Talking Shop in Enfield

After the success of the initial "BG Dev Con" last August, hosts Andy and Bez arranged another for the Saturday of the Easter weekend.  The choice of date meant that fewer people were able to attend, but there were still twenty-something of us there and many great conversations were had.

This was an event focusing on all aspects of game design, with anyone with any interest in the field welcomed, and the agenda pretty much led by the interests of the attendees.  On arrival, there was a generous allocation of time for coffee, snacks, chat, and a "getting to know you" puzzle before the programme started for real.
About 2/3 of the attendees at the end of the day (several had left and a couple
were out of the room at this point).  Thanks to Bez for the pic.
As last time, the real business of the day kicked off with a series of microtalks, this time with everyone in attendance taking the floor for two or three minutes to introduce themselves.  Some basically just did the introduction, while others gave a piece of advice or a quick outline of some topic of interest to them as a conversation starter.  No time was allocated for questions, so this zipped along at quite a speed until we hit lunch, when all those introductions suddenly exploded into conversations around the place.

The next session kicked off with a general discussion about self-publishing, or more generally being a small scale publisher.  There was some great advice about what to do and, just as importantly, what not to do, and the real takeaway for me was the range of approaches and the understanding that while some people are great at publishing games, others are just not cut out for it and don't enjoy it.  It's fine either way, but the key is to recognise your own strengths.

We then moved on into a series of short-ish talks (mostly around 10 minutes), including such diverse topics as using mobile apps within boardgames, history and development of wargames, and an eye-opening talk by Hamish MacPherson about using choreographic techniques and notations (yes, dance choreography) to make activities that are a form of game, though of a different style to those discussed by the rest of us.  I gave a talk here about the 24 hour game design contests I occasionally take part in, and once again seem to have brought my slides on media that wasn't recognised by the "house" computer, so I mostly had to bumble through without.  Need to plan better in future.

During the next break we had one of the BG Dev Con signature happenings, the "redistribution of objects", which is a bit like a raffle where everyone is guaranteed to win a few times.  The idea is that attendees are encouraged to bring three things that are either games or game-related, so books, game components, etc, are all OK.  These are all piled up on a table and everyone takes it in turn to pick one of the objects until they are all gone -- or nearly gone, at least!  I ended up with a couple of small games and a bag of pleasingly chunky wooden bird shapes which I now feel I need to use to create a game.

The final session of the day had a talk from Mike Nudd about the development of the card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, which I used to play a fair bit in the mid-to-late 90's.  Despite the game having been out of print for some time, it seems there is a thriving community that has been producing print and play expansions for years, which is very cool.

We then moved on to a discussion on relationships with publishers, led by Adam Porter and a load of anonymised anecdotes about his experiences which were funny, inspiring and terrifying in equal measures, but made it clear that most game publishers are just normal people trying to do a job and sometimes you have a good experience with them, and sometimes less so.  Adam's experiences were expanded on by several other people who had had published games, and for a newbie like me this was a great way to demystify the whole process of pitching games and negotiating contracts.

There was meant to be a slot at the end about collaborating with other designers, and this happened but was very much truncated due to the previous activity prompting so much discussion.  There was time for a few helpful tips though, and a couple of requests for design input on projects.  One interesting suggestion, from session leader Matt Dunstan, was that there could be some sort of a collaboration marketplace set up for Playtest UK members to help facilitate matching people up with potential design partners.  This is just an idea at the moment and may not work out, but it's certainly an interesting one.

So, that was my day.  I stayed around for a while after the close of proceedings and a group of us ended up having a couple of games of The Resistance, which was a lot of fun and a welcome little release.  Then it was the drive home.

Thanks to Bez and Andy for organising another great event, and to everyone else whose contributions made the day so enjoyable.  There is another of these meets planned for August.  I don't have the date yet, but if I can make it, I will.

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