Luigi guy'."
Luigi Numbah One
Additionally, to flex my social media muscles, I created a hashtag related to the Twitter conversations that would be about me at GDC: #GDCLuigi. I put this on my business card along with my Twitter handle.
Since folks would be taking pictures of Luigi because, well, I'm LUIGI - there's going to be some uploading of photos to social networks - which could use some hashtagging if I can help it. Thus, I handed out my business card with verbal instructions to each person who stopped to take a photo of me.
(Post-Mortem: I should have included the #GDCLuigi hashtag ON the sign itself. That would have saved me a lot of trouble and been a lot more effective for social media purposes. Alas. Also, I had completely run out of all my business cards handing them out to people on the street taking pictures of me and did not have any to hand to folks I network with after getting a pass!)
So, I explored GDC. I hit up some companies at the Career Pavilion and Expo Floor over the course of Wednesday through Friday. Of course, I also went to as many GDC parties as I could go to. There were folks at GDC that had an exclamatory reaction when they 1) realized I was "that Luigi guy," (I dressed in my "normal" clothes for Thursday and Friday) and 2) learned that I actually obtained a pass. I met a lot of amazing people and experienced moments of equal caliber that most likely wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't become Luigi Holding a Sign.
Here We Go
I had folks tell me that I had a lot of guts doing what I did. Truthfully, I wasn't that nervous (I had done it before, after all), but I can understand how some folks wouldn't even think to have the audacity to do what I did.
The way I looked at this stunt was this: either I could NOT do this and have a lot of people have no idea who the hell I am and never talk to me at all. OR, I could dress up as Luigi and potentially turn off a lot of people and have them never talk to me for that reason. Either way, in the worst cases, I'm going to get the same result. Thus, to be a good gamer of life, I had to do it.
So, to those of you thinking, "I could never do that." Don't let your own self inhibit you from being awesome. Fight your inner demons of worrying about what other people think. Sure, it's possible that people are thinking, "What a fool." or "This person is SO rude!" ...but, really, most of them are amused to see you there holding a sign.
I could also have easily told myself pessimistically, "What are the chances someone is going to give me a $250 pass?" The hyperoptimistic self that I am believes in life being an amazing thing full of amazing opportunities and possibilities. If there really was NO WAY for me to get into GDC, then life would just plain suck. I refuse to believe that life sucks. Therefore, there IS a possibility that someone would hand me a pass!
In a more "rational" perspective: there are vouchers that companies get that can be redeemed for Expo Passes. Employees of these companies get ahold of these vouchers, but sometimes a company has a surplus of these vouchers. So, they go unused. This is a tragedy while there are some folks who would love to go ...Surely, there's someone walking down the street that might see me holding a sign that would have one of these spare vouchers!
Lastly, some people have GDC passes on them but are on their way to leaving GDC for good because they're too busy with work or have seen everything they've wanted to see. They would just go home and toss aside their pass to sit there being unused. Its use could have been maximized around your desiring-to-go-GDC neck! This might have been the case with that man named Danny who gave me his pass. Had I not been out there on the sidewalk with the sign with not a care about other people and feeling no shame for doing what I was doing, that pass might have collected dust in his home, and I wouldn't have had an unbelievable experience at GDC.
So, did I get a job, yet? No. At least, not as of the time I write this. Does that mean I failed? No way. In fact, if I hadn't done what I did as Luigi, I wouldn't have written my first blog post on GamaSutra (the one you're reading right now). And that would mean you never would have who I was at all - and you might be a prospective employer who would be interested in contacting me for an interview; an opportunity I would have missed had I not written this.