PAX East is just around the corner, and I’m sure a lot of you are thinking about the day that YOU will be the ones exhibiting a game, rather than just attending, a show like this.
So, what should you expect when you get out there? Well, we aren’t an indie dev presenting one single game, but we thought it could be fun to tell you a little bit about what it takes to put a booth together like ours.
To do that, I’ll be doing short interviews with three of our staff members who will be working at the booth. First will be Hirei, who is our convention organizer. Second will be Mark, our lead producer. And finally will be myself, our social media master.
Let’s get started.
So, PAX East is just around the corner. How does that make you feel?
Hirei: I’m actually very excited for the show but also a little worried by how much we still have to do in terms of prep work! This is probably one of my first game conventions I’ve gotten to organize a booth for so there’s always something new to learn…or stress out over. It’s a little bit different from other types of conventions such as anime cons or even game/tabletop cons.
Overall, I can’t wait to see our games being demo’d and enjoyed by fans both new and old on the showfloor. We’ve come so far from our tiny little Indie Megabooth in years previous ~
It warms my heart. <3
Mark: Coming hot off of GDC, I feel much more prepared for PAX East than I did prior. That said, PAX East is a much different beast. First off, we’ll be on the Boston Convention Center show floor instead of the relatively quiet 3rd floor West Hall of the Moscone Center. Second, instead of one game, there will be over a dozen titles running at once. Thirdly, there will be WAY more people funneling through. For a person who hates multitasking, it’s basically my worst nightmare!
If there is one thing I learned from GDC though it’s that I’m much more resilient and adaptable than I initially thought. PAX East will be both a learning and growing experience for me, and I’m excited about that. I’m also excited to show off many of these titles to the public for the first time!
Nick: Excited, nervous, happy, stressed. Its really a huge mix of an emotional bundle. There is still plenty of work left to do, but we have plenty of work behind us as well. It’s all the fun of going to a really cool Convention on a subject matter that you love, but combined with the highest pressure work deadlines that don’t literally involve someone dying if you fail.
But mostly, just proud. This just shows how far we’ve come since I came on with the company… 5 years ago I think? Our only game related software at the time I was brought on was RPG Maker. Now, I look at the team we’ve assembled, and the games we’ve put out, and it’s simply amazing. Mindblowing really. And to get to talk about that for a whole weekend? Who wouldn’t love that?
What is your job for the show? What does that mean? What have you been working on?
Hirei: My title unofficially is Convention Operations Manager, which is pretty much a term for someone who oversees or produces pretty much 50-90% of the planning that goes into the convention event. In this case though, I actually have been handling most of Degica’s North American convention appearances since last year’s Anime Expo 2015.
I handle everything from initial contact with the venue to secure boothspace to equipment rentals and print materials handling. I have a HUGE list of things I’ve done but I’d rather not bore (or possibly intimidate) anyone who is looking to display their games at conventions such as these.
The bulk of my work is done pre-show but I have to stay vigilant during the show in case any issues arise during in-booth events or other normal convention occurrences.
Either way, I am going to let Nick and Mark do most of the talking since I’m probably going to be too busy drawing away for the live demos. Speaking of which, Mark and Nick have both been very helpful with assisting me in terms of getting game information together / planning assists / social media. I’m really thankful to have assistance in working on such a large endeavor.
Mark: As lead producer, my job is to manage all the titles we’ll be showcasing. I’ve been working with Hirei on promotional material for all the games. This includes game flyers, info stands, and merch. I’ve also been working with Nick on coordinating announcements and social media coverage. He handles most of that stuff like a champ but I’m there whenever he needs more info or is missing an asset. I’m also in charge of the press outreach and scheduling appointments for press to come by and demo our titles.
On the show floor, I’ll actively be showcasing several of our titles, but short of cloning myself, there is no way I’ll be able to demo them all. Fortunately, we have staff members and volunteers that will also be working the booths. I have to make sure they have all the game information and talking points to knowledgeably discuss the titles with both press and attendees.
