Crowdfunding Face to Face: A Geekway Retrospective

23 May 2016

I'm not in this photo of people getting ready to play Doctor Panic with me, but that's probably for the best.
I’m not in this photo of people getting ready to play Doctor Panic with me, but that’s probably for the best.

The vast majority of my job is spent at my computer. From this position I can communicate and interact with thousands of people every day.

However, I’ve grown to appreciate the value of playing games in person with the people I usually only interact with online. There’s a special bond that forms when you play a game with someone. That’s why people play golf.

It was with that bonding experience in mind that I went to Geekway to the West this past weekend. Geekway is local convention for me (it’s in St. Louis), and nearly every table there is devoted to playing games. There are very few structured events–it’s just open open gaming and play-and-win gaming.

This is my fourth Geekway, and I did a few things differently this time:

  • I shared my wish list in advance. A week before the convention, I posted a list of the new-to-me games I wanted to try at Geekway. There were several Stonemaier ambassadors who read the list and volunteered to teach me some of those games, which was awesome. Huge thanks to Chris, Thomas, Sam, Dave, Miles, and Jason.
  • I had absolutely nothing scheduled. This was huge. It meant that at any time, if I happened to be talking to someone, I could suggest that we sit down and play a game. I wasn’t beholden to a previous commitment.
  • I avoided my friends. I’m an introvert, so it’s easy for me to gravitate to my friends at gaming events. So I really had to fight that urge throughout the convention. I did an okay job of it, but there were times that I ended up playing games with friends. At least they were new-to-me games.
  • I made myself available to teach. Whenever I saw one of my games being played, I tried to make sure to check in to see if they had any rules questions. Sometimes that resulted in a quick exchange; other times I’d sit down and teach them the game.

Overall, I think this strategy paid off. I was able to spend time with a lot of different people. I feel closer to them now, and hopefully they feel closer to Stonemaier Games through me. As business strategies go, it’s warm and relational–that’s my kind of marketing. It’s not about selling my products, at least not directly–rather, I’m representing my brand. (Note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with actually selling your products at a convention. People value that service too.)

Also, I’m incredibly grateful to Geekway itself. They do an incredible job of fostering a warm, welcoming environment for all types of people.

Next year, the only thing I think I’d do significantly different is to eat much faster meals. 90 minutes spent each lunch with friends could just as easily be a 15-minute burger by myself, and then I’m back into the fray. I’d also probably stay away from games that take longer than 90 minutes for that same reason.

One of the ancillary benefits of playing a lot of new-to-me games is that they help me grow as a designer. Just for fun, here’s a list of the games I played for the first time at Geekway. I’ll be talking about each of these in the coming weeks on my YouTube channel about game design.

  • Isle of Skye
  • Steam Time
  • Egizia
  • A Castle for All Seasons
  • Fuse
  • Above and Below
  • Shakespeare
  • Merchants and Marauders
  • Glen More
  • Rhino Hero
  • Gemblo
  • Dice Heist
  • Doctor Panic
  • Billionaire Banshee
  • The Phantom Society
  • Feudem
  • a prototype from a game-design class

Every crowdfunder has different strategies and objectives when they spend time with customers and potential customers at conventions. What’s your goal at those types of events?

 

Also read: Conventions and Face Time

20 Comments on “Crowdfunding Face to Face: A Geekway Retrospective

  1. Glad we got to play Egizia – pleasure to game with you, Alan and Krista.

    I like your con plan. Don’t underestimate the value of an hour or so gaming break at least once during the day – like lunch/dinner – though.

    1. Chris: Thank you so much for teaching it! It was great to meet you. And that’s a good point about the value of taking a longer break–my brain was pretty fried at the end of each day. :)

  2. Glad we got a chance to meet up and play Glen More! Definitely check out Broom Service when you have a chance. I’ve heard it’s best with higher player counts, but even with 3 players we had a really fun time. Provided some interesting decision-making moments and we just played the base game. I look forward to hopefully playing more games with you in the future.

    1. Me too! I’m glad you had fun with Broom Service, and I hope to try it soon.

      Thanks for teaching Glen More, and I look forware to playing more games with you in the future.

  3. I wish we could’ve made it to Geekway; we waited too long to get tickets. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it including that people like you go. Thanks for sharing! Hopefully we’ll make it next year.

  4. Jamey,

    I’m actually heading to my first Con next month, Origins, at the request of Mike and Stan Strickland. I’m excited because I’ll have new friends (one of whom is a fellow Stonemaier Ambassador) out in Columbus, as well. I’ll get to experience the exhilaration of teaching our game; checking-out all of the vendors and their wares; playing some games I’ve not yet had a chance to get to the Gaming Table; and simply enjoying the environment shared by nearly 16K other gamers. Good for you to clear your calendar and simply “be” at Geekway.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    1. Joe: That’s great that you’re going to check out Origins! I haven’t been, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Geekway is a lot smaller than that at 1800 people. :)

  5. Didn’t get a chance to play Scythe, guess I’ll just need to wait a bit longer until it arrives!

    What did you think of Isle of Skye? We heard a lot of people say they loved it, but after our top player lapped two players and won by a 50+ VP margin, I can’t see how it doesn’t have a runaway leader problem.

    1. I completely missed you at Geekway this year, Aaron! I hope you had fun.

      Wow, that’s a big gap. I played Isle of Skye twice, and both times the winner won by 15-20 points. However, they won because they played better, and my perception was that the other players (including me) still had fun building our islands and trying to be clever with pricing.

  6. Before printing my game, I’ve never actually been to a convention without doing some volunteering or other things to subsidise my costs.

    Now I have a couple of items to sell, I do aim to cover the cost of each convention I go to – I’ll either be prioritising playtesting, selling, media or breaks/re-energising at any given time.

    I do love conventions and my breaks would generally involve running around the show, checking everything out and having some very quick goes on dexterity games and other things that can be played in 5 minutes.

    I can’t imagine actually wanting to take 60 minutes to eat and talk with friends when I could just chomp on peanuts mid-game and then spend my break seeing a lot more and chatting to more folk. But I think we’re different in that I actually get a bit down if I spend a day without real social contact and we probably have different needs in terms of recharging.

    Also, based on your games you probably enjoy longer stuff than I do.

    At the moment, my budget doesn’t allow for me to just go to any convention for pure pleasure but hopefully that’ll change in the future. In year past, in the years that I wasn’t volunteering, I’d rush around like a madman trying to take in as many fun experiences as possible.

    1. Bez: I appreciate the idea that you want to sell enough stuff to cover the cost of the convention expense–that makes sense. And like you, I’m not able to go to conventions just for fun/pleasure–those days are behind me now. :)

  7. Jamey,

    As I continue to try and follow the Zen of Stegmaier in my own efforts at designing and promoting a game, I’m finding one of my biggest obstacles/challenges is my own introversion. Do you think at some point you could talk about your experiences in overcoming or coping with introversion (assuming you haven’t already and I just didn’t find it)? Thanks.

      1. Thanks, Jamey! You’re awesome! Interestingly, regarding item #8, I’m at work right now listening to a talk by Amy Cuddy on Power Poses. It’s a sign, I tell ya.

  8. AH! I’m on a post and I looked like I’m flipping off the camera. Sorry, folks!

    And Jamey, I have a suggestion. If you really need/want to play with others, set yourself a number of games to play with them before friends. To really give yourself that extra push out of that comfort zone. That way you can play with new people and friends.

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