Gameplanner Excerpt

Last year GAIN partnered with Ontario Creates and Canada Media Fund to create a new resource intended to help indies plan their exhibition and networking strategy, based on in-person interviews and surveys from 50+ creators across Canada. We’re hoping it’ll prove useful to the international community, so we’ve made the full PDF briefing available for free here.

Below is an excerpt from Gameplanner with some tips on what game creators can consider doing at an event to get the most out of it.

At the end we’ve collated some award, speaking and exhibition opportunities coming up in the near future.

There’s lots of benefits to showcasing your game. Pre-release you can get user feedback and watch to see what’s working and not, as well as build excitement. Post-release you can engage with existing fans. But, it can be exhausting, especially for introverts. There’s minimal time to interact with peers. It’s expensive to get your equipment and rent the booth. Prep, attendance, and recovery takes time out of development.

Team Up: The Indie MegaBooth is a no-brainer if you can get in. We universally heard from creators that IMB offers better traffic, better media attention and lower costs than running a solo booth (though the MiniBooth got mixed reviews). The PAX 10 showcase offers free booth space and the Indie Arena at GamesCom is also recommended.

Don’t Go Alone: Make sure you have enough people with you to have reasonable shifts. People involved with making the game are more exciting for players to meet and can answer questions that potential business partners might have, but some people have limited social energy. Perhaps you can bring a younger developer from the community along to apprentice in your booth?

Design Your Booth: You put thought into every aspect of your game: do the same with the user experience of your booth! Mount a large screen high up so people can spectate when it’s busy. Dollar store bling can give a little visual flare. Vertical banners are not hugely expensive, eyecatching, and easy to transport. Always include an email list signup for when people want to quietly indicate they’re superfans.
Merch Madness: Stickers, pins, shirts and stuffies based on your game can offset booth costs, enhance the booth decor, and promote your work, when done well — but it’s really hard to do well. Consult with other people, make prototypes and short runs and see what works at local events, and be careful with border crossings as they can trigger customs charges that kill your profit margin.

Photos or it Didn’t Happen: Get lots of photos of people having a blast with your game. They’ll come in handy for newsletter updates or pitches.

Level Up Regionally: If you’re in an area that has game events, take the opportunity to practise showcasing when stakes (and costs and effort) are lower. See what works, and iterate on it for larger events.

New makes the News: Having something new to announce such as a new feature or new content substantially increases your chances of getting coverage.

Refine Your Pitch: A one-line hook is useful to pull in players on the showfloor, intrigue peers at parties, and show market potential to your potential partners. Yes, it can be challenging to distill something you’ve worked for years on down to one line: rise to this challenge.

Hire Some Guns: If you have an announcement and few media contacts it might be worth considering hiring a PR company for a few months prior to the event to hook and book media interviews for you. A good PR company will have a deep knowledge of the media outlets, writers and what they’re looking for.

Book Early: Contact people you’d like to meet with 3-4 weeks in advance, and if you have the choice, book earlier in the event while they’re still fresh and haven’t had 4 solid days of 16 meetings a day. Later in the event when spots are running scarce they might cancel your meeting entirely.

Mentoring at Meetings: Have a junior member of the team with some promise? Bring them along to the meeting so they can see how things go down. Even if they take notes or just sit there and listen, it helps reduce the mystique in a way other training doesn’t.

Be a Curious Cat: Although it can seem like you’re the less powerful entity in the conversation, having a few questions for your prospective partner — good ones you couldn’t just google — can give you a better sense of who you’re dealing with. Plus, if you tend to overtalk, this can break that up.

Skip the GDC Meeting: If you’re already in contact with them, some people have suggested meeting with partners at a less high-density event like IndieCade. Others have said they like to visit key partners in the off season in their own office, where they have more time.

Play the Long Game: The veterans we spoke to all spoke about how their network grew slowly over a number of years, getting stronger with conversations and parties where common interests were discovered and trust was built. Familiarity leads to getting a no quicker, and getting a yes eventually.

Ask for Feedback: Peers often have great feedback and can also become advocates for your game and signal boost it when it comes out. Even if they have smaller followings, it can boost your credibility with their followers — who sometimes are media people with bigger followings. Do you follow? Also, asking for small favours — like bridging introductions — is generally a good idea, because it opens the door for them to ask you favours, and pretty soon it’s not a transactional thing anymore.

