Gamemaking, even if you self-publish, is not a solo endeavor. It takes relationships and collaboration to get your game signed, sealed, and delivered. Game conventions play a major role in connecting novice and veteran gamemakers to one another, to build those vital relationships.
When I attended KublaCon in 2014 with Peter Vaughan, the League of Gamemakers was still in its infancy. My first game, Stones of Fate, had been kickstarted by Cosmic Wombat Games, but had not yet been printed. Peter was running demos and pushing sales of his first game, What the Food?! We both had a few prototypes we were hoping to test, but we didn’t know many people at the con. That weekend, networking with people and playtesting our games helped us make connections that drastically improved the trajectories of our game-making careers.
Playtesting a new Pairs deck by James Ernest with Melinda Keller.
TIPS FOR NETWORKING AT CONS
You don’t always know which interactions are going to prove beneficial to your career. So it’s important to have an open mind and positive attitude when you’re engaging with new people.
- Ask questions, find out what people do and if they’re involved in the industry.
- Seek people out. It’s ok to seek out people in the field that you know will be at an event. Most of them are going to be approachable and happy to meet you. If necessary, contact them ahead of time and arrange a meet up.
- Distribute business cards. Bring enough and keep them handy. You might not be as memorable as you think you are.
- Be Patient. Wait for the right time to talk about your work and experiences, and spend most of your time listening to others. Don’t pester people while they’re playing games.
- Be helpful. If you can, find ways that you might be helpful to their pursuits – like playtesting their games. Buy them a beer or the equivalent.
- Be respectful of time. People at cons are busy, be glad if they give you a minute or two. If they play a game with you, or are willing to listen to a pitch, you’re very fortunate – but don’t push it. If you can, connect with people later online, via email or social media. Any one of these people might be a resource for you in the future.
- Behave. Keep a friendly attitude, be respectful, and show people what you might be like to work with. Try not to say anything you might regret later.
Gamemakers Bryan, Scott, Brandon, and Chris have a shocking revelation.
EXAMPLES OF NETWORKING
At KublaCon 2014, we met tons of people, and had some pivotal playtests. A year later, it is evident how influential those connections were.
On the first night, we playtested Brad Brooks‘ design, “Letter Tycoon” -which Peter was interested in publishing. Joining us was Seth Jaffee of Tasty Minstrel Games. A year later, Seth is a valuable ally and member of the League of Gamemakers. Letter Tycoon is now a solid, finished game, and is being co-published by Peter’s company Squirmy Beast and Breaking Games. It won the Mensa select award, and was featured in a great tournament at KublaCon, and more tournaments are on the way. Peter’s publishing empire continues to grow, and his next game Boomtown Bandits is right around the corner!
Letter Tycoon Tournament at KublaCon.
Also in 2014, both Seth Jaffee and Aldo Ghiozzi (of Impressions Game Distribution Services), played a prototype I brought called “Drill, Baby, Drill.” Now, Aldo is facilitating distribution of Stones of Fate, which is now in stores across the nation. Drill, Baby, Drill is now signed with Minion Games and has become The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (co-designed with Tom Jolly through networking at PolyCon).
Another interesting networking opportunity arose over a playtest of Teale Fristoe‘s Shadow Throne. Peter, Teale, Myself, and Richard Bliss, the host of the Funding the Dream podcast, had a great playtest of the game, followed by a great discussion about crowd funding. We learned quite a bit from Richard’s insights into crowdfunding and the game industry. A year later, Shadow Throne is a published game, and Teale has also successfully kickstarted Birds of a Feather. Teale is well on his way to building his publishing empire.
Melinda Keller of Polycon, introduced me to Kris Miller and Lisa Markus, the organizers of Celesticon. From this connection was born Celestispiel, a West-Coast playtesting event held on Labor Day weekend.
Finally, as we drove off into the sunset, invigorated by our exciting weekend, Peter and I talked design ideas the entire way home, and started to lay the groundwork for a new game: “Dwellings of Eldervale.” -But that is a story for another day…
KUBLA CON 2015
Peter couldn’t make it to Kubla this year, but I was able to attend with my family and a bunch of friends. League Members Scott Caputo, Jeff Cornelius, Teale Fristoe, and Brad Brooks were there, each with their own objectives: Networking, playtesting, running tournaments, and having a great time. Scott focused on playtesting a new tile for Völuspá and playing League prototypes: my prototype, Saturn Rising, and Teale’s Shadow Throne expansion. Who knows what great things will arise from the new connections and friendships that were forged at this year’s KublaCon!
GO TO CONS. MAKE CONNECTIONS!
If you were at KublaCon, feel free to post your own networking stories, and information about the games and activities you were a part of, including links to your games and kick starters, etc. below!
“Saturn Rising playtest with John, Mike, Scott, and Odessa.”
See more pictures from this year’s KublaCon: Photo Gallery on Facebook