BostonFIG is a one day show that is open to the public and press at MIT in Boston. This was my first trip to BostonFIG and I really had no idea what to expect, but following my own rules I did my best to prepare for the event. I knew this wasn't really a show to do the hardcore playtesting like I did in the Double Exposure Playtest Hall at GenCon. This show is more about general exposure; with the public, press, and other game designers wrapped around the indie scene.
Because of this I made a few decisions on how to approach this.
- Spend a bit of money attracting people to my booth (big banner)
- Rework my game for better experiences
- Bring my freshly turned 10 year old son along
The retractable banner cost some money, and I am very happy I did it. The artwork is really beautiful, thanks to John Ariosa, which draws people in. If anything I wish I would have had more to hang around the booth. I will probably be adding more assets like this as I go for each show.
I had sooooo much feedback from it was hard to decide what to tackle. I easily had 100 or so bulleted items. A lot of the comments involved the story, which were also the most time consuming tasks. What I decided to do was tackle the easy things first, the low hanging fruit. That way I could get the ball rolling then steam through as much as I could.
Starting with some rule changes led me to then update all the cards. After those were done, I was able to rework the rulebook. The outcome was a much better set of rules that were way simpler and easy to comprehend.
I didn't know how long all that was going to take me, truthfully I thought it was going to be all I could get done, but it wasn't. I was able to take a pass at the story. A high level one that didn't involve rewriting the book, but enough to really make the experience good for a single play.
That is what I got done. I still basically need a rewrite on the adventure I have, but what I got done was perfect for this show.
Sharing with my Son
I brought my son along for several reasons. First I needed someone to help me. This was lowest on my priority as I tend to do too much on my own. What I didn't expect was my son really stepping up his maturity when given the responsibility. I would have people playing, and have a pretty constant stream of questions from others interested in knowing more. My son picked up the slack and helped the players along. As a father I was very proud.
Which leads to my second reason and really the biggest reason. I wanted to start sharing this with my boys. My younger son isn't ready, but my older one has shown me that he is. I told him it was going to be a 16 hour day and he said he was ready for that, which he was.
The last reason was I wanted to show off the game being played by someone in one of the target markets. There were times he was the only kid at the table, and others where he was showing other kids how to tell stories. It was really awesome. He was one of the original inspirations for this games creation. He is very analytical and didn't think he could come up with stories on his own, now he is helping others. Seriously proud baba moment.
Flow of the Show
Okay... sappy stuff aside, you are probably wondering how the show actually ran.
Getting Into the Showcase
This is a judged show, so you have to submit your indie game, which it could not have been in a previous year. I think there are booths for purchase that are outside the "showcase" games. I will be looking into those booths next year as I should be in or post Kickstarter at that point.
The first round was a video of the designer talking about their game and showing it off a bit. If you made it past the first round, the second was a blind playtest by the curators. This was the first time my game was blind playtested, and truthfully the rules weren't ready yet. Despite that somehow they figured it out and were happy with the game. At this point you are in the showcase. There is a final round that is judging of the award winners.
There were 84 completed entries for the first for the first round, 55 made it to the second, where 48 were selected for the showcase. Of these 5 got awards (one game got two of the awards).
There were lots of emails flying around from all the designers that got in. Some about meeting up for pre and post show events, and others for things to do at the show. I read them all, even though I wasn't going to be able to do the events with my son.
The one thing that did stick out for me was Figgy Kids Scavenger Hunt. Since I had a game that could be targeted at kids, I signed up. It is a super great idea that gives families something to focus on at the show. It also drove some traffic to my booth. I needed to have a copy of my game to give away as a prize, and handout scavenger hunt forms to any families that stopped by. Jason from Yaya Play Games, the organizer of this, did a great job!
He said that they had 15 completed entries, and there were 8 games in the scavenger hunt, so 8 out of the 15 won a game that they play-tested at the show.
They send you a nice document describing what the booths are going to be like and logistics of setup. This one day show allows exhibitors to setup the night before or the morning of. I live about an hour and a half away, so didn't want to drive down twice. Plus my setup was going to be fairly easy, especially with my son helping.
We got there around 8am (could have gotten there at 7am), and got setup in about 20 minutes. They give you a 6' round table with chairs and some 8' curtain dividers between the booths. We brought; a table cloth, a big and small banner, business cards, sell sheets, 4 copies of the game (one to give away for the scavenger hunt).
During the Show
Then we waited till 9am when the press was going to get early entry. I had one press appointment at 9:30. The time between 8:30 to 9:30 allowed me to walk around and meet some other designers and their games. I got some great compliments, and gave out some as well. It works well to have business cards for this so you can trade contact information.
Around 11:30 is when things really started picking up. At that point it was basically; sit down a group or two explain the rules, then let my son take over. I would then be pitching and answering questions of anyone that stopped by. I tried to get people to vote for my game as their favorite of the show, but this felt very odd for me, so I just let it happen naturally.
This was non-stop until 5:00pm when they closed the show floor. Bring water, food, and cough drops. Even with this I barely got to eat, and my throat was sore.
Keynote & Awards
After the show floor closed, we packed up and took off upstairs to checkout some of the digital games before the keynote. The keynote was okay, but a bit long for my son to sit through... okay for me too. Then they had a quartet play some amazing sting music. It was really great!
They hold off until the end for the awards, they had four table top categories: Innovation, Artwork, Best of Show, User Choice. Robit Riddle won runner-up for Best Artwork. YAY! I wish I could have seen more of the games, to see the ones that won.
Things I Would do Differently
I would request no table, and bring my own, or try to get two 6' tables. The round table restricts what I could get done in the booth. I would have liked to have two games going at once, and that wasn't possible.
On that note, I would bring an additional helper. My son was great, but if I had two games going I would need another person helping.
I would also bring a small round high table to sit out front and hold the small banner and business collateral. As it was i had to stuff it at the back of the round table to make room for people playing. This made it harder for people to grab info while there were players.
I would also bring more banners, maybe something that stuck up above the curtains (if that is allowed). I was at the end of the hall and didn't get as much foot traffic as I would have liked.
Things I Hope Work Differently
Overall the show was fantastic, but there could be some improvements to make it even better. The organizers sent out a feedback form, which is an awesome sign! Hopefully some of these things will get addressed.
The press showing for the tabletop side was rather weak. There were some great ones, but really not that many, especially when compared to Digital. This will probably always be the case, but the ratio was pretty disproportionate.
The tabletop hall closed down an hour earlier because of the keynote and awards ceremony were located there. We still had a lot of traffic at that time, and was hard to send people away. It could be a longer day, or even two days.
This was an amazing show and very well run. With only a couple of minor complaints, I would easily do it again, and suggest it to others.