Take Notes: Because it’s often months or years between events, it helps to jot down things about people you connect with to jog your memory next time, or when you’re looking for a certain type of contact in the interim. You can be methodical without being mechanical.

Facebook Friends to IRL Friends (and back): If you have time, reach out to people you follow on social media and see if they’re want to meet up. Some will be too busy already, but some will be free. Similarly a good way to keep low-key informed about someone you met at an event is to follow them on social media.

Don’t Just Network Up: A lot of people think they have to talk to important or influential people to succeed, but it’s often more natural to build relationships with peers. A few years later, you have a real friendship and, what do you know, a lot of them will have moved into decision-maker roles.

NOTE: Unfortunately, networking events can be both exclusionary and sites of harassment.

Submit Your Game for Awards: Many creators were ambivalent towards awards and saw only slight correlation between them and success. They help team morale and raised reputation among peers — which could lead to better collaborations and partners. The laurels give partners, press and potential players another reason to look at it. If you are considering going to an event, you should consider submitting your game to their awards or showcase. If they accept it, then you can attend with some perks including free passes or special networking opportunities — and yeah, maybe a bit of an ego boost.

Propose a Talk: Similar to the above, if you are considering going to an event that takes talk proposals, you might want to think about submitting one of yours if it’s the kind of thing you like doing. If you hate public speaking and find creating talks exhausting, it’s unlikely to be worth the work. A self-promoting talk is unlikely to be selected, but if you have something of value you want to share — a technique or perspective on game creation that you think would be helpful — go with that energy. It will almost certainly lead to interesting conversations in the aftermath.

Organize Something Cool: Many people love parties, but some people find it doesn’t work for them: they don’t drink, they have problems with loud rooms, or other reasons. Why not create the gatherings of type you want with the kinds of people you want to socialize with? Perhaps it’s a small dinner with a handful of narrative designers. Maybe it’s a gathering in the park where fellow introverts can catch up on email near each other. Maybe you organize an outing to a gallery or suggest a walk. If you want to do it, it’s likely other people will too!

Fly Your Freak Flag: Feel like the only musician in a roomful of coders? Cool, they need you to compose some tunes! Aren’t a white straight male in this still-homogenous community? Great, there’s lots of teams who know they need your perspective. Are you more influenced by Victorian novels than Zelda? You might make the next innovative interactive fiction that people flock to. Being different can be uncomfortable, for sure, but if you stick it out you might find it to be your biggest asset.

You can download the PDF with more practical planning tools and interviews with curators and festival organizers in English and French.

GAIN Director Jim Munroe enthusing about Gameplanner at the Montreal launch


A timely digest for game arts creators and curators.

/// Expo / Festival submissions ///

BIG Festival 2020
15 – 19 July 2020
São Paulo, Brazil
Game submission deadline: 10 May 2020

Meaningful Play
Game exhibition & competition
1-3 October 2020
East Lansing Michigan
Submission deadline: 15 June 2020 11:55PM (EST)

25 – 26 June 2020
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Game submission deadline: 2 April 9:00AM (CET)

/// Award Submissions ///

Reboot Develop Blue 2020 Indie Award
23 – 25 April
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Submission Deadline: 10 March 2020

Game Connection Asia 2020 – Indie Development Awards
4 – 5 June 2020
Xi’an, China
Submission deadline: 27 March 2020

2020 Freeplay Awards
May 2020
Melbourne, Australia
Submission deadline 29 March, 11:59 PM (AEDT)

Develop: Star Awards 2020
15 July 2020
Brighton, UK
Submission deadline: 3 April 2020

Game Connection Europe 2020 – Indie Development Awards
October 2020
Paris, France
Submission deadline: 29 May 2020

IndieCade 2020 Festival (game submissions open 1 April)

/// Open Calls ///

Digital Lab Africa – interactive projects & games
Submission deadline: 1 March 2020

Now Play This festival – Board Members
Deadline: 10 March 2020

Babycastles – full exhibitions
Starting in June 2020

/// Talk Proposals ///

BostonFIG Talks 2020
2 May 2020
Boston, USA
Submission deadline: 29 March, 11:59PM

Thanks to Zuraida Buter for compiling this list. To add something to a future newsletter please email us at

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