Hello to everyone from Boston FiG!
I had an excellent Saturday up at the Boston Festival of Indie Games. I’d like to thank the organizers for putting together a great event, all the people who stopped by the table to talk to me or learn about New Bedford, and especially all the players!
I got into town about midnight Friday, and basically collapsed on the bed after a 6 hour drive. (There’s just no avoiding Friday traffic). Saturday morning, I started bright and early and got to MIT about 9. After driving around the block a few times trying to find any road that went the right direction, I was able to start setting up. My last minute run to the hardware store for some rope and canvas drop cloths resulted in a great backdrop. After I had set up the decoration, I decided it was time to grab a badge. It turns out, everyone else decided to get in line at the same time, and it took me about half an hour to get my badge.
After re-hanging the fallen “sails”, I finished setting up just in time for the doors to open to the public. I didn’t have to wait long for a player, and started off with a 2-player game. There was a short lull, but after I launched into a second game, there was a steady stream of people. for the rest of the day. I got several games in with 3 and 4 players, many of which I was able to stand back and watch, instead of play. There were several groups of players that walked by and stopped to let me know they were from New Bedford. I wish I had had more room and time to have people sit down and play the game. In retrospect, I could have offered a copy to play in the open gaming area, but I think players are looking for a more personal experience.
I met a lot of great people playing New Bedford: families and gamers, young and experienced, who all gave me some very helpful feedback. I got a total of 6 and a half games in. I really enjoyed watching people try a lot of different strategies. My very last game of the day was a quick 2-player as the doors were closing. It was one of the fastest and tightest games I have played, resulting in identical numbers of whales and buildings, with just a difference of 2 bonus points versus 2 points from money, so it ended in the second tie-breaker, which made me reconsider how I wanted to handle the tie-breaker. And just by getting back into the swing of teaching the game, I found some ways to improve it. I also met several people throughout the day who were interested in talking to me about New Bedford as we approach the Kickstarter, so I am looking forward to that opportunity.
At the end of the day, I didn’t win any awards. I didn’t expect to, because while everyone who played seemed to enthusiastically enjoy it, it’s not shiny and sexy enough to draw a huge crowd. But it was an excellent experience for me, and my largest convention yet. So here are some things I learned form the Boston FiG:
- Have cards with the name of your game on them. It’s pretty obvious now, but a lot of people ended up having to write down the name of the game on the back of a regular card.
- If you wear a tshirt with the logo for a popular indie publisher, people will think you are him. Or at least work for him.
- Plan a bathroom break before you need it.
- Bring an umbrella if it calls for rain in the evening, especially if it’s sunny and beautiful in the morning.
- Look for and talk to game design groups in the region. The Game Makers Guild is local to boston had a big presence at the festival, so it would have been great to be in contact with them.
- I still have a way to go to be more engaging with players. I’m getting better, but I need to be more of a salesman for my game at conventions
- Have a rulebook, so people can pause to look through them, if you’re playing a game. Have a rules summary, too, so they can get a quick overview.
- Having a local connection is a great way to draw people in. Some games are easier than others, but look for those opportunities.Have a short version of your game. Sometimes all you need to do is give people the flavor.
- Players will sit where it is most convenient, so it helps if you can re-arrange. If not, having the right size table can help.
On Sunday, I took the opportunity to drive down to the town of New Bedford. This was a great experience. I spent several hours walking through the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Though I am the resident whaling expert of everyone I know, I still learned a lot. I got some excellent pictures for design inspiration and art reference that I hope will come in handy. The one thing that stuck out for me at the museum is the raw violence involved in whaling. I know it was a dangerous and savage industry, but because the game focuses on the commercial aspect and the town, I don’t think about the violence. The museum really brought it front and center, through the paintings of whaling scenes and the tools of the trade. It is simultaneously fascinating and terrible.
After the museum, I spent a little time walking around the town, and stopping in the national park office. I got pictures of many of the actual town buildings that inspired parts of the game. So many bricks. Clearly a good design decision. My best single moment was stopping in at the Seamen’s Bethel, the church made famous in Moby Dick. Just as I got there, it had emptied out, and I had it all to myself for a few minutes. I found Herman Melville’s designated pew with a ray of sunlight shining down through the window onto it, and had the sensation that it was his spirit filling the seat.
I left the town early in the afternoon to make the drive home. but I am glad I finally had the opportunity to spend some time there. I’m looking forward to working with some new ideas I got from the weekend. Next week, GrandCon!