It’s Thorsday, we had a meeting, there are minutes. Read more…
A number of people have asked about our support of PAX in light of their history of hateful & hurtful statements. We have been counseled to drop out of the show (as did the team at The Fullbright Company) and seen argument in favor of “change from within” from Max Temkin at Cards Against Humanity. It is a tough decision. In the end we decided to attend. The decision was primarily a financial one, we were launching a game and PAX represented the best opportunity to achieve liftoff.
Games by Play Date has a core mission of inclusivity, honesty and respect. We think that those principles make good games and invite good people to enjoy them. When we developed slash the game caused us major consternation. Were we being fair in our representation of gender identity? Was there imbalance in our tone and language when describing characters of various race, ability and sexual orientation? And, yes, of course there was. Two thirds of the development team are white males and the third is a white woman. We are not LGB or T (although there is a fair share of Q) [edit 4/17: Meghan self-identifies as Bisexual] and we all come from or now live-in safe middle class lives. I have had my share of bad lived experiences but I would argue that systemic bias is not a huge part of my life; no matter what color my fingernails are, what clothes I wear or how many barrettes are in my pink mohawk.
So attending PAX in the face of their history was an easy choice for me. I could just hide back in being a white guy and not have to confront this problem in any meaningful way. I should go. This will make me more successful so I should swallow a bit of cowardice and sell, sell, sell.
There is a rub, of course. Our game slash is specifically designed to tell stories OTHER than the mainstream. It is made to make “alternative” love a fun experience, not something funny to point at. While slash certainly gets laughs we are very happy that these are never the result of jokes that punch down (intentionally or not). Slash evokes a wild and raucous laughter while its players are exploring exhilarating possibilities. On top of this, of late, my heroes in the game design industry are increasingly “other” — they are increasingly divergent from the straight & white & bearded through-line of most tabletop games. They are amazing designers of sensitivity, insight and creativity. People who the very weekend earlier, at Maelstrom 2014, rightfully, spat on the ground at the idea of attending PAX; because these people were the specific targets of the hate.
And PAX was doing a Diversity Lounge?!? It seemed a calculated attempt to bandage PR wounds. It was frequently referred to as the “Diversity Quarantine” or “Diversity Gulag.” There was an odd attempt at fence mending when Mike Krahulik demoed his new game there. (check out Royel Edwards write up at Polygon). On sunday we were invited to demo slash there as well. I scoffed at the enforcer who delivered the message because I was in the Anti-Gulag camp. But her reports of the presentation were compelling and so I and our intern went. The Diversity Lounge (BTW Roll for Diversity is a really stupid name) was a good place —a room full of the feeling that had permeated PAX 4 years ago. The Diversity Lounge is what the gamer community would be in it’s best form. My intern/ward found immediate common ground with “young people” and I saw the tension and worry that had possessed her lift as we played slash in the lounge. She let it be known that “[she was] SO FUCKING GAY” and that so was the Diversity Lounge and it was so awesome to hear that.
In the end it was awkward, imperfect but enthusiastic and inviting. It wasn’t the solution to their problems, but it wasn’t the problem many feared it would be. I only hope that each time that room gets bigger and bigger and bigger until the whole convention fits inside.
This past weekend was PAX East 2014. The largest gaming convention takes over downtown Boston every Spring and it is a monster. For Games by Play Date this was an especially important convention. PAX East 2013 was where we conceived of our storytelling party game slash and this year it is where we launched it. The trip from dumb drunken notion to dumb drunken product has been alternately harrowing and exhilarating. But, that story has been told enough. I’ll just break down our PAX sales experience by bullet points. Special thanks go to our printer AdMagic for the space to ply our wares.
• we sold $4375 worth of product directly from the booth
• Glenn lost his messenger bag with the list of Kickstarter backers who picked up their copy, we estimate about 15 units were provided in this manner.
• sales were evenly split 50/50 between cash and credit
• 16 copies went to retailers. These were sold at an industry standard 50% markdown.
• Other retailers were interested in stocking slash on a Consignment basis. Games by Play Date was not interested in such an arrangement
• 5 copies were broken out for demo units. 2 copies were provided to the tabletop library, 2 more were provided to the PAX Australia TT library. 1 was damaged by water; thanks a lot jerks lrn 2 control yo bottles.
• Our demo team was initially focused on staking places in the long panel lines and inviting attendees to play. While it is hard to track a specific result from this at least 12 copies were sold to people who claimed to have played it in a line.
• Glenn devoted a lot of time whipping twitter and social media to attempt to lure high profile attendees into playing and promoting the game. This was pretty wasteful, and also made Glenn feel bad about himself.
• Definitely performed fewer demos before/around lunch. The demos of slash at the booth made a sale 100% of the time. The nature of the game where players could jump in and out with ease made live demos very easy. Especially when a critical mass of 4 players had been reached.
• Getting the game into player hands early proved critical to our success. Anecdotally the majority of our sales came from people who had played the prior evening or at the lending library.
• Without a doubt our best customers were women between 16-35. Openly LGBTQ gamers were also a very strong segment. Couples also responded well to the pitch. Gender & ethnically mixed groups appeared more likely to purchase than mono-white-male groups. Groups of younger women are an excpetion to this. Slash did very well among groups of 3+ Caucasian teen girls.
