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GDC: Nourishing Your Indie Community

GDC: Nourishing Your Indie Community

March 9, 2010 | By Kris Graft

March 9, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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One benefit of being an indie developer is that there is a community out there made up of people who want to see the scene flourish. But organizing that community can be a challenge.

Jeff Lindsay, contributor to indie community events such as TIGJam and SuperHappyDevHouse, offered 10 ways to nurture your local indie game community, at GDC's Indie Game Summit on Tuesday:

1. Hold Events

"Nothing beats in-person," said Lindsay. His SuperHappyDevHouse events grew from a modest affair with just a few like-minded "geeks" to one that justified a 24/7 physical location inspired by another group called Hacker Dojo. "TIGJam and GDC [are] so much more fun" than online communities, he said. "Any excuse to get like-minded people together is awesome."

2. Make Purpose

These gatherings shouldn't rely on a gimmick or even a speaker lineup. At its core, the event should have a purpose shared by the community. "You want to cultivate the intrinsic value of getting people together," Lindsay said.

3. Start Small

Many times, ambitious indies forget that a gathering can't be massively successful right off the bat. "Major events start from small events," he said. "GDC started in a living room."

4. Repeat Often

Lindsay suggested regularly-scheduled gatherings. From each iteration, the event can gain momentum, and it doesn't have to be annual, necessarily. SuperHappyDevHouse, founded in 2005, is a monthly event, and has grown considerably month-to-month.

5. Fail Early, Fail Often

An event won't always be a success, but evaluate where it falls short, and try again until it works.

6. Be Inclusive

"Don't be exclusive" of people who are interested in attending, Lindsay said. For example, SuperHappyDevHouse describes itself as a "non-exclusive event intended for creative and curious people interested in technology." Non-coders are not turned away, even though the event is described as a "hackathon." "Instead of turning away people you don't want, focus on people you do want."

7. Identify Values

Discussing issues, for example the old "what does it mean to be indie" subject, is important in laying down common values that a community can build upon.

8. Think Experience

Be mindful of the event environment, said Lindsay. It should be conducive to community, and can be as simple as putting more chairs at tables so larger groups will form within a gathering such as SuperHappyDevHouse.

9. Teach Promotion

Word of mouth is crucial for an event and community's growth. Event organizers should teach attendees how to promote an event. For SuperHappyDevHouse, Lindsay wrote up a "how to invite friends to DevHouse," and gave attendees funny tips on how to invite people to the gatherings.

10. Help Duplicate

Lindsay said event-holders can help events spread beyond the local community. SuperHappyDevHouse has 20 iterations held around the world -- most of which are in Mexico.

Additional Tips For Building Indie Community

Jim Munroe, a novelist who dropped a relationship with Rupert Murdoch-owned HarperCollins to found his own company, No Media Kings, gave additional tips for indie community-building. Munroe has also become active in the indie video game community, supporting local indie game-centric events like The Hand Eye Society and The Artsy Games Incubator.

- "Don't worry about funding," Munroe said. Focus on what you want out of the event, and do what you can now with what you've got. Once you have the general idea laid out you can go from there. Like Lindsay said, start small.

- Provide game enthusiasts ways to engage, Munroe added. There are plenty of people with pent-up desire to help nourish a community, but they just need some guidance and organization. Enthusiasts can make up motivated street teams for events, for example.

- Throw an event for a game, and take advantage of a curious public that still sees indie video games as somewhat of an oddball medium.

- "Totally fail -- it's something you can totally do, and it's totally fine," Munroe assured.

One thing that cannot be ignored is that there is an interest in the indie game community, but the means aren't always available to make a celebration out of that sometimes quiet passion. "There's a palpable, cultural excitement around these things and I'm really lucky to be a part of it," Munroe said.

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