It's nearly that time of year again: Melbourne International Games Week. The week when the video game industry comes to the world's most livable city - and blows our minds.
It's seven days (and a bit) of sounds so loud your ears will ring for weeks. Seven days (and a bit) of events so rife with networking opportunities your jowls will ache from smiling. Seven days (you get the picture) of information overload to both haunt your dreams and feed your insomnia. It's highly probable a good many days will be shaved off the end of your life.
But, when the week finally draws to a close, you'll shed a tear and want to do it all over again. It's an amazing week with countless opportunites to inspire, solidify and propel projects and artists alike into new and exciting realms.
To make the most of it, we heard from our friends in the industry on their tips to smash MIGW. Whether you're there for the twentieth time or the first time, in it to score a job or just to party, we're here to get you through.
PAX Aus - The Three day extravaganza and main event for MIGW
1. Make the week your own
When it comes to all-knowing veterans of the local industry, you'll struggle to find one more willing to help or in the know than the Game Developers Assosication of Australia's CEO Tony Reed.
"Make each conference your own," Tony said, speaking to a panel audience at October's Melbourne IGDA meetup. "Have a plan and set outcomes for the week. If you don't do that, you're wasting your time and money."
Liam Esler, Co-Director of the GX Australia convention, agreed. "Think of the money you spend on tickets as an investment. You should be getting something out of that."
That means knowing what you want to get out of the events you attend - even setting simple goals for each one. A goal could be as small as trying out a particular game or asking a question at a panel.
"Even if you're a super introvert, make sure you talk to the people you want to," said Tony. "Or come talk to GDAA and we'll help introduce you!"
If reaching out to a group like GDAA to ask for help makes your blood run cold remember: these organisations exist to help grow the games community, and connecting people is a big part of that! Just take note that Games Week is incredibly busy for them too, so make sure you give them time to respond.
GCAP: Loading - MIGW's Student and graduate specific event
2. DIVIDE AND CONQUER
With so much going on in the week, you'll need to be strategic about what you want out of it, and acknowledge you can't do everything.
"Divide and conquer," said Lisy Kane of Girl Geek Academy and League of Geeks. And if you're looking to network rather than just party, keep that firmly in mind. "Sometimes you have to sacrifice personal gain for the sake of good networking opportunities."
If you're going as a group, this means recognising the strength of your team and even splitting up to cover all bases. Who knows your product inside and out? Send them to the showcase event. Who's got the deepest arsenal of jokes? Looks like they're off to the rooftop party. You can't be everywhere at once so make the right decisions.
Here's a schedule of all of the events you can attend during the week:
- Sat 29th - #SheMakes_Games Workshop and Where in Melbourne is Carmen San Diego
- Sun 30th - GCAP: Loading and Games: A Family Affair
- Mon 31st - Unite Melbourne 2016
- Tue 1st - Games Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) Day 1
- Wed 2nd - GCAP Day 2
- Thur 3rd - Game Changer: ACMI VR Festival
- Fri 4th - PAX Australia Day 1
- Sat 5th - PAX Australia Day 2
- Sun 6th - PAX Australia Day 3
- Mon 7th - Education in Games Summit
SheMakes_Games: Game Dev Summit for Women
3. tweet, snap, gram & book
Never underestimate the power of a well-manicured social media presence. The video game industry is at its most active during MIGW so make sure you're making your presence felt on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
"You have to be on Twitter," recommended Lisy Kane. "Game Dev Twitter is huge."
But even if Twitter isn't your thing, her advice boils down to knowing where the company or person you're hoping to meet is most active, and making sure you connect to them there. And if you're intending to see them at an event, send them a message first.
"Just mildly stalk them," joked Liam Esler. Do your research, know which events they'll be at, then reach out in advance on social media to tell them you'd love to catch up over coffee or just say hi. "The worst they can do is not see your message."
Who knows, maybe a personal message on Facebook and the promise of a free coffee could open the door to new friendships or even business opportunities.
Here's some handy tags to make sure that, whether you're posting selfies with your video game hero or making a quippy comment on a demo you've just played, the right people know all about it:
#PAXaus, #MIGW, #GCAPConf, #SheMakes_Games, @GamesWeekMelbs and #TEAMCGS
4. pace yourself
"MIGW can be a very intense week," Liam Esler reminded us. "Make sure you take time to breath and ask for help whenever you need it."
Get some air. Take a seat. Eat plenty of GOOD food. And feel free to swap out that gin and tonic with a long, cool glass or water. It's going to be a long, fun week and there's no need to ruin it defacing one of the many beautiful alleyways of Melbourne and falling in a heap by the time Thursday rolls around.
CG Spectrum Takes on PAX AUS 2015
5. DON'T BE rude
Regardless of which event you attend, you'll be sharing spaces with hundreds or thousands of other people - including many who have worked on games you've played and have opinions on. So what do you do when you run into one of your industry heroes?
For one, don't go overboard on the gushing. "It can be very dehumanising to be fangirl or fanguy-ed over," said Liam Esler. While it's okay to tell them you love their work, you should also "engage them as a human being."
"They want to have common ground," agrees Lisy Kane. "Tell them what you're working on, or mention a talk that they gave that you liked."
But it's okay to be freaked out as well. Lisy shared a time when she saw someone she admired, walked straight past them, then did an about face to come back round. "Just don't let them see you doing that," she joked. "Sometimes it takes a lot to build your confidence." Better to approach someone with a plan of what to say, than show up unprepared and awkward.
And as for games you were less than thrilled with, IGDA Melbourne Director Giselle Rossman had some different advice for the convention floor - keep your negative opinions to yourself. "Never bag a game," she told the panel audience. "You never know who's listening!"
6. don't be smelly either
Darcy Smith from local video game studio League of Geeks had some extremely handy tips to share with us: Always have apples at the booth - great tip. Drink lots of water - classic. But it was this one about how he keeps fresh between events that we thought everyone should adopt as part of their convention routine.
"I call them 'Convention Showers'. Basically you get a thing of baby wipes and wipe your entire body down in the bathroom." Simple, yet effective. And kind of gross.
When we asked him whether one baby wipe is sufficient for a full "convention shower", we could tell we'd offended his delicate sensibilities.
"One? Jeez, I've got skill but skill can only get you so far," he said. "I've managed to get it down to three."
That's our run down of how to survive and thrive during the wild west that is Melbourne International Games Week!
Make sure you visit the CG Spectrum at booth 2050 on the showroom floor at PAXAus.