Following up on last week’s blog post, wherein I discussed avenues for meeting game developers, I wanted to go over some tips for meeting developers at meetups and other networking events.
First things first, I have to say that I hate the word “networking”. I feel sleazy when I say it. But at the end of the day, we are all trying to grow our network, meet people in the game industry, and promote ourselves and our services. How else would we be able to find work? I prefer to think of it as making friends in the industry. You’ll soon find that the game industry is actually really tiny, and that everyone usually knows everyone. The best part is that everyone is really friendly and open to meeting new people!
Plenty of times, I have witnessed people at events trying to pass out their business card to everyone in the room. I used to be like this too. At local game development expos, I would rush and try to play every game and chat up every developer in the room in the course of two hours. But I was just excited to meet everyone. Thankfully, these are people I see regularly at events, so I have been lucky to grow relationships with many of them.
Where I have not been so fortunate is through using these tactics at bigger conventions such as PAX East 2013 and MAGFest 2014. Out of the numerous developers I met at those conventions, I only keep in contact with about 2 or 3 to this day.
But why? As introverted as I like to think I am, I love having a good conversation with people, especially other creative, passionate folks. Nowadays, I make it a point to keep in touch with game industry friends I have met at various events. This includes professionals, people who are “ahead” of where I am, and even students and aspiring developers, composers, artists, VAs, etc.
So my mistake at PAX East 2013 and MAGFest 2014 (some of the first events I attended with meeting developers in mind) is that I would try to hand my business card to everybody. That would even be my opening line. “HEY LOOK I’M A COMPOSER DID YOU WANT TO KNOW THAT WELL NOW YOU DO CAN I HAVE A JOB”.
I would trade business cards with them. Then wait for them to reach out to me.
Spoiler alert, I did not find any work as a result of my “networking” at either of those conventions. Why? There’s a few massive mistakes in my above scenario.
Soon after MAGFest 2014, I began attending more local game development events. Learning somewhat from my mistakes, and after talking with my game audio mentor, I tried to change my introduction a bit. Instead of talking about myself, I asked developers questions, and made genuine positive comments about their games, such as:
- “What inspired this game?”
- “I love the art style!”
- “X mechanic adds a lot of depth to the gameplay.”
- “This game is super fun! I would love to get it when it comes out.”
- “Who did your audio? It’s fantastic/cute//well implemented/upbeat/fitting!”
I feel that last point is super important. Yeah, you’re an audio person, but when you’re playing other developer’s games, you’re not trying to muscle in with your services. By now, most of the developers at local events know me and what I do. At one time, there came a point where I felt I didn’t need to make a big deal to everyone I met that I was an audio person. I would mention it in conversation, sure, because I’m proud of my job and my knowledge. But I won’t do it in the sense of “HEY LOOK AT ME I DO AUDIO”. If the developer turned the conversation towards needing audio or help with their current audio, then sure, I would talk more about what I do. The important thing is that while I was playing the developer’s game, I was focused on them and interested in what they had to say.
The trick is that you need to step away from yourself for a minute. Yeah, you’re ultimately trying to look for work, but you come across as much more approachable when you’re not always saying “ME ME ME” all the time.
That leads me to my next point. Not only is it important to talk to people, but you make a lasting impression if you can hold a conversation with them. It’s easy to go around a room and hand business cards to everyone. But I promise, not much will come of that. You’re better off having one or two significant, memorable conversations at an event rather than trying to chat up everyone in the room. Those one or two people you take the time to converse with will feel much more appreciated, as opposed to the room of 500+ people that you kept blowing off to go chat with the next person.
So, at a game developer event, find one or two games that really catch your attention. Play them, then have a significant conversation with the developer/dev team/etc. Be genuine. Show interest.
Now, back to PAX East 2013 and MAGFest 2014. My second mistake was not following up with anyone. Well, I followed up with one or two people, and I think someone followed up with me, so I did make some friends and that ROCKS!
After you’ve had an awesome conversation with someone at an event and made a new friend, follow up the next day with a brief email that goes something like: “Hey, it was great meeting you last night at [EVENT]. I really enjoyed [PLAYING GAME] [TALKING ABOUT X]. Looking forward to seeing you again- are you going to [NEXT EVENT]?” Then keep a dialogue going! That’s how you start making friends in the game industry.
Hopefully you feel good about what to do at the event you attend after reading this.