Game Developer’s Conference 2004 breakdown, and a little introspection.

Time for another long-overdue update.

Since I last posted I’ve worked on eight more titles for Liquid. Starting in mid-February, I’ve been contracted out to work inhouse with another local Portland company called ResponDesign. They’re working on Yourself Fitness, an X-Box fitness game meant to be an interactive personal trainer. I’ve been designing the interface for the game among other small ingame models. It’s not the most glamorous work, but it’s interesting to work at another company and get to make actual design decisions for once!

Two weeks ago, as Liquid was preparing for the Game Developer’s Conference, they told me that the guy that was going to go was too busy art directing one of our projects, and that they’d like me to do it since I showed an interest in business and marketing. I responded with an immediate “YES!#!@$&!@*$” and got to work with planning it. My job was to carry out the marketingadvertising plan they’d already set up and hire a dozen people to execute the plan.

Liquid is notorious for having a strong, loud, and somewhat annoying presence outside of GDC. Last year we picketed against bad art and held a protest, waving homemade signs about and chanting. The year before we hired a bad preacher to preach against the evils of bad art. This year we had a bit of a problem organizing the event due to the distance, since we used to be based in San Jose and now we’re not.

The plan this year was to hire twelve people to dress up in black military boots, black pants, a Liquid t-shirt and a red beret, imitating Guardian Angels, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping keep city streets and subways safe. While they were dressed up, they were going to do the S1W dance from Public Enemy’s music videos, just because that’s damned funny. Their primary mission, however, was to hand out our Liquid fliers advertising our services.

I hired six men and six women that responded to my job posting on Craigslist.com and met them all outside the Game Developer’s Conference in San Jose on Thursday morning. I gave them all their shirts, their berets, the fliers, their marching orders, the songs I’d had written for them, and we set out to work.

We all had a blast. The weather was light and cool for the first half of the day, and everyone was in high spirits. I bought them all water and Gatorade to start, and in the first hour I held an impromptu meeting with a potential client and was photographed and interviewed briefly for Animation Magazine. Lots of people wanted to take pictures with us and gladly accepted our fliers.

For lunch, one of the people I hired had found a local Mexican food place with a burrito lunch special, and we walked over there and ordered $100 worth of burritos and drinks. We got lost on the way back and had to hitch a ride with a complete stranger in the most disgusting vehicle I’ve ever seen in my life, but we got back to the convention center without incident. I got everyone free candy and cookies and answered all their questions about my job, the conference, the game industry and all that.

After the lunchtime rush, we’d passed out about 3,500 of the 5,000 fliers we had. Things were going well, and then it started raining. We floundered about for a bit but quickly developed a strategy to keep people out of the rain and near areas of heavy traffic. I got everyone hot chocolate and coffee and candy to keep warm and sugared up, and spirits were still soaring.

I sent one of our people into the conference itself with a spare badge we had for one of our team members that couldn’t make the trip, and I had her spent two hours loading up on all the free shit everyone had inside the conference. We managed to move the last 1,500 fliers before the self-imposed cutoff time of 5pm, and then we filed into the San Jose Marriott and divvied out all the free stuff between us. Everyone got a t-shirt or candy or some other fun little novelty, and everyone was happy. After that, everyone dispersed and I went and crashed in the hotel room for a bit.

Later that night I went out to dinner with two of my bosses from Liquid. We were eating with the president of the FASA Studios of Mechwarrior fame, and had a great meal in a nice Italian place. Afterward, we went over to Microsoft’s X-Box party and he managed to get us in without an invitation (since half the conference wanted in but had no such invitation) and we had a fucking BLAST.

The theme of the party was “1950’s risque” so the place was adorned with all manner of 1950’s furniture and drapes, all the video screens were playing film noir style video of 3D characters, and all the event staff was dressed up to fit the era. There was a cigar bar where you could get free hand-rolled cigars, there were about six open bars with tons of drinks, there was a lounge converted into a “Bank vault,” there was a casino with fake money being handed out to play to win X-Box t-shirts, there was a massage parlor upstairs, a balcony with a view of the dance floor, and there were two live DJ’s playing badass techno music with several video monitors playing clips from famous 1950’s film noir movies synced perfectly to the music. The production value of everything was absolutely terrific, I had a great time and so did the other 200+ people that were there.

