Tips from Metatopia 2015

As I decompress from the wonderful time I had at Double Exposure’s Metatopia, I thought I would share the top 3 insights I learned from my experience. Admittedly, I don’t have a time-turner; I couldn’t be everywhere and meet everyone (to my sadness). Like most cons this one was overflowing with panels, events, LARPS, tabletops, and RPGs. Yet, Metatopia is unique in its focus on designer connectivity, structured playtesting, and industry engagement. So, though my lack of time travelling devices hindered me, nevertheless, these three points stood out as unique insights I’d not heard before.

New York is not San Jose - duh!
New York is not San Jose – duh!

Build a LinkedIn profile. No, it’s not just for high-tech freelancers or business-suited, 9-5’ers. It’s a place where professionals connect. You are, after all, a professional, right? No, not everything has to be perfect, but be sure to have a nice photo, fill in your background, and link to your work (website, twitter, presentations, projects, etc.). To be honest, mine needs some dusting off; it’s been on my To-Do list for quite a while. However, after listening to the panel at Metatopia about engaging with the industry, hosted by The Geek Initiative, I’ve reassessed it’s importance. For tips and information on maximizing LinkedIn, the panel pointed me to Viveka von Rosen’s site, LinkedIntoBusiness. If you are serious about participating in the industry, even our smaller tabletop community, this is where you connect.

Write Learn-To-Play direction. I’ve read and heard about the benefit of forcing yourself to write directions down. In fact, I’ve got directions for my game typed-up and under reasonably constant revision. Similarly, I know of the need to practice teaching your game to playtesters. Yet, it wasn’t until Metatopia’s panels on directions, hosted by editor Joshua Yearsley, that I finally realized how the two were inextricably linked. Duh?! I know, count me as naive. I’ve got pitches and I have directions. Both of late have seemed to be falling short. Now, I know why. My directions are for a standard game, while my pitches try to cram the entirety of it into a 10-min intro. So, how about instead of updating the old-fashioned rulebook, create short Learn-To-Play directions, along with a comprehensive Reference Guide. That’s the standard in successful games today.

Playtest in different parts of the country (and world). You will be amazed how people approach your game differently based on the cultural differences between regions. I have no formal training in marketing, so forgive my inelegance in detailing this point. Furthermore, the longer I’ve been playtesting the more I realize how desperately I need to better understand how to define demographics. In fact, I plan to write an article on that subject next month. Yet, one thing became crystal clear to me this past weekend at Metatopia. The reactions and suggestions I have received from 35 playtests in California and 6 from GenCon, were radically different from those I received from the 5 playtests in New Jersey. I’m sure the reverse would be true as well. It was a very valuable experience: gamers approach games differently solely based on their geographic home. So, find a way to travel. Take notes. And, try not to fall out of your chair, literally.

As I said before, the list is not comprehensive. Nevertheless, those 3 take-aways from Metatopia 2015 really stand out in my mind. As some of the panels are posted online, I hope to catch more. Please add to my list and share what you learned. In the meantime, get your LinkedIn profile up(dated), write those directions, and make plans to attend this ‘Festival of Game Design’ in 2016.

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