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.
This year was the 40th annual DunDraCon, held in San Ramon California. That’s right, 40 years of gaming! As venerable as this convention is, they tried something new this year: a protospiel event within the con, following the same format as the League’s own Celestispiel. The results were incredible.
Five League members were in attendance: Luke Laurie, Peter Vaughan, Scott Caputo, Teale Fristoe, and Eduardo Baraf. Dozens of other designers took part, playtesting and socializing all weekend long. DunDraSpiel was an excellent venue for participants to improve their game designs, learn new skills, and connect with others in the industry. The best games are yet to be made, but we saw several designs that are very much on their way!
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.
- 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.
- Connect Online Ideally, you’ll have some connection with people you’ll see at a con prior to the event, through online interactions. Perhaps you follow their work on Twitter or Facebook, or maybe you discuss issues with them in design and publishing forums. Don’t be a stalker, but it’s helpful to know a thing or two about people in the industry. This makes it much easier to initiate conversations.
- Ask questions, find out what people do and if they’re involved in the industry. Get to know their interests and the types of work they do. If you listen long enough, you’ll find some connection between them and yourself.
- Be Helpful There is a lot of mutual backscratching amongst gamemakers. As you meet new people – focus on how you can be helpful to them, rather than just what they might be able to do for you. Maybe you can playtest a game of theirs or run a demo. Maybe they could use help with some kind of promotion. If nothing else, buy them a beer or the equivalent.
- Bring Your Games Have your game prototypes with you, you may get a chance to show them off or pitch them unexpectedly, but don’t force anyone to try play your games. If nothing else, at least they can serve as conversation pieces.
- Play One of the best ways to connect with people is over the shared experience of a game – especially one that’s NOT your own design. Play games with designers and publishers, and show people what you are like to hang out with. Don’t sit there and critique the game the whole time. You won’t be demonstrating your knowledge and skill, instead, you’ll betray the social norms you’re trying to exhibit.
- Distribute business cards. Bring enough and keep them handy. You might not be as memorable as you think you are. Alternately, connect through social media or email.
- Keep an Open Schedule Undoubtedly there will be events at a con that will require advance scheduling, but do your best to have as much unscheduled time as possible. This time allows you to have flexibility to let more authentic networking to occur. You can’t rely on scheduled events and manning a booth or table to give you a chance to interact with people as colleagues.
- 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 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. If people do play your games, show your players that you can accept feedback of all kinds without defensiveness.
To see more pics from the DunDraCon Protospiel, visit this link to our gallery on Facebook.
See you at the next Con!
Game designer by night, and middle school science and pre-engineering teacher by day. He lives in Santa Maria California with his amazing wife and two unrealistically well-behaved children.
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1 Readers CommentedJoin discussion
I think another important tip, share your work. It might be a concept or a prototype, but it is essential to present your work with the goal of getting input to approve it and possibly find a business partner. This seems rather obvious, but I have watched many a would be designer hold back because they are worried that others will steal their design. I don’t have any data on the topic but I have met many independent and publish designers and none of them have told me of a loss that happened demonstrating their game At a convention. The upside of improving your game, play testing with veterans and getting your work out seems far greater than the risk.