Nick: I’m our social media guy, plus I’m in charge of all our emails. That generally means anything you see about the show before the show either went through me, or was crafted by me directly, like the post you are reading right now. I also have a secret project going, but since it’s a secret, I can’t very well tell you about it, can I?
Admittedly, this means my pre-con work is actually probably the lightest of us three, so I try to give as much feedback and suggestions as I can on every decision that I can. We are looking at new things every day. Giveaway organization, competition organization, art for promotional items, art for the booth itself, getting equipment, deciding on which games to show.. The amount of stuff I see every day that I can have an opinion on is staggering.
At the actual show though, I’ll have a lot more to do. On top of the normal duties of talking to anyone and everyone who comes up asking about something, or is just showing interest, I also have my work cut out for me in getting interesting photos and information from the show to everyone who follows us on social media.
In the course of doing all this, what do you think is the biggest challenge?
Hirei: Deadlines. From my experience with working with all sorts conventions, deadlines are the number 1 killer. There are so many to keep track of along with tasks that need to be micro-managed in order to make sure that things go smoothly. Almost everything has a hard and concrete deadline that you need to be very wary of.
Late on that payment? Late fee for you or possibly no booth space or rental for equipment! Oh no, I forgot that it takes 3 days to produce these print items!? Then no print items for you during the show because it will arrive the day after the event ends.
Your deadlines will heavily influence your stress levels, your budget (hello rush shipping and production!), and ultimately on how smoothly your convention event runs. …Thankfully I can say that I’m not too bothered by deadlines since as an artist I’m very much used to deadlines being a part of my daily life.
I would say stress is also something to be very wary of especially for individuals who are new to event management. There’s a lot you have to get familiar with and quick and it can be overwhelming. And budget is a no brainer: Cons in general are expensive to exhibit at if you go to ones such as PAX East. But as a general rule of thumb, expect to pay for everything at premium or inflated prices.
Mark: Managing so many titles! At GDC, I had only one title I had to promote. Now I have over a dozen! It involves compiling tons of resources and delegating tasks between several people. Managing all that is enough to make your head spin! When it gets overwhelming, I like to walk away from my computer and go outside, meditate or make a fresh cup of tea. It’s important to take breaks and clear your head so you can make the right decisions instead of the quick ones.
Nick: I think it’s really two things. One is just not letting the stress get to you. Its really easy to have it crash down on you and spend a whole day not getting anything done. And that just makes it worse, cause now you have the stress of having one less day to work with. You have to just be able to work through it. Though I think Hirei is a bit more skilled at that than me. If I had all the paperwork to do that she did, I would have just cried until some time after PAX East was over and we would have had a pretty awful booth. (I kid you not, Hirei is a blessing to work with on this. She is invincible and it keeps me going.)
The second is all the work you can’t even help with. For instance, I’m not an artist. Seeing all the work that other people have in front of them, like making a bunch of art, that there is no way I can help with, I stress about them finishing, even though I KNOW how capable they are. I’ve never been that good with things outside of my control.
Anyway, to add something I directly worked on that I can talk about: Writing the same info four times for announcements was challenging. I wrote the blog and email for both Degica Games and RPGMakerWeb. The duplication without it all just looking exactly the same was a bit tricky. You’ll find yourself having to repeat yourself, sometimes so many times it becomes routine. You have to avoid falling into the rut of sounding bored with it. And once you hit the con itself? You’ll probably find yourself repeating the same things over and over all weekend. Make sure to keep up your enthusiasm!
Out of everything you are doing, what is the bright point that you find the most fun?
Hirei: I think the first WOW moment I had was when I finished putting together the 3D mockup with our booth with full art panels and everything.
