Event Recaps

PAXAUS 2014: If you wanna look the part, you gotta get the stuff

If you're doing a con, you gotta get stuff. At the time, I didn't really think about this beyond it seeming like "the thing to do." Other stands were gonna have stuff, we wanted stuff too. But actually it was a great idea to grab it all, and this article explains why.

What kinda stuff am I talking about? Branded shirts, getting business cards done, ordering in a whole heap of buttons/pins/badges/whatever they're called in your region. I figured the more junk we had lying around with our logo on it, the more likely people would be to remember us and look us up when we got back home. But there's a little more to it than that. Here's a breakdown on what stuff is good, and how we went about it.

Shirts

These can seem like a silly idea at first. You're an indie dev, you're bootstrapping, doesn't the plainclothes look kind of suit? The answer is yes, definitely, but only in the right context and this isn't really it. A quick rationale for getting branded shirts done goes back to my earlier article about how much time people are likely to spend at your booth and how efficient you want to be in communicating everything about yourself, and your game, to them.

Consider: a gamer approaches your booth. There's controllers lying around, can they just grab one and play? They want to ask someone but everyone around them is wearing plainclothes. They get intimidated and walk off somewhere more comfortable.

This is definitely something I observed at the stands of plainclothes devs. Now, imagine that person approaching the booth is someone from the media, trying to find the right person to ask questions to. They have a lot of other devs to see and interview, and it's hard to tell who they should be talking to. They move to the next booth instead. Because your game didn't get covered by that one super important outlet, your game never gets the recognition or sales it deserves and one month later you die of hunger. All because you wore the wrong shirt. For the love of God, THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT THIS.

Branding

Basically, shirts are worth it for communication alone. But it's also a good opportunity for branding, which is more valuable than you might think for an indie. For PAXAUS, we decided to brand our shirts, biz cards, buttons, everything with the same fiery orange and little grim reaper logo. What you want is for someone to look at any one of these and think: oh yeah, that was those guys. You want these cues all working together in a way that associates anything anyone leaves with, with the experience of playing your game.

A year ago, the word "branding" was a dirty word to me. I wanted no part in it. But you know what? Fuck it. The bottom line is we want as many people as possible to play our games, might as well make it easy for them to find us where possible.

Business Cards

I had a lot of fun with these. I was really, really tired of handing out business cards that I felt either didn't reflect us as a studio or were just outdated. We tried to make some professional looking webdev business cards last year, and I found myself almost making excuses not to hand them out. They sucked.

So when I had the idea to model our new cards after trading cards, I ran with it. It makes so much sense, right? We make games, why not make business cards that look like a trading card game. But I've never seen anyone do it. Unfortunately there's only two of us so "collecting" the whole series is a pretty trivial task, but lots of people still wanted the pair.

It took 3 iterations to arrive at this design, but I'm really happy with how they turned out! I did forget to put our website on them though, whoops...

Pins/badges/buttons (choose one)

Apparently these are the thing to do for PAX, people supposedly love them. So we did them, why not? Give people another little cue to remember us by, make it nice and cute, throw the studio name on it so they can google us if they want to. They were the most expensive thing we brought along though, $350 for 1250 of them, and that was 15% off.

Signs showing the game's controls and your elevator pitch

This was basically an afterthought I threw together the day before flying to Melbourne, but it was smart – if you're stuck in an interview, say, and nobody is left attending the stand and running new players through the game, you want to give them some way to work things out for themselves. We had a few people join our mailing list while we were both indisposed, so it was worth the half an hour of effort. All it takes is whipping up the design, printing an A4 sheet and chucking it in a desk stand (I think it was $20 for two from Officeworks for us).

Backboard Art

Knowing that a lot of teams would just do their company logos on their backing boards and not use most of the space, I decided it was paramount that we do something different.

I gave Matt the following brief:

  • Make it dynamic. I want movement and chaos.
  • Make it colourful.
  • Show all four bots, working together.

He was pressed for time and basically only had one or two days to work on it, but he came up with this.

 

 

I think it's pretty damn sweet. 

The rationale behind the brief, once again, came back to trying to communicate the most about the game in the shortest time. "It's an action game, it's over the top, it's multiplayer." That's what I wanted it to say.

One thing I should add though, we didn't think through putting "Starslinger Kings" at the bottom of the image at all -- our monitors and junk went right in front of it so no-one could read it. Polar opposite of nailing it!

Be different

So everything outlined here is what we did. It was pretty standard fare, all in all. A stand near ours managed to do wooden laser cut badges that were a huge hit (but had no studio name to follow up on, missed opportunity) and I heard once about someone attaching helium balloons on really long strings to their stand -- so people would see these balloons from far away, walk over and be all "so this is what those were for!"

There's definitely a lot to be said for thinking outside the box, and next year I plan to experiment a little. If you have some cool ideas or questions, pop them in the comments box below!

-Adam Carr @2HitAdam

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