What follows is a report of our trip in 2017 to the annual Game Designer Convention (also known as the ‘Spieleautorentreffen’) in Göttingen, Germany. We will share our experiences and offer some tips if you want to go there.
As a tabletop game designer going to the Spielautorentreffen is great because you can meet a lot of publishers (40+) as well as many other designers (around 200!) . For many publishers this is the best convention to meet new talented designers. What started as a local initiative has grown to a big event. Starting with 2017 it will be organised by the SAZ (game designers’ union).
We arrived early at the convention site so as to have some choice in where to set up. Except for some locations that are reserved in advance, getting a table is a free-for-all. Because we were with 3 designers we wanted to make sure we could sit together. The morning started off slow, with not many publishers coming by, probably because they had scheduled meetings first. In the afternoon we did get quite some visits , with the last one leaving our table after 18.00.
Going as a group turned out to be a really good idea. It meant we never left all our tables unmanned, and one of us could just walk around occasionally. It also was very pleasant to have friendly company, both at the convention and on the road (of course, your mileage may vary, depending who you bring along). Before and during the convention we gave each other feedback on sellsheets, table setup and game pitches.
Because we each (as it turns out) made good enough impressions that if one of us had a scout at their table and said ‘these other two also take testing etc. seriously maybe check their stuff out’ it would lead to all three of us getting eyes on our games. With a game that plays best with more than 2 players, we could sit in as extra players on each others’ demos. As you can see above, a black cloth on the table and stands for your sellsheets really makes you look professional (Aerjen left, Daan right).
From the perspective of a newcomer it was extremely satisfying to notice that our approach (thorough testing, strong ties between theme and mechanics) is appreciated. Compliments from professionals have a different impact than those from friends or testers. Turns out we’re not crazy, and actually do know what’s good!
Prior to the convention we emailed some publishers that we would be present. We selected those that we expected might be interested in one of our games. We chose to present ourselves together, and showcase not only our games but also how we take game design seriously (do a lot of playtesting, organising events). This seemed to work out great, as it gave a good first impression. We did get the feedback that emailing a week beforehand is way too late to set up meetings.
A working knowledge of German is not necessary for talking to publishers, they all speak English well enough. The introductory speeches are in German, but it is not essential to understand them. For the most part, the publishers and scouts are all boardgaming nerds as well. They have to be or they would suck at their job. This makes talking to them not only fun but often very useful as well, because they give great feedback and usually understand and appreciate what you’re trying to do. This makes it so that once you get going most nerves evaporate and what remains is a lot of fun and interesting conversations about a subject you care about, ie. your game(s).
The picture above shows a board on which you can indicate at which table you are seated. You are free to also put up your sellsheet on it. This does attract potential interested publishers, so we recommend doing this.
The convention officially lasts 2 days, but you can indicate whether you go on Saturday only or Sunday as well. We chose to be there on Saturday only, as this is the day that the most publishers are present. Some are still around on Sunday as well, but fewer. So you have to consider whether staying an extra day is worth it to you.
Recap and some additional tips:
- Think about your basic needs, bring enough to eat and drink, cough drops, have enough sleep, clean clothes, deodorant, et cetera
- Prepare how to pitch and demo your game
- Email publishers selectively and well in advance
- Bring sellsheets (publishers love it, be aware they may pre-judge your game)
- A cloth to dress up the table makes you look 10x more professional 🙂
- Go as a group with fellow designers who you can vouch for
- Be open for feedback you get, write it down
- Be aware publishers are short on time and might be quite direct in their criticism
- The parking meter in front of the building requires coin money…
- Book a hotel Friday night
- Enjoy it where you can, have fun!
All in all, we had a good time and made a lot of new connections. If you are considering going there next year, in 2018 the convention will be on: June 2nd and 3rd.
Daan Reid, Aerjen Tamminga, Arjan van Houwelingen
PS. For a different viewpoint you can read this article written by a scout.