[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Uber Entertainment software engineer Forrest Smith explains why you should have an Industry Night in your city, and how to start organizing one.]
Every month in a discrete location, Seattle area game developers come together. They do so to drink beer, trade war stories, and socialize with industry peers.
What I'm talking about of course is industry night and I organize one. It's surprisingly easy to run, and every game dev city should have one. If your city doesn't have one, then I implore you to read this article and start it yourself!
Industry night is a bunch of game devs showing up to hang out. That's it. Nothing more. In fact it is explicitly nothing except that. There is no affiliation with IGDA or any other organization. There are no speakers and no presentations. Those things are good, but industry night is for drinking and socializing.
My proudest moments are when someone gets a job through industry night. It's not the place for handing out resumes, but it is the place to meet new people and make new friends. That's real networking, and that's what opens doors down the road.
Game devs of course! The event I organize has about 40-60 people show up in a typical evening. There are even four #altdevblogaday authors who show up on a regular basis. We had five until one moved away. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.
One important point to make however is that industry night is not for students. Students aren't invited. It sounds terrible but that's simply not what the evening is for. When students start showing up, then real devs stop coming out because no one wants to be nagged for a job.
There is a time and place for students to mingle with those in the industry, but industry night is not one of them.
Once a month. Pick a day of the week and host it in a predictable fashion. For example, the first Tuesday or third Thursday of every month. I strongly recommend picking a night from Monday through Thursday. Our gathering is officially scheduled for 8PM to 11PM, although it's not uncommon for a few folks to stick around until midnight.
At a local bar of course!
If I had one and only one bullet point to get across, this would be it. Getting space is easy and, most importantly, free. Here's how you do it.
First, pick out a local bar. It needs to be in an accessible location and have lots of space. Second, make sure you are hosting during the week. Friday nights and weekends are too busy.
Third, contact the bar owner and say, "Hello. I run a local industry night, and we'd love to meet at your bar. About thirty beer thirsty people will be coming. Can we meet at your establishment, or should we go somewhere else?"
Say it with a less snark of course, but you get the idea. :) A couple of dozen people ordering drinks and food during an off night is a great business. Why would they not give you free space?
We're even big enough to get a side room to ourselves and a dedicated waitress. It's super easy once you get 15+ people showing up. Until then you can just pick a bar and meet in the back.
I was fortunate enough to take over an existing event. I can, however, offer up a few suggestions.
I use Socializr
for invite management. Each month I copy the previous event, change the text slightly, and invite my mailing list. I have a Gmail account for people who wish to get added to the list.
Although Industry Night is not associated with the IGDA, there is room to work together. For example, the IGDA and Industry Night helped kickstart each other by having sequential events. IGDA had a presentation from 6:30 to 8:00, which smoothly rolled into industry night from 8 to 11. IGDA allows student members, so industry night is not officially listed on their calendar.
On special occasions, there will be corporate sponsorship. This is always tied into recruiting and usually results in an open bar. There is no better way to get devs to show up somewhere than to offer them free booze. It's relatively cheap for the sponsor and gets a huge turn out.
Our average monthly headcount is 40-60, and that turns into 150 when free booze is involved.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned when or where the Seattle industry night event is. This is quite intentional! I never publicly disclose its location on Facebook or Twitter to prevent random fans from showing up. With mega developers such as Bungie and Valve in the area, it's a necessary precaution.
Industry night is awesome. If your city has one and you don't go, then you should. If your city doesn't have one, then you should start it. It costs zero dollars, requires a minimal time investment, and is extraordinarily beneficial for game developer community.
If anyone is thinking about starting up an industry night event and has more questions, feel free to contact me as I'd love to help.
[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]