It’s February and I’m fresh off a weekend at PAX South, or Penny Arcade Expo in San Antonio.
This week for my Thursday Editorial I’m going to talk about the power of conventions and events for your chosen career in a creative field.
PAX South is a game convention, catering to video, pc, handheld, tabletop, dice, card. In other words, it’s my kind of convention. As a person who has been self-publishing his own fiction, done the occasional contract work, has a tabletop gaming company that I’m hoping to make games with, and has taken steps in the direction of video game development in the past, going to a convention like PAX is a mixed bag.
- You can go to these places as an attendee. You’re a consumer taking in everything the convention has to offer. You’re there to play games, buy merch, hang out, and just in general have a good time.
I’m in that first category. I tried many games on the Expo Hall floor and missed a great many more because of the time it would have taken to stand in line. I acquired swag. I attended a concert and took in the sights, played old-school arcade games. Made a fool of myself at DDR. Killed some people in NBA Jam. I geeked out over the cosplayers I knew. I met friends at the convention.
- You can go to these places to attend the industry panels. Want to be a tabletop game developer? Want to make video games? Want to meet the creatives you admire? Conventions have a lot of panels run by pro and semi-pro individuals in the industries the convention is centered around. They offer anecdotes and wisdom of their time learning how to do what they love professionally. They answer questions for the confused out there among us. They offer sage guidance and corny jokes.
I’m in this category, too. I attended a few panels about breaking into the game industry for non-pros. In general the video game industry is one I’m very interested in joining, but because I haven’t been focusing on it I was a little behind on things. There were a lot of industry panels at this convention that gave a lot of good information and advice.
- You can go to these places to spread the word about your product. Either unofficially, just talking with people about it when the opportunity arises, or by purchasing booth space, or by just offering to run demos in the free play spaces provided.
If you are already creating whatever it is, this is where you go to spread awareness of your product. Get people to watch, read, listen, play, whatever. This is your audience, and if you can’t get the average convention-goer to care, you’re going to have a bad time in the real world.
I’m hoping to be in this category soon. I have product, but I don’t have the funds to lose at writing and author conventions all the time.
- You can go simply to network. It’s all in who you know. That’s a common saying, and it’s increasingly true in any industry that is healthy and varied. If you don’t know anyone in the industry, it’s hard to gain the kind of attention you need. It’s hard to find a job in the creative field, and it’s next to impossible without contacts.
I’m definitely in this category. I was fortunate to get to meet and hang out with some friends at PAX South, but I was just as fortunate to be able to meet some professional contacts, known and unknown prior to that day. I’m hoping to continue making those contacts and maintaining good industry relations as I ride this carousel of creativity. And someday, when I’m the known entity and people are coming to see me, I can be the voice of wisdom, I can be that useful social contact for the next set to come around.
You can go to conventions for a lot of reasons, but if you’re a creative and you’ve got the drive to put your work out there, you’ve also got to have the drive to put yourself out there. Some authors shit on the idea that you are your Brand, but it’s a social media and networking world and if you want to get anywhere, you’ve gotta have a unified presence and by considering yourself a package you’re selling to the consumer market, you can control the narrative that surrounds yourself. If that’s not branding I don’t know what is.
So get out there, make those connections, ride that convention carousel, and always remember to write the hell on.