The 4 Types of People at a Conference That Are A Waste of Time
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Let’s be honest. Talking to the guy cosplaying as Agent 47 isn’t going to level up your experience in the game industry.
With PAX wrapping up, I want attendees to take a moment to reflect.
Did you meet a lot of people, but didn’t connect with the people you wanted?
If the answer is a giant YES, read on.
If I could divide my life into two parts, it would be ‘trying to do it on my own’ and ‘taking networking seriously.’
Any obstacle I ever faced has been made 10 times easier because of my expansive network. My connections have helped me from getting unstuck to getting me a job. (because frankly, it’s hard to work in the game industry when you’re struggling to put food on the table.)
Why You Should Take Conferences Seriously
Conferences provide an excellent opportunity to bump shoulders with a diverse group of people: from newbie developers (Hai friends!) to industry veterans, to indie heroes like Brendon Chung and John Bain.
Hopefully, you're not just bumping shoulders - but actively shaking hands and expanding your connections.
Marketing expert Porter Gale wrote a book titled, “Your network is your net worth.”
Virgin CEO Richard Branson quoted (not his quote): “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
And because I like things in threes, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”
Networking Isn’t Natural For Me
As an introvert, I get drained during a conversation.
Think of it like the Sims. My conversation meter starts to drop, and only some alone time can recover it.
Modified image via pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.
To maximize the potential of my conversation meter, I have to make the call quickly – “Is this conversation going to benefit both of us?”
I do that by gauging the value of the conversation and recognizing if I have to make an exit. If I do make an exit, I’m not mean about it (and I can teach you Conversation Exit Strategies in another blog post.) It benefits both parties by allowing the opportunity to find conversations that are a better fit.
Below, I’ve listed the four types of people that are a waste of time at a game convention.
The Idea Guy:
These are guys that are full of bright ideas but don’t take action.
Don’t get me wrong; I like idea guys a lot. Many of them are great conversations.
But it’s the naive optimists kind of guys that you should avoid.
Their ideas have no basis in reality.
As the Giant Head from Rick and Morty would say, “SHOW-ME-WHAT-YOU-GOT.”
They share ideas and thoughts without any real research. Or worse, fantasy research!
If you challenge their statement with silly notions like FACTS, you’ll be shot down because that one game’s outlier proved everyone wrong that one time!
I spoke with one attendee who believed that his Kickstarter would easily make his goal of $70k. His proof: “laws of averages” and “that’s just math.” He then plans to use that Kickstarter money for advertising to raise additional funds, based on his belief that Facebook Ads will quadruple his investment.
image created via memegenerator.net
The “Know-it-all" Guy:
I once had the privilege to watch a young developer get into a shouting match with an expert speaker.
This young developer admitted his game was still “in the works.” But that didn’t stop him from correcting the speaker with his personal anecdotes.
What upset me was that this young developer spent thousands of dollars to travel and ARGUE.
Conventions are an opportunity to learn from the pros, see their unique perspectives, and bring it back to your work.
Modified image via pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.
The Super Gamer:
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, once shared with a group of developers that he doesn’t play video games. He probably has too much work to do, with running a billion dollar company and all.
At the time, I went: “Bobbo - listen, bro. WTF! You WORK in video games! Thus, you must play video games!” Then I boycotted the Call of Duty series.
Now that I’m wiser and working on the business side of the gaming industry, I’ve accepted that I look at games differently. It’s hard for me to find leisure time to sit down and play. I now game while waiting in line at the bank, or right before I go to sleep. (Current obsession: Egg, Inc.)
It bums me out. Sadly, I have too much work to do.
I’ve got to be an adult and do business stuff!
When I meet an attendee who wants to argue that Smash Bros 64 is superior to Smash Bros Melee, I take a sad deep breath.
My goal at a conference is to help as many people as I can, provide as much value as possible, and in the process, bond with like-minded developers.
That means non-essential conversations like Overwatch strategies and what type of settlement I built in Fallout 4 need to be limited.
Some may say chatting about leisure time spent in video games is an excellent way to bond.
Personally, it’s not for me, as a business person (sad-face). Something I’ve discovered is that devs who I’ve bonded with over video games don’t treat game development seriously nor actively try to make a sustainable living from it. Overall, your milage may vary.
The ‘dev who picks sides’:
“Mobile games are nothing but freemium garbage!” Or “VR is just a fad!”
Strong opinions have me back peddling out of the convo.
Having a strong opinion is fine if you’re willing to have a discussion. It's not okay to be close-minded and being combative. This isn’t the Ukranian government - we don’t have to resort to fist fights!
We’re all here to learn from each other.
As a marketer, I look for opportunities and make educated guesses backed by research. Frequently, new research flips last year’s observations.
The game industry - like the tech industry, goes through ebbs and flows. Things change quickly. Strategies from last year may not work this year. Holding onto an old assumption is potentially leaving opportunities on the table (and possibly revenue.)
Devs who are adamant that their vision of the world is right, and everyone else is wrong terrify me.
Only Sith deal in extremes.
*BONUS* The light-weight alcoholic:
This as a bonus because it’s more of an effect than a type of person. Too frequently do I see developers go too far with alcohol, drunkenly evolving into the types above.
Confession: I used to be a heavy drinker. I played this game called ‘how many shots of vodka can I drink’ (Spoiler: my peak was 12.) It was a single player game, and the winner was the bouncer who threw me out. (I’m easily tossable. I’m a tiny Asian.)
Learn from my mistakes!
These days, I give my free drink tickets away when I talk to devs. It’s a kind gesture, and they’ll reciprocate the favor.
Being sober gives you a clearer head and allows you to have stronger conversations. You’ll also meet fascinating people who will salute you for being so strong-willed.
Another glorious Kermit image via pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 Public Domain.
Take a moment and think.
These conventions are the genuine opportunities to network with the brightest people in the world. These relationships can transform your entire life.
Is waking up with a hangover the best use of the 3-day event and thousands of dollars of expenses?
These are the four types of people that are a waste of time.
Stop draining your precious ‘conversation meter’ around these energy vampires and find more meaningful conversations.
What type of people do you avoid at a conference?
P.S. Am I allowed to P.S. in a blog post? Why not - I'm an adult! Originally it was only going to be that one kermit meme. Then Pixabay had all those great kermit shots.
P.S.S. I’m writing a 3-part article on Networking At Conventions too. If you want to be in the loop (or have advice to share), let me know on Twitter at @Rockykev.
Rocky (@Rockykev) is passionate about helping indie developers make a sustainable income from their craft. Join the community, Serious Game Devs Only - where you can download the Quickstart Marketing Guide to improve your marketing-fu.