Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Fear of being ignored at PAX.

Thats probably the big thing for indie developers right now. Its about a week until Political Animals appears at PAX West, in the minibooth at the megabooth. Thats already 2 levels removed from being ‘at pax west’, and its not like there will be a shortage of stuff to grab peoples attention at PAX in general, and the wider world of gaming anyway.

Sure, we can email people who we know are going there to write about games and say ‘hey we have this cool game…’, but those people get a LOT of emails. If we lived in the USA, or better still, west coast USA near Seattle, we would have met a lot of the press people before/several times and our email *may* go to the top of the lsit…but probably not.

Which leaves 3 strategies:

  1. Dumb Luck. This is the strategy most indies go with. You never know which game will catch peoples eye. I see a LOT of indie side scrolling puzzle games…. I see a lot of amazing unity tech demos with a game wrapped vaguely around them. Hopefully as the ONLY political game at the show (we hope), and certainly the only one featuring ryans amazingly cute artwork… we should stand out, meaning we get coverage purely by being different. This could work. In this case, I’m saying the ‘smart move’ was to pick the right game early on, and give the team time to polish it and make it good
  2. Do something silly, crowd pleasing and hard to ignore. We could dress the team up as animals, or maybe hold a mock rally outside PAX, or commission a giant Donald Trump ice sculpture for our booth, or something like that. I think this sort of thing maybe *can* work, but there is a huge randomness factor involved, and it can seem kinda desperate. Also its drawing attention to you and your stunt, not the actual game.
  3. Splash the cash. The PAX booth thing is an experiment for me, I’ve never even been, so didn’t want to do a full non-megabooth setup without knowing how it would go, so the option to have a bigger or louder booth didn’t apply here. What I *could* do is to promote the game in the run up to the show, and hope that gives people name and logo-recognition as they walk by, encouraging them subconsciously to try the game. I may well go with this.


Frankly, the whole thing is kinda scary. I am pretty lucky, because I only have 2 fears here, and compared to other peoples fears, they are pretty mild.

The first fear is that the PAX appearance is a waste, the game flops, and people think I’m a crap publisher as a result.

The second fear is that as a result of the first, I lose money when the game is released, and feel like an idiot/failure.

The reason I say I’m lucky, is that fortunately, neither of these outcomes really has any real material effect on me, its all perception. I didn’t get into any debt for Political Animals, or Shadowhand, or my next game, so I’m not going to be cancelling a holiday, selling a car or downsizing my house if any/all of them fail. There are a LOT of indies with more at risk and more to lose than me who will bee pinningĀ  all their hopes on some internet celebrity loving their game at PAX.

But it still scares me. I like to win. I like to do well. I hate to lose, and I don’t like looking like a failure to other people. I’ll still be biting my nails checking twitter and hoping people try, and talk about Political Animals.