The First Day
Oh wow! Here we go again! The first morning, I started very very early. That’s thanks to the kids. They have been getting up earlier and earlier these days. Considering how nervous and excited I was, once they woke me up, there was no chance of going back to sleep.
I did some last minute printing and packing, ticked the last few things off my “To Do” list, and said goodbye to my fiancé and kids. Then off to the train station. On the train, I messaged my volunteers to say I would be on time. I checked the download stats on Steam, iOS and Android. I then set up a few final things on link tree. When there was nothing else I could think of to do, I closed my eyes and tried to relax a little. It was going to be a massive day!
When I got there, Matty was already there. We got into the line to get an extra exhibitor pass, so that there was more than just the two of us at the booth all day. This is something I learned from last time. With three of us there, I could relax a bit and not worry about being at the booth the whole time.
It was over an hour before the doors would open, and there was already a huge line up! Heaps of people in costumes! They were excited to be there after a two year break. We went inside. All the exhibitors were setting up. I had an email earlier in the week saying there was a media event before PAX opened for the “Made In Melbourne” crowd. I assumed it was all the Melbourne developers getting together for a photo, but it turned out to be a press conference. The Victorian government was putting 5 million dollars into the local gaming industry. Yay!
Big Day Ahead!
We got back to our booth. Jamie had arrived. I briefed him on what to say and what to expect, and then we waited for the countdown. It began: 10, 9, 8. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! The doors opened, and once again the crowds surged through!
Almost immediately we had people walking up to our booth and asking to play our game! Great! Many people would go to walk past, stop, read the signage, look at our screens and laugh. That was an opportunity to ask them to play.
Unlike last time, we had a few more things which made exhibiting much easier. One thing was our competition. By signing up they could win a Mug or a Deck of cards. It was a good way to get emails for our mailing list. We also had the business cards. The great thing about them is that you could just hand that to someone, and if they are interested, all the details are there for them to look up later.
Daimo had also suggested Link Tree and QR Codes. These were such a good idea! People could just take a photo, or scan the QR code and they had all the info for the game at their fingertips. The final thing which made it easy was having a store presence. Just telling people to search for BULLCRAP on any of the stores meant that they could download it there and then, and play it at a later date.
That first day I was pretty fucking tired. I’d been sleeping poorly all week, and I could feel the bags under my eyes. Thankfully Matt and Jamie were able to bring a lot of energy to the booth. Jamie walked up to people with his tablet and asked if they wanted to play. Matt would wait until someone approached and would ask: “Would you like to play Bullcrap?”. Both were great at explaining the game to people who weren’t familiar with it.
Jamie and I on Day 1. Matt working his charm in the Background
I tell you what, exhibiting is such hard work. You’re standing and talking all day. You’re saying the same thing over and over. You’re summoning up the strength to talk to strangers all day. I had met a few first time exhibitors earlier in the day. They were struggling. It’s a big day. Some were counting down the hours until they could go home. Others were in their element and happy to talk to people all day.
Even though I was exhausted, it was such an awesome feeling being here! Seeing something I worked hard at on display was amazing. Watching people as they played and laughed along with the game made me smile too. That really helped me get through what could have been a tough first day.
I took some time out to explore. There were so many awesome indie games there. My fellow exhibitors were friendly and I found there was so much in common with our respective journeys. Especially the solo developers. I snuck into one of the discussions about writing game reviews. It was fascinating to hear about this process and see some of the authors whose articles I had read in person.
When I got back, I chatted with an interesting contact who wanted our game to be a part of a group of pub games. The idea is that when you’re at the pub, you download their app and play games against your mates. It sounded like an awesome fit. I guess we’ll see how that prospect goes.
My niece and her family stopped by to visit us. Her son was so excited about me making a game that he wanted to go to PAX and learn how to make games himself! He downloaded the game and played it all weekend! My cousin Lizzie also dropped by for a chat. She was at PAX for the whole three days, so we’d be seeing much more of her.
Towards the end of the day I was interviewed in a podcast about AI. I didn’t get the details of the guys doing the interview, but I hope I sounded alright. I had a bit of a scatterbrain by that stage.
That day went quickly. At 4pm we drew our first competition, and gave away some mugs and cards. Not long after that it was time to pack up. Jamie and I decided to head over to the Munich Brauhaus for some beer and dinner. We talked about the first day over a couple of giant beers.
At 8pm, I left the city, but didn’t get home til about 10:30 thanks to train replacements and other chaos on my train line. I was stuffed. I finally crawled into bed around 11 and passed out.
Day Number Two
Amazingly enough, the next morning I felt a bit refreshed. Now that all the work was done to get to PAX, and I knew exactly what to expect, I wasn’t stressing anymore. I caught the train again and relaxed a bit more.
My volunteers today were Daimo and Matt. Met them at the exhibition centre, and we set things up. This day was much better for me. I wasn’t as tired and had found my rhythm as far as talking about my game was concerned. I was able to have a bit more fun and enjoy the day.
Daimo and Matt and I before the start of Day 2!
Daimo had a different style when talking to people. He would sometimes open with “Want to watch an animal poo on some other animals?”. Both him and Matt were absolute troopers, and really got people excited about the game. I was able to sit back a bit and bask it all in. I was so happy to be here!
When I had a spare moment, I spent a bit more time exploring. The Indie section was still the most interesting part for me. Almost all of the games there had their own hook which made each game unique. Exploring the other areas, I could see myself spending way too much money on merch or cool looking gear that I really want, but don’t need. The tabletop section looked awesome too. I could have spent a lot of time there watching the games. Maybe another time.