On Friday, I finally got to go into the convention itself and mill about finding things to do. I met up with some people I knew from various game industry messageboards and killed time most of the day. In the evening, I met up with another friend and his friends, and we all drove up to Electronic Arts in Redwood City to meet yet another friend and take a tour. We went out to eat at a nice Chinese place first and then took the grand tour. I got to see some of the preproduction art for the Godfather game (which looks terrific), the character art from 007: Everything or Nothing (also terrific), and, most importantly, the actual models from the Lord of the Rings movies. They are, as expected, FUCKING AWESOME. It was quite a treat to get to see them all. 😀

That was all I did there, really. Since I got back I’ve been working on more interface crap for Yourself Fitness and working on a character model for fun in my spare time. Also been doing a lot of reading. I’m finishing up Influence (a really interesting book on psychology), Patton on Leadership (a terrific book on business management), and A Short History of Nearly Everything (a fantastic book on the history of science). It’s keeping me pretty busy and thinking of everything…

I’ve realized now that eventually, sooner than later, I’d like to run a business. Liquid’s giving me an opportunity to learn more about business and act in more of a business capacity, which is fantastic, but I want to run a game company someday. I’ve spent the last few months reading books on business and marketing and advertising, and that’s stoking the fire.

Reading has also gotten me to thinking about the way I present myself and deal with people. I realized that being shy, passive and too normal are all losing strategies, so I’m working on breaking myself of those habits and being more interesting. I want people to remember me and my name, and I’ll never accomplish that if I’m ordinary. It would seem that my goal, then, is to be remarkable. At GDC, I sequentially broke every last social hangup I had, about being shy and passive and all that, and really got out of my shell and started kicking ass, and I loved it.

Lately I’ve also realized what a handicap it’s been for me not to be more social. I make a point to participate more on message boards, talk to my friends and family more, and to try and go out and meet new people. I can establish a large network of contacts very quickly and easily, and have fun learning new things and enjoying talking to people. It’s really invigorating, and I’m irritated that I didn’t start doing this sooner. At least I woke up and realized what was happening, and now it’s one more losing strategy I’m destroying.

Another thing I’ve come to realize is how VITALLY important good communication skills are. I’ve been reading books on learning to write and how to communicate effectively, and I’m going to be moving on to reading books on sales soon as well, since that’s good, persuasive communication in action. I think I’ll post in my blog more to assist in my writing ability. I kind of crapped out this entire post here, but I’ll be refining everything more later.

It’s remarkable how unsuccessful I used to be. I was shy, self-conscious, quiet, unassuming and unwilling to take risks… how great the benefits of boldness and being confident and outspoken are! If I could go back in time, I’d kick the shit out of myself and teach me the right way to do things. I’d be a lot farther along than I am now… not that I’m doing that badly now, I suppose.

I also started working out again, which is helping boost my energy level and self-confidence. I used to be really into working out before I moved to Portland, but I had to stop for a while since I didn’t have enough equipment or money to keep me fed all the time like I needed. I’m still nowhere near where I was before, but I’m working my way back up quickly, and I’m feeling great while I do it. More people should exercise. 🙂

Something else I’ve decided to try and do is learn everything I can about the game industry as a whole. I’m collecting various news sources to be able to build a large picture of what’s going on in the industry, who’s where, what’s what, why things are the way they are and where it’s all going. I figure it’ll come in handy someday.

I’m also going to spend a month or two going back over the last 20 years of video games and playing all of the great classics I missed out on my whole life. Should also give me some great ideas for the games I’ll be making eventually. All the better to dominate the world.

Incidentally, Gevalia (www.gevalia.com) makes some fucking kick ass coffee. For some reason, whenever I drink it, my mind kicks into overdrive and I feel as if I actually could take over the world if I wanted. They must lace it with crack, or something. Whatever it is, I’m hooked, and won’t touch Folgers again.

Holy shit, I just wrote a goddamn novel, didn’t I? Well, that’s all for now.

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