It’s one thing when you have to skip game night or sit out of a fun RPG campaign. It’s quite another when you can’t make it to a convention. Not being at Origins, Gen Con, BGG Con, or any other number of fun events throughout the year can be almost devastating. And for game designers, it’s more than just a convention – it’s an opportunity to network, sell your work, play others’ prototypes, and more.

On the plus side, you can skip getting lost in the vendor hall!

On the plus side, you can skip getting lost in the vendor hall!

That’s where events like Gen Can’t (#GenCant) and #NOrigins come in – it’s a social way to enjoy your time NOT spent at a con. Many people spend these events enjoying fun new games…at home. While it’s been a phenomenon mostly for gamers (with at-home players, sponsors, and even “swag”!), I think there’s a great model here for designers.

Adopting this attitude as a game design can help you make the most of a convention that you just can’t be at. Here are a few game designer-specific con activities, and their #GenCant-style replacements:

Perfect Your Pitch

Yes, Publisher Speed Dating is a fantastic event (and has even gotten some games and designers lots of attention). But it’s definitely not the only way to reach publishers. Hold your own version of Publisher Speed Dating and work on your pitch.

Reach out to game publishers (or hey, even reviewers – this is your con, so do it your way). If you’re always pitching, try turning some attention to a game that needs marketing assets. Working on a sell sheet puts you ahead of the next con.

Playtest Without the Crowds

At almost any convention you’ll see people in hallways and at bars trying out games from other publishers. But don’t wait for a convention to try your game with strangers. Ask your FLGS if they’ll let you take some table space for playtesting your new game. Can’t get game store space? Try the library. Especially if your game is geared toward non-gamers (or you just want to see how it goes), this can be a fantastic way of getting your stuff in front of new eyes outside your usual group.

Mixing and Mingling with Designers

One of the better parts of conventions (for me, at least!) is meeting up with other designers. I try to seek out both friends and Leaguers from other parts of the country, but I also check Twitter to see if any game designers I admire are going to be there, so I can try to meet them and test the games I’ve read so much about. But you don’t have to be at a convention to start meeting others.

Take your #GenCant attitude and turn it toward social media. Spend your time figuring out a new network – I suggest Twitter for #BoardGameHour on Mondays or Facebook for the Card & Board Game Designers Group (as well as the other fantastic groups). Already on these networks? Join a new group, or start a Twitter list of game designers you admire.

Trying New Games

Okay, so one of the coolest things about any con is trying the new hotness, and you can’t really do that at home. But there are plenty of designers offering up print and play versions of their games for people to try at home. Not sure where to start? Pete and I offer some PnPs on our website and are always looking for more people to take a look at BEARanoia… (hint, hint).

Of course, you may do any or all of these substitutes each weekend. But I encourage you to treat it like a challenge – a game, if you will. Find something you don’t usually do, and use your time to do it. Even if you can’t get to the big convention, carve out chunks of time and treat yourself to your very own at-home con.

What are you going to do if you #GenCant? Leave your ideas in the comments and inspire others.

League and Gen Can't 2015

Jasmine Davis

Jasmine Davis is a writer and game designer in Pittsburgh, PA. You can find Jasmine’s own thoughts on her website, read her thoughts on other people’s games at Play Unplugged, or check out her latest designs at PlayPBJ.com. You can also follow her on Twitter – she’s @athingforjaz.

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