Penny Arcade Expo, GenCon Indie, E3, Game Developers Conference, ION Game Conference, Blizzcon… the list goes on. These are all events that I have attended or will soon be attending in the next several months. You can generally group these events into three important categories: Conferences, Conventions, and Community Events. Sometimes events have a mixed theme, while others have a fairly narrow focus. Whatever they are about, you will often find something rewarding when attending them.
What I enjoy most about these events is when they host a mixed theme. As an editor for the Allakhazam Network, I am responsible in covering the shows on a professional level, and that means taking lots and lots of photos, writing articles describing the important activities that occur, and interviewing developers of key games that we represent on our network. It is a chance to develop industry relations, with the goal that both our companies and teams will help to build each others' presence in the industry.
The other features of these events are just as exciting and rewarding of an experience. Take GenCon Indie for example, an event just around the corner (and one that I have yet to purchase my hotel for… I’m slow at these things sometimes). The typical GenCon Indie scene when walking onto the main show floor is small booths packed from one corner of the hall to the other, all stuffed with their own merchandise to sell or display for upcoming marketing releases. Many of these booths will also have tables setup with their games available for the public to play.
This is the real exciting part about walking around and just “taking it all in”. You get a chance to watch really dedicated players play some of the most classic and challenging board games on the market. Since this is largely a D&D board/card game show, the PC portion is small, but its presence in certain areas is still prominent if you know where to look. I plan on hunting down and stalking the Warhammer Online and Eve Online developers, traditional exhibitors for the past two GenCon Indie shows. These are not only PC games, but MMORPGs that have been watched by the Allakhazam Network for years now.
Once in awhile you will find celebrities and prominent industry figures roaming around that are not part of the show. Two years ago I attended GenCon Indie and turned to ask my friend about what he thought of a booth that had a bunch of knives on display, when out of the corner of my eye I saw someone that looked awfully familiar, yet I couldn’t quite place them. Me being the investigative and curious type when something grabs my attention, I walked closer and let my jaw drop as I realized who it was.
“Sid Meier?” I said to the man as I approached him. He turned to me and smiled, as I threw out my hand that he shook with the smile still on his face, even though he had no idea who I was. He must get that sort of thing a lot, being one of the most famous game designers in history. I didn’t waste time tossing the camera to my friend as I chatted with Sid Meier while my friend took strategic photos of us. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I wasn’t going to pass up. After a few moments I let them go on their way, reluctantly, and continued on with my friend, a smile on my face this time. I then frowned later when I realized I didn’t have any business cards to give him.
The most important thing for me when I attend these shows is not the player excitement, meeting developers for Allakhazam or my own interests, or running into the occasional celebrity (which so far has only happened once). It is the overall event that gives me inspiration to continue on in my game career, and that there really are others out there that share my passions, strengths, and goals, even if in Wisconsin I sometimes think the contrary (we have cows, fields, farms, cheese and milk…).
I will expand my horizons soon, one way or another, but first, I have to get those bus tickets to GenCon Indie. If no one comes to me, I am certainly going to go to them! Maybe I’ll run into Sid Meier this time, and if I do, I will be ready with my business card in hand.