It’s a very big booth compared to what Degica is used to and yet we have such amazing artwork adorning the walls! Not only can you find franchise artwork but also some great work by Michael.Galefire and I. He is one of our in-house artists who does battlepacks like the Sci-Fi one. It was very moving to see sort of an interactive overview of all the games we’ve worked on. We can’t wait to show the boothspace off!
Not going to lie I’m also very excited to make a certain well known hero come to life for a certain something that you will probably see in the booth.
Mark: I enjoy designing the promo materials for the games. Most of my job is replying to emails and chat messages and managing tasks across several projects so it’s a nice break to sit down and do something creative.
Nick: Seeing all the artwork! Hirei and Michael have been making some super amazing art in setting up for the show. Our booth is going to LOOK fantastic. The mockups I’ve seen have been crazy awesome. I can’t wait to take pictures of the real thing so that everyone can see it.
One other thing that has been super fun is my secret project. But once again, I can’t talk about that yet.
If you were able to start the whole show planning over again, what is the one thing you think you would want to handle differently?
Hirei: Plan earlier! I always feel like no matter what there’s always things we could do a lot better whenever I finish staffing for a convention. “Wish we could’ve done this or that, but we didn’t have enough time!” Deadlines are brutal and they will always make you cut out some details that you wished you had time for.
Mark: Locking down the list of titles. As we planned which titles to showcase at PAX East, new ones kept getting piled on. It made it more difficult to plan what materials would be needed for the booth. For future shows, I’d like to get those details hammered down earlier.
Nick: Start planning the day after I was born? Getting ready for a show like this is a super amount of fun. It’s like a dream, really. I mean, I’ve been making games as a hobby for about 2 decades now (started with QBASIC when I was 10 or 11), and I never dreamed I would ever get to be part of something like this. But it’s also so much work and I don’t even have the heaviest load. Whatever amount of time you think you will need, double it. Probably triple it.
It’s just like when you are working on a game. Whatever you think is the amount of work you will need to get it finished, you probably are forgetting some detail that will need to be worked out. And unlike your game, which you can put off if you don’t feel you are done, the show date won’t move for you.
What would be your advice for someone who wants to work on something like this one day?
Hirei: If you want to be involved as a dev at a convention or be an event planner, take time to plan out every detail and also get familiar with how conventions work. Being an exhibitor vs. an attendee is worlds different than what you might expect. Marketing yourself efficiently not only through words but also how you showcase your demo(s) and company are important skills to master.
If you plan on showcasing your game solo, be prepared to do everything from graphic design work to marketing during pre-con period. It helps a lot to have a small team with individuals who are efficient at their job so you can split the work.
Keep in mind that different conventions have different rules/regulations so read the Exhibitor’s Manual or Handbook carefully. It’s usually a textbook PDF but worth to look over.
As a game dev in general, just go for it. There’s nothing more exhilarating than achieving your dreams and doing what you love! I look forward to one day playing your games and seeing your demos on the showfloor!
Mark: Conventions are hard; especially for us introverts. GDC was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. Standing around and interacting with people 8 hours a day for 5 days, repeating the same talking points over and over, was absolutely brutal.
But a lot of those interactions were amazing and I made a lot of great connections. Also nothing can beat the insights from watching people play your game in person. For anyone who is promoting a title, it’s a must!
Nick: Chase it. If you told me as a teenager I would be doing what I’m doing today, I would have literally laughed at you. When I was writing down what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was all practical jobs. Math Teacher being the highest on my list. I had another list that was my “yeah, right” list that included the things I’d REALLY love to have been. A writer. A game developer. Just anything in the game industry. I always thought those would be pipe dreams.
But it happened. It happened and now I’m not even sure how I’d go back to anything else. Be proactive about your dreams. Just because they seem farfetched doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Yeah, you might never reach it, but you never know where you’ll end up if you try.
Its been nice to get a chance to talk about our jobs some. Have any questions? Just want to chat? Join us in the comments section below! And to everyone going to PAX East: See you on the show floor!