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PAX, SIX and the Art of Being Everywhere

Examining what the bizdev side of TOO DX got up to around PAX and SIX, and how important it is to go places and meet people.

Arriving in WA I had a variety of things on my plate. First, I’d gotten sick on the flight - chest cold started off the week right. Second, lodging with a friend. Then, go find Auston and work on Sportsball – get told distressing news that adjusts our cert plans by a week, then work work work. Sleep. Go get a display unit from Nintendo, who graciously loaned us one in response to a semi-articulate plea the Monday before PAX for something to showcase the game with at SIX the upcoming Monday. Enjoy the company of the Nintendo folks as they show us how the unit works. Head home, dev and test until company comes, then play til we need sleep. Endure isolation to avoid becoming a plague vector. Rest.

I couldn’t really go to PAX; without a badge, I had to scrounge one up to get in, spending a few hours at a time seeing exhibitors I knew and trying to focus on the games floor while feeling stuffy and blergly.

Instead (taking medicine to make me functional) I went to things like 17 Bit‘s party the night before and met all sorts of cool people. I got to talk about cost/benefit of going to a distant conference with some folks and get ballpark figures on costs for shows. Auston and I had an in-depth conversation with a man who specializes in making trailers about what we were planning, and he had a lot of good ideas about how to structure and pace things. I played another local multiplayer game going around (Particle Mace, which I did quite well at) and got to see how they were handling engaging new players. I met a whole bunch of indie developers and got to talk with them and learn from them about what they were doing and how they were doing it. I had the chance to meet (and hacky sack badly) with several sound designers. There was a lot of talent in that room, and in areas I’m weak in or know nothing about, so it was a great place to just chat and learn.

It’s interesting. Being an outsider, an unknown, is actually very powerful and liberating. Nobody gives a shit about you on default, so you have to prove yourself and your worth when you meet people. On the other hand, you know nobody, so you’re free to just ask stupid questions and have no fear that the person you are talking to is influential or well known.

Thursday night I’m at the Twitch party, trying to figure out the whole “meet streamers, find multiplayer ones” idea we’ve been kicking around. Leery of being here at all I’m at the tail end of a line but the whole place feels cold and grim. A lot of people doing nothing but craning their heads at the VIP line up front, and nobody really talking. I try my luck with demoing Sportsball anyways and get a group of people who are fairly resistant but eventually play.

I should have moved on from them when they were more interested in giving me a hard time than playing. In terms of time spent:result, it wasn’t worth it. At least I got new feedback. And that’s not to say that they weren’t nice people, or that it was a worthless thing to do. But you only have so much time, and although I got them to play, I had to work at it. That’s time I could have spent demoing with different people more interested in trying it.

Eventually I move down the line and got 30-40 people to play Sportsball. Some are from Operation Supply Drop and I end up shooting pool with those guys and some people from the Ubisoft booth. Left when I started getting tired, but not before getting the cards of the Op Supply Drop guys and given some great feedback on the game.

Next day was followup. Anyone I’ve met so far, I try to get to their booth. Some remember me. Some were so drunk they introduced themselves a second time on Friday. Totally worth the effort though, and it helps you remember people too. I play some of the indie games, and wander around the crowd. Meet a twitch caster who’s very nice and chat with him - nothing comes of it, but it’s still nice to be friendly with folks. I talk distribution and marketing with some devs, get their suggestions and advice, and then bounce to go rest.

IGN party: Stroll up and immediately feel underdressed. The bouncers outside have nicer shirts on than I do, but they don’t bat an eye and I walk in. Follow the sound of noise, and get to a landing with a bunch of people and a lot of drinking; I’m not as horribly outmatched in the fashion department, but I should have worn slacks. Take a breath and dive right in.

So, sometimes you get lucky and someone is drinking alone.Then they are easy to approach. Sometimes you get really lucky and the guy drinking alone is actually super well connected and ends up introducing you to Jose Otero - who just so happens to be the Nintendo guy at IGN and the perfect guy to cover our game. I wander around and join groups. It’s a little awkward, as it feels very cliquey sometimes, but most people I meet are very chill with you joining their group. I meet all sorts of press and streamers and get a bunch of cards handed to me. This continues throughout the night until I’m tired and I bail. One relatively long walk later and I’m at the hotel, tired and sleepy but wanting to analyze the night and consolidate business cards with Auston. Job done, I go home and sleep.

Sunday is slow for me; I’m feeling sicker and don’t do much. Having made connections I feel are important the nights prior, I sleep in and rest to get better.

 Monday get to SIX and exhibit all day.

Gotta keep on grinding it out, even when you’re not 100% - but you also gotta know your limits. PAX was great to be at, glad I didn’t have to exhibit the whole weekend when I was at my worst!

  • Go. Go do things. Go to parties, go talk to exhibitors about their gamedev struggles, learn from all the experiences other people went through. You’ll learn about what worked and what didn’t by asking. You’ll make connections you’ve never planned for, things you can’t put in marketing strategies.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to not meet your goal, as long as you get something out of it. Sometimes you’ll meet all sorts of cool people without meeting the people you set out to see. Sometimes you get a crowd of people enjoying your game.
  • You don’t have infinite time. Try to be efficient with it, if you can (but don’t be a dick, that’s not cool).
  • Talk with people whose fields aren’t your own. Maybe you’ll learn something new. Maybe you’ll find a cool person to reference later when looking for their skillset, or maybe you’ll learn the beginnings of how they do things.
  • Follow up! It's not hard to say "Hey, it was great to meet you, I had a good time"
  • Never be afraid to ask someone something. Even if you look like an idiot it’ll go away soon, and sometimes you’ll be included more because of it.
  • In fact, always ask questions. There is always something to learn, something you haven’t thought of, something to think about.
  • Take care of your body and rest if you have to.
  • Super awesome people are just around the corner; thank you for the ride home from the 17-Bit party, Christina (Technical Illusions)!

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