• Our poorest performing customer segments were older men (a.k.a. Greybeards/Grognard) groups of “dudebros” and 40+ white women in pairs. Srsly I don’t get that last one…
• Key phrases that elicited a positive response from customers: “It’s exactly the game you think that it is” “It’s TUMBLR the game” “You can play however you want to, whatever makes you comfortable” “You can change how you play mid game” “Play until you’re done playing”
• During the pitch people would have a dawning realization that yes, this is a silly game about love affairs between pop-culture characters. This reaction was usually apparent in women when a pitch referenced fanfiction/shipping/tumblr was delivered. In men it was usually apparent during a demo play, or when they inspected the cards. Customers would become visibly excited when they found obscure characters they recognized among the cards.
• favorite audience attributes of slash include a) laughing about past favorite matches. b) being able to tailor the game to player playstyle and buy-in c) surprisingly insightful players who “were always the quiet type” d) drawing your favorite character, or a perfect match AFTER you had already played a card.
• Overheard “We played for 6 hours straight” “OH GOD that is wrong. I must have this game” and “Shut up and take my money”
• Many customers if they didn’t purchase the game on site would vocally identify a person in their social circle who “would love” this game.
• Morning demos at booth/two person team at booth
• Pre-con panel schedule for outreach demonstrators
• outreach demonstrators should have business info, booth location, square app & reader to make immediate sale or referral.
• dedicated signage for each game.
• exclusive characters for the convention circuit?
And all through the house we’ve been fielding coordination emails and tweets. The past weekend has been more “Doing” than “Making” but we do have a few tidbits to show off.
This is the preliminary box for Pack the Pack! You will note that there is a fancy purple badge in the lower right corner. What could it be? Well it is an OFFICIAL badge for a game being a finalist in the Cards Against Humanity Tabletop Deathmatch contest! At GenCon 2013 the CAH team invited hundreds of indie game designers to submit their designs with the promise of publishing the winner of this cardboard demolition derby. Games by Play Date founder Meg McGinley submitted Pack the Pack and was selected as a finalist! You can find out more about the Tabletop Deathmatch here. Each week they will be discussing a different submission and a panel of industry professional judges will, well, judge them.
We are exceptionally proud to have Pack the Pack as a contestant in the Deathmatch and, as talented as the rest of the contestants are, we are soooo excited to crush them and their inferior games beneath our jack boots. GLHF!
Speaking of GLHF
We will be hitting PAX East strong like bull this upcoming weekend. You can find Games by Play Date and play demos of our game slash at the AdMagic booth in Tabletop. Also our wonderful friends and family will be wandering the con bringing games of slash to poor souls stuck waiting in panel lines. GPD will also have an array of our short run games and prototypes on hand if you ant to break Glenn, Dan or Meg away from the demo space and learn some flopping malformed game that they dredged from the umbra of consciousness.
More importantly we are there to play games. After the booth closes (6pm) we will be around, probably getting lit and shanghaing folks into various tabletop games. YOU COULD BE THAT SHANGHAIED PERSON!!
Glenn attended Maelstrom 2014 and Dan hosted Tabletop Day at Double Midnight comics this past weekend, but more discussion on that tomorrow. See you in Boston!
Radio silence the past few days can be chalked up to the following projects:
• Maelstrom Prep
• PAX East Prep
• Non-stop shipping container construction
• Building Personalized Print n Play version of slash for backers, which, honestly is a bigger project than I anticipated.
BUT! we did manage to finish a important bit of layout for Pack the Pack! Take a look at the 6″x9″ Player Mats that adventurers will use to stuff organize their loot into perfectly snug bundles of filthy lucre.
Play mats are double sided with the basic game on the front side. On the reverse you can play a serious game of Advanced Pack the Pack 4th Edition NEXT. APtP4EN, as it is known, adds two key elements to the Pack the Pack game. Character specific “Preciouses” that are worth extra points to specific players and the GSS value for advanced scoring algorithms. You can download the entire initial play mat document below!
It’s Wednesday I’ve been eating puffed cheese balls all morning. There are minutes.
NOTE: As a game maker person myself, I rarely harp on games as heavily as I do below. Most games you can see where things went wrong but the designer made an earnest effort at making a good game and they deserve credit for that. But Killer Bunnies? I just… I don’t even…
What’s it all about: Bunny on bunny violence with cutesy artwork and a set of questionable mechanics.
Killer Bunnies has been sitting in my collection for over a year unplayed until recently. Unfortunately, it is unlikely I will ever revisit the box’s contents again. Killer Bunnies is a screw game, meaning people trip over one another to unhinge each other’s plans to obtain as many carrots as possible. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of screw games, but executed the right way, they can be a lot of fun (See: Poo!). On the other hand, Killer Bunnies, from what I’ve gathered, is a bizzare jumble of mechanics that works really hard to make what should be a simple game really complex with the unfortunate side effect of adding almost no depth for replay.
Players are dealt a deck of random cards, draw a hand to manage and then play a card and an action. Simple enough, but it’s the idea that every card you play takes affect on your NEXT turn is where the game starts getting weird and nebulous. You have to plan ahead, but the game can change so quickly it makes planning borderline pointless. Players bomb, attack and tax one another as they try and draw cards that will allow them to purchase carrots and maintain the bunnies that they’re playing. Read the gripes section next to see where the whole thing goes out the window.
Gripes: How you win is where Killer Bunnies gives players the finger. You work and plan to obtain carrots. These carrots enter you into a lottery that is drawn at the end of the game. The more carrots you’ve obtained, the better your odds at having your carrot drawn as the game winner. Meaning, if someone has one carrot, they could pottentially win the game. It’s crap that the game literally ends with a complete stroke of luck.
Tweaks: Don’t play it?
Time: 15-30 minutes
Best for: impressionable gothy types, dusty game store shelves