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Soapbox Rant: Public-Facing Events
by Rami Ismail on 04/04/13 02:23:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


GDC talk

So here’s a question: why don’t I see more of an overlap between the people at developer-facing events and the people at public-facing events?

There are many reasons for developers to not go to those events. Maybe they don’t have the resources to attend at all. Maybe someone planned the convention right before another really big one. Those are valid reasons.

Maybe they don’t like the event itself, maybe they are worried that people will not know about their game or not care about their game at all. Those are not valid reasons to skip an event. If people don’t know about your game, or don’t care, that’s something that you should be working on. If nobody is playing your game, it’s just an icon on a screen.

There is a sphere of influence that we have – both as individuals and as a scene – a sphere of people that we can reach by our own means. These developers, gamers, members of the press and fans are the people that we can rely on to be at least peripherally interested in what we make and think and aspire. They are the people you count on to spread the word when you release a game.

You owe it to your game to try and reach as many people that would like to play it. Not only will more people get to interact with your work, but those people are also more likely to be interested in your next big thing. The more people play your game, the more likely you are to be able to support yourself financially while making new games.

The people that attend public-facing events are all sorts of things, but they’ve not necessarily heard of indie games or the games we’ve made. They do not attend the Game Developers Conference or other developer-facing events. They are unlikely to have heard of the Independent Games Festival or the Game Developers Choice awards. They are people that exist outside of our spheres and the scene’s sphere, but given that they like our games enough they can structurally increase the public awareness of our studios and our games.

Obviously, there are challenges to attending events like these. But the indie scene has always felt like a place of cooperation rather than competition to me. Things as big as the Humble Bundle or as contained as Ridiculous Fishing exist because we know that we – if we work together – can achieve far more than we can on our own.

Just three days ago Vlambeer was showcasing at the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East in Boston, which bundled the pull and resources of over fifty developers to make showcasing at an event of this size viable both financially and logistically. By collecting over sixty games it managed to draw a large portion of the tens of thousands of gamers attending in to not only check the indie games they care about, but also the games that are not on their radar. More importantly, since the MEGABOOTH is now the largest booth at PAX, people attending that know nothing of indie games get introduced to our scene in the best way possible: by playing our games and talking to their developers.

Being at a public-facing event –whether it is something as huge as PAX or something as small as a self-organized Local Multiplayer Picnic- is important. In a more structural way it is important to every indie developer out there, because attending those events allows you to help introduce people to the full spectrum of videogames. It enables people to experience tiny and experimental indie games as well as the huge and blockbuster AAA games that are showcasing there regardless of our participation or not. Showing at a public-facing event allows people that had never heard of indie games to learn that indie games exist at all and discover the variety that our scene offers.

There’s a lot to gain for all of us by reaching outside our sphere. So as an open invitation to all of you, let’s meet up at the next big one?

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James Coote
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The sphere of influence thing is very true. I think game devs tend to have other game devs on their twitter/facebook and so often end up selling to each other rather than the actual customers. I think there are other ways to get beyond your immediate sphere, but events (and they don't even have to be directly game-related) are a great way to do that

I really enjoyed having a stand last month at a comic convention, and going to be doing a tech show this weekend. I've found that even if you don't have a fully functioning game, just having a demo people can mess with while you talk to them is still really fun, and a great way to see whether your marketing pitch is getting gamers excited and engaged.

I don't think it works so well in terms of getting feedback though, as you can't really be taking notes on what people say or are doing with your game when trying to entertain them at the same time. Also a lot of people will play the game, then only after a couple of minutes of reflection will they get going with the process of writing down all the problems they had with the game. That sit down and analyse post-play doesn't happen in a live event environment

Sharon Hoosein
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It depends on your playtesting process. It's easier to get good feedback from people if you have specific questions ready beforehand and write down their answers yourself. You can always analyze your notes after the event.

Steven Christian
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See you at PAX AUS then ;)

Kyle Oder
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I can personally vouch for Rami's success at PAX East. After facing off against him in a few tense games of Johann Sebastian Joust, I made my friend purchase Ridiculous Fishing (I have an Android phone)... and that was just the start. Since returning from Boston, I have told at least 10 other people about the game. Who knows how many people they have told?

While online communities/social media have incredible influence, the power of face-to-face interactions is unmatched. By making a personal connection with players, you can turn them into advocates of your product. This is especially important for indie developers who have very limited budgets when it comes to marketing. With people suffering from social media overload, word of mouth is more valuable than ever before.