Gearing up for Gen Con? Making a list for Metatopia? Before you hit the road, make sure you have the essentials. I don’t mean socks and underwear – oh no. I’m talking about your game designer stuff. As somebody who recently went to Origins without most of the stuff on this list, I can tell you that it is miserable being the person scrambling for a scrap of paper or struggling to find good photos of games I’ve designed.

undine board game prototype

This…this is not a good picture.

Just think about what a bummer it would be if YOU left the house without…

Board Game Prototypes

Bringing anything you want to pitch will obviously be at the top of your list. If you have extra room, though, consider bringing some older prototypes you may have shelved, or that might not be top-of-mind right now. This is for two reasons: First of all, you never know when inspiration will strike; a casual conversation could give you the missing rule that turns one of your “meh” afterthoughts into the game you thought it was going to be. And wouldn’t it be nice to find out this weekend whether or not it actually works? Second, you won’t just be talking about what you’ve brought to show off to publishers, and if somebody’s ears perk-up when you mention that mermaids-on-Roombas game you’ve been toying with, it’s nice to be able to show in addition to tell.

Regardless of what you bring, make sure you have good, clear pictures of all your prototypes on your phone.

This has saved my bacon a few times. Lots of publishers are friendly folks and when they hear you design games, many will want to talk shop. You don’t have to be That Guy Who Drags His Prototypes Everywhere – just make sure you have a couple pics snapped of each one to show off should the moment arise.

Business Cards

How else are publishers supposed to know how to reach you?! Slip (or tape) a few into each prototype you’re handing out, too, if you don’t have some other way of identifying it’s yours.

$5

The best way to get industry insider advice? Buy somebody a drink.

Something to Take Notes

You never know who you’ll be talking to or what advice they’ll have. At Origins, I wound up talking to a few publishers who had some amazing pieces of advice – and while I didn’t jot anything down right then and there, you can bet I hustled back to the hotel to take notes right afterward (on my phone, because of COURSE I didn’t bring paper).

Spare Components

The Worst Feeling: When you discover the critical yellow player piece has gone missing…five minutes before you’re supposed to meet with Big Important Publisher.

Water Bottle and Throat Lozenges

Whether you’re doing Publisher Speed Dating or just playtesting the snot out of your latest game, avoid dehydration and sounding like Harvey Fierstein.

An Emergency Hangry Granola Bar

Sometimes, you don’t even have time to snarf down some cruddy convention hall pizza between meetings. Slip a snack in your bag and avoid punching somebody for the food in their hand. Just make sure you wait until it’s critical to eat your emergency snack. You’ll know when it’s time.

Hand Sanitizer

Do you know how many people have rolled those dice?!

A Comfy Backpack

Because if you just toss all of the above into a bag you got from the dealer hall, your poor shoulder will not like you by convention’s end.

Cool T-Shirt

Part of a super rad organization? Just want to show off your designer logo? Never leave for a con without your coolest t-shirts.
League of Gamemakers t-shirts

What Else?

I’m sure there are a million more things all game designers should always have on their person. What are your convention must-haves? Share your wisdom (or hilarious stories) with us in the comments!

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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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  1. Lewis Pulsipher on July 22, 2016

    Computer loaded with all the files for your games. Then, even if you don’t have the game, you can email the files to the publisher.

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