While I was away from the booth, a games shop owner came by and said that they would love to sell our playing cards in their shop! Unfortunately contact details weren’t exchanged and they didn’t stop by again. It’s nice to know that there was some interest in the tabletop version of our game.
Tony Stark and Catwoman stopped by!
Towards the end of the day Daimo met up with a podcaster from @ThumbCrampsPod with whom he was a fan of. After asking him to play the game, Daimo introduced us and we chatted a bit about my crappy game. We ended up getting mentioned in their podcast, which was awesome!
At the end of the day, we packed things up and grabbed some burgers for dinner. It was great to unpack a bit over a meal and hang with Lizzie and the guys. I video chatted with my baby girls, who were having bath time. Even though I saw them in the morning, I still missed them!
Instead of braving the public transport system again, I asked Daimo if I could crash with him. He was staying in a hotel nearby. We had an early night. I looked up the day’s download numbers, while randomly watching Saturday Night Live. I think I crashed around 10.
The Final Day
We got up around 7am. 9 hours! I haven’t had that much sleep in months! We caught a taxi to the city and had breakfast before heading into the exhibition centre. For the last day, I had Daimo and Stevo as my volunteers. I was keen to see how Stevo would go as I knew he’d bring a different sort of energy to our booth.
When Stevo arrived, I quickly briefed him on what to say, and then watched him go. His style was more conversational. He’d open with “Hey, are you enjoying Pax?”, and follow up with “My name’s Steve, this is my cousin’s game Bullcrap”. It worked well. Sunday was a little quieter, but there was still a steady stream of people visiting us.
That looks like BULLCRAP! Stevo working his magic on Day 3
We had done some maths after the first day and realised I didn’t have enough business cards. We were giving out around 80 a day, and I only had around 150 of them. Even though I rationed them out, we ran out early in the afternoon. I did have some cards with my personal email address on them, so we started giving those out. When we ran out of those, we were forced to tell people to google it, or take a photo of the QR code.
I saw some streamers go around the Indie section with camera crews tagging along. They stopped by most of my immediate neighbours’ booths, but steered clear of us. That’s the thing about playing card games, either you like them, or you don’t. Ours was the only playing card game at PAX aside from the tabletop section.
Some people would stare at our screens, figure out it was a playing card game, and just dismiss it. That’s okay, they aren’t my target market. I wasn’t expecting hard core gamers to be into it, but I was impressed by the variety of people who were. Those playing the game had been a mixed bag of people from all ages, from kids right up to retirees. That was awesome.
All sorts of people were loving the game!
My cousin Carol was keen on checking out PAX. She lived nearby, so I let her use Daimo’s pass when he left early. For the last two hours we just hung out at the booth and chatted. There were very few people visiting the booth at that stage. Everyone was going home.
Right near the end of the final day, I had an interview with a guy named Dan. He goes by FoxNZ (@FoxDST), as a twitch partner. We talked about game development and what it was like to be a solo developer. It was a good chat, I hope I didn’t waffle on too much!
Me more than likely waffling on
A staff member from the exhibition centre approached the booth and said that if I wanted to keep the “BULLCRAP” artwork, another person would be coming around to take our details down and give us instructions on how to collect it. However, come closing time, nobody had done that. While packing things up, I asked my neighbouring exhibitors if they knew anything. They did not. I wanted to keep my artwork as I had been asked to exhibit at a Maker Faire in a few months time.
I figured I could ring someone up the next day and find out what to do. I wheeled my big suitcase out of the exhibition room. Walking down the corridor I spotted one of my fellow exhibitors carrying their artwork. I asked them how they got it, and they said they just unclipped it themselves. They didn’t seem to be letting anyone back in, so I snuck in a side door that wasn’t locked and raced back to my booth.
I couldn’t see how to unclip it, and was about to stand up on the table and do it myself, when I spotted someone official in the distance unclipping the artwork for another booth. I raced over and asked them to do mine. Yay! Phew! I got it! I was told that they were throwing out the artwork that night, so it was lucky I got it when I did.
Now I was in a tricky position. My cousins had left. I had a heavy suitcase and a heavy bag on my back, and now I also had two large flexible pieces of artwork under my arm. It was going to be a bloody hard train ride home. I was struggling even to leave the exhibition centre.
Thankfully my cousin Carol didn’t live too far away. I walked there struggling with my heavy load. Changing the position of things around, dropping the artwork and then finally finding a way to prop it up and wheel it on my suitcase. I swore loudly several times, especially when the suitcase got caught in some tram tracks. It was only about 1km, but it felt like 10.
When I got there, Carol invited me up for a beer and we talked shit for a while. She hung onto my artwork as it was going to be too hard to take it home that night. It fit perfectly in her apartment windows making it both a great blockout blind, and a great billboard if someone happened to look up from below.
I eventually shuffled back to the train, listened to some tunes and relaxed. Thankfully there were no train replacements, so I would get home at a decent hour.
There’s a kebab shop at our local train station. I hadn’t really eaten that much, so I decided to stop and grab a bite. The lady who served me saw my suitcase and said to me: “You look like you’ve had a big day!”. “I’ve had a big weekend”, I replied.
I told her about PAX and my game, and said that it was available to download now if you’re keen to play. She said it sounds like fun, and she downloaded it then and there. I got one last download in. Always be closing!
When I got home, I ate my kebab and fell in a heap. I told my fiance all about the weekend, and then in the back of my mind started planning what was next. Big things!
So that was PAX for another year! It was so amazing and exhausting and fun and definitely worth all the effort. A massive thank you to my volunteers: Matt, Jamie, Daimo and Stevo. Also a loving thanks to my family, for letting me spend my time preparing and going to PAX. There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the game, and a ton of downloads to go with it. Now I just have to finish it off!