Making Pitching Accessible
This post is a follow up to my Pitching Survival Guide. After posting my guide I had many designers reach out to say thank you but one reached out to ask a very important question, “how can I use your tips if I have a speech disability?” This question was important because my tips were very focused on the person who could attend a convention and I had not addressed disabilities. This was not my intention since going to Cons and pitching in person isn’t the only path you can take. I have had friends that could never make it to conventions due to money, physical disabilities or work conflicts. So, I want to talk about alternate ways of pitching so we can be more accessible to the designers who can’t physically go to a convention because of their health, wealth or a disability.
I’ll start by saying that I am not disabled, so I will try my best not to misrepresent people who are. I believe that there are so many games that don’t see the light of day because they don’t make it to the right publishers hands for one reason or another. This might be because you don’t have the capabilities of self-publishing or connecting with a publisher. Finding a publisher can be hard and maybe you’ve gotten to the point where they are willing to hear your pitch but you can’t go to the convention. Well, what do you do? You don’t want to miss an opportunity. And I know opportunities, I flew out for a single day just to go to the Dice Tower Convention on the 4th of July last year just because I got into Speed Pitching. I didn’t want to miss out on a chance to get my game published. But most people can’t just hop on a plane to go to a convention.
Here’s what I could have done or any other designer that has a game that needs to be pitched but you can’t physically make it to a convention:
Ask a friend or another designer already attending the convention to be your proxy. They can pitch the game for you. I have noticed designers have started to offer their services pitching other people’s games in exchange for money, games or badges to conventions. This becomes a win/win situation for both parties.
Ask the publisher if you can send a pre-recorded pitch video and answer any questions afterwards if they are still interested. Many publishers are willing to work with you if they’re interested enough in your game. Have a print & play or physical prototype ready to send if they like your video and rulebook.
Ask if you can do a Zoom call or if you can use a discord to share your prototype on Tabletopia, Tabletop Simulator or any other program. Especially with COVID-19 this approach to pitching is becoming the new norm. Just make sure you test your computer, mic and camera ahead of time.
Even if you can make it to a Convention but don’t feel comfortable pitching in person you can still have a proxy or find a friend to partner on the pitch and take the lead. Let the publisher know that you have a speech disability and that your friend will be taking the lead but you’ll be there if they have questions. Publishers are people too and understand that not everyone's the same.
Back when Jonathan Gilmour was working at Pandasaurus Games reviewing game submissions at conventions I had a few pitch meetings with him. But I’ll always remember my first meeting. I had the 6pm time slot. I met him at the Pandasaurus booth as they were ushering people out of the main exhibit hall. I made a joke that I bet he was glad I was his last meeting but then he said I wasn’t and that he had pitches into the late hours of the night. I asked when he started that morning and he said 10am. He planned to go until at least 10pm that night. I was honestly shocked. I knew publishers and demo staff normally spent the nights at industry parties or playing games with friends. But he was choosing to spend his time finding new designs for Pandasaurus. I asked him why he was doing that when no other publisher I knew was taking meetings that late. He told me how he wants to give everyone an equal opportunity to pitch. That many people can’t take off work during exhibit hours and can only drive to the convention center after they’re off to show their game. Going to a convention is a privilege not everyone can afford. So, he’s doing his part to help those people get the chance that they may not normally have gotten.
His story and general thought process was inspiring. He accommodated his schedule to help those designers who couldn’t meet around a normal convention schedule. And that’s what a good publisher should do. If you have a disability that may prevent you from pitching in person let them know so they can work with you. Offer some of the alternate pitching options I listed above. We all need to do our part to make pitching more accessible. Accessibility in the gaming community shouldn’t only be focused on making a game that people with color blindness can play.
We need to address how tabletop games are a huge part of many people’s lives who can’t do sports or other physical activities because of injuries or disabilities. My aunt who had cancer used games like Tenzi and Farkle to help with her motor skills while in physical therapy. My cousin was on the spectrum and used RPGs as a way to learn to socialize with other kids growing up. We need to actively work to start accommodating anyone who’s outside the mold. We have the technology, we just need the motivation to make the change.