For four days I was able to show off my game and meet so many creative people, and I am still taking the experience in. There are definitely things that have sunk into me and will impact future projects and my current one Escape The Fest! – while other lessons are still being worked through on a personal level. I want to share some of these things in hopes that they will help you not only in your creative process but help you as you share your creations with others.
1) What you make is not for everyone.
This may seem fairly obvious, but when you are showing your game to gamers then you would expect everyone to enjoy your game. Escape The Fest has a theme that will not reach everyone I had a couple play the game with me at the convention and seemed to enjoy the game. After the game – they thanked me for the time, complimented the mechanics, and then left my table not signing up for more information.
I was surprised they didn’t sign up for emails considering how much they interacted and laughed while playing, but after thinking about it… I have had similar moments with games. People not only have to consider if they like a game but if they will ever get the opportunity to play it after the purchase. If you only play as a couple, then games asking for more people don’t appeal to you. If your gaming group is filled with Euro-gamers then picking up a lightweight strategy card game isn’t beneficial.
2) “Convention Veneer” is a very real thing.
I was talking with Mike Selinker of Lone Shark Games with my wife about their game Apocrypha – which we definitely picked up. During our discussion, a random convention goer walked up to the table and picked up one of the dice and started to laugh talking to their friends about how “un-intuitive” the die was.
Mike just mentioned to them that the dice was for the game, what it did and pointed out the specifics. I wanted to point out the absurdity of the individual’s statements. If you actually enjoy games then you can clearly see what the dice mean. Yes, the marks for the dice look different but to me, I was able to quickly see how the dice counted its sides.
At that moment Mike could sense my feelings I guess because the moment that special person walked away – Mike told me that at conventions you take everything with a smile. You develop the “Convention Veneer” – the game is obviously not for them. I learned a lot at that moment and I hope that I can attain that level of peace.
3) Develop a full picture so that the imposter’s voice has a harder time messing with you.
This is tough but was brought up by another indie developer when I was sharing my concerns. I mentioned that I felt that the team I put together for my game had two very professional and talented people… then me. The other designer thought for a second then just shrugged saying – If these people are professional and talented then would they say they believed in a crappy project? If they thought you were as bad as you think you are, then why would they still be around?
This was something that I never really thought about – people will lie to you, but if you look at their actions you see the truth. My artist and designer are sticking through all this with me. They are both strong producers in their craft and I am lucky to have them with me. Them sticking this out with me though, tells me that they must feel similarly about me and my ability to craft story and games.
It is easy to be hard on yourself… and there is an element whereas a creator we MUST be hard on ourselves – as a storyteller I feel that I carry the responsibility to call out the world around me and paint what could be in the mind of future generations. Sure that may be a lot to put on a person, but if I can impact one person with my stories then I call it a win.
4) When you show your creation to your peers there seems to be two responses.
Genuinely constructive criticism has an underlying desire to see others succeed. My game has gotten better after some great questions that I had this weekend. I am excited to streamline some processes and deliver a better final product.
The other response seems to be seeded in an odd distaste that is fueled by snobbery. You see it in the same conversations gamers have about euro-games and “Ameritrash”. These people will give you criticisms with nowhere really to go.
The first is a pearl of wisdom and the latter is fool’s gold. You choose which one to hold onto.
5) The smiles remind you of why you make games.
That moment you get caught in a war of cards telling someone that they can’t do what they wanted, or when someone actually collects their set, or even if someone starts laughing about the story (especially if they are from one of the Dakotas). This for me was the greatest thing I experienced. I am making games because I want to bring people together. I want to see people laugh and enjoy the company of others. I got to see plenty of that this weekend and I wouldn’t trade any of those moments.
6) “Convention Crud” hits hard.
I am still feeling it today, and I am slowly recovering. Drink plenty of water, take vitamin C, bring hand sanitizer, take meds, and do whatever you can to avoid it – because I would have rather put this post out yesterday. My wife made me promise to not get on the computer at all yesterday, which is why this post is coming a day late.