Table Top Gaming Conventions are very different then other kinds of conventions. Everyone there is passionate about what they do unlike many other conventions. When I worked at Fujifilm Graphic Systems I had the chance to work the front desk at PRINT17. We were demoing our machines and giving out sample prints. My job was to help assist the Trade Show Coordinator with finding salesmen for customers, giving out swag and dealing with any issue that came up. No one enjoyed being at this convention. Everyone at my booth complained about having a meeting, their feet hurting or college kids stealing the mints. Before the conference we spent weeks preparing for the convention. It was my first convention for work, so I was excited, and my excitement only frustrated my boss. She said I didn’t understand how hard it was to work one of these. But I understood. I worked 10-hour days for over a month getting ready and worked 12-hour days during the convention. At the end of the convention I didn’t feel like I got anything out of the experience beyond learning what could go wrong and how much my co-workers didn’t want to be there.
When I first started going to ComicCons I loved all the people parading around in Cosplay pretending to be their favorite heroes. There were panels, artists, comic stores and more to explore. I always had fun wandering the convention halls. It wasn’t until I went to my first Table Top Gaming Convention GenCon that I realized ComicCons are going downhill. ComicCons are slowly having more comic book shops, retailers and deviant artists taking up the floor rather then the real artists and actors/actresses. It’s become more of a mall then a Convention. I see everything that I could just go online and buy. The panels are still fun but waiting in line for your favorite celebrities’ signature can be a daylong event. I now prefer to go to GenCon or PAX Unplugged verses C2E2.
GenCon was the first gaming convention I’d been to as well as worked. This past Summer I worked for Braine Games promoting their Kickstarter project Mutated. I got the job because the year before I attended GenCon and became friends and pen pals with Mutated’s graphic designer when they were selling Alien Entity. We continued our conversations until he told me his friend backed out of helping at their booth, so I said I could take her place and bring an extra hand as well. We became friends over a simple 15-minute conversation followed by e-mails and shared interests. From the experience, I learned some do’s and don’ts to running a small indie booth at a large convention.
Here is a list of lessons I learned:
Always make sure to have enough water for everyone. Keeping water bottles on hand is important. From all the talking and standing you’re doing dehydration happens fast.
Make sure your business cards have the booth number, game company’s name and the Kickstarter projects name along with the QR code to the Kickstarter page. Unfortunately, Austin’s cards only had Mutation and the QR code. People couldn’t find our booth after they left it because “Braine Games” was on the Convention map and not Mutated. There are a lot of Brain named game companies, so we were easy to forget.
Make sure your game company is on the banner, so people can associate the game with the company.
Having predetermined break schedules will help you avoid having too many people gone at a time.
Make sure to train your staff on how to play the game before the convention happens. Otherwise it makes it hard to answer customer’s questions. I demoed the new Black Mirror game with someone who didn’t really know the rules. It ruined the game a bit.
If you have the money and space get tables, you can sit at and not just cocktail tables. Your body will thank you for it. Thankfully we did have foam flooring.
Make sure you have extra staff. Thanks to my friend Birdie we had enough people, but had she not come, a bathroom break would have been much harder.
Have sell sheets made if you’re running a Kickstarter. That way people can take it if they don’t have time to demo the game.
If you are working the convention get a hotel that is walking distance from the convention center. Driving a half hour every day and trying to find parking added more stress then we needed to our day. Plus, parking prices and gas adds up.
Pack lunches so you don’t need to leave the booth for lunch. Convention food is always expensive with long wait times.
Overall, even with the hiccups of working for a young company I had a great time. I felt passionate about the game and loved networking. When you’re not working you get to demo games that are being developed, help fund Kickstarter projects and enjoy games you may have never heard of. Having someone teach you to play is one of the best ways to learn. Demoing the game helps you see if the game is worth buying. Plus, many times there are special deals or convention exclusive game extras. GameWrights booth always has additional Con exclusive cards for SushiGo, GoNuts for Donuts or other games. Demoing games has a similar feel to going clothing shopping. Just keep trying games until you find the right one!
The person demoing really becomes a salesperson. I’ve only bought one game I regretted from a convention and Birdie bought the same game the next year. The designer did a great job marketing it. They were kind, excitable and passionate. They had a great pitch with a game that was cheap and had great art, so I bought it. Unfortunately, it didn’t play as well as advertised when I got home. But that’s why you demo the game if it interests you before buying it.
Working a Kickstarter booth was very different from a normal booth. We had cards we used to demo at two tables, but we didn’t have the game to sell. People had to like the game enough to buy it. Austin was creative in the way that he created a Con exclusive deal. Spend $5 more and get the original Braine Game: Alien Entity right there at the booth. Also, spend a $1 and get a vote on the play counter’s color. I would tell the customers “a dollar makes us holler” as a joke. Since backing a Kickstarter can be a gamble it was good for us to give something away when people left the booth. I loved the energy of demoing with like-minded people and asking for their opinions of the game. Everyone enjoyed the game and most backed it. Our Kickstarter brought in a little over a thousand a day. Unfortunately, the momentum fell after that and the project wasn’t funded.
Everyone was nice, wanted to be helpful and most workers are volunteers so they do it out of love rather than money. Vendors helped each other and backed each other’s games rather then compete. Everyone knew what it felt like to be new to working a Con. The customers were inquisitive, curious and very open to discussing their opinions which is rare I feel for a convention. If a Gaming Convention comes to your town I suggest visiting it. I’m sure you’ll meet some interesting people and find some great games!
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