I’m going to depart a bit from the regular industry analysis shtick for a while. Well, for this week, anyway. Because these last few weeks have been… pretty rough… for a lot of people, and it’s a subject that I want to avoid right now, but one that I might revisit in a few weeks. So today is going to be a bit of an insider’s guide to a thing that is coming up.
How to attend events like a games writer.
Tokyo Games Show is happening in two weeks. And, in one week, I will be in Japan. I had a holiday planned for China, you see, and it slotted in wonderfully with the schedule for TGS. So I decided to take a brief detour to that thin island nation of Japan, get another week’s holiday, and also swing by TGS while I’m in the region.
So while I have my planning hat on, I thought I might give you a bit of insight into the whole process of applying, vetting, organising, and attending a game convention from a writer’s perspective.
Step one – discovery.
My original holiday to China had been planned to start on the 22nd of September. It was a tour, and I needn’t bore you with the details of that. But then I was looking around the internet, as I do, and found some writers/outlets/companies tweeting about what was going to be announced at TGS this year. Obviously I knew TGS existed, but I’d never really given any thought to attending, due to cost and time and general me being boring. I found out that it ran from the 18th to the 21st – one day before my holiday in China was due to start. It also coincided nicely with [day job] holidays. This was an opportunity too good to pass up. So I decided to make a detour to Kyoto for a week for some relaxation, before moving on to Tokyo and TGS. I ended up juggling the China holiday back a few days, but it was very flexible and all worked out. I proceeded to organise transport, accommodation, and activities.
Step two – application.
Each game convention has a slightly different application process for press. TGS began with an application to be included in press registration. That is done over email through certain channels. Then I had to wait for the press application registry to open. At the start of July, it did, and I filled out their application. Most conventions ask for some form of identification and a vetting process. Luckily, I have both. For TGS I had to send off photocopies of business cards, links to some articles I’ve written, and a cover letter vetting my qualifications from my Editor in Chief. I have business cards (they’re very snappy), I have written words, and I’m Editor in Chief, so that wasn’t hard to do any of that. Then again I had to wait for my application to be accepted or rejected. Luckily for me, I was accepted.
Step three – organisation.
Now we get to the really fun parts. Organising the damn thing. Obviously I had major transport and accommodation out of the way – what I mean now is the nitty gritty of scheduling. That’s right, we writers generally do our work better if we schedule out our days pretty rigidly. It’s the process of drawing up a timetable of events and filling in the slots with things that happen. Obviously there are things I can’t miss. Other things can slide. And the most interesting thing is how goddamn slow everything is to slot into place. Most of the events so far don’t have times. Panels, keynotes, stage shows – a lot are up in the air right now. And that’s a problem, since I have one week until I leave the country. I have to nail this all down ASAP to make the most of my time at the show. Usually this process starts a week before the event and goes right up to the night before it starts – obviously, since I’ll be on holidays, I want to get as much out of the way as possible now. It isn’t happening.
Step four – waiting for press releases.
For about a month before an event, your press release volume increases exponentially. It’s because the organisers give out press contact email addresses to exhibitors so that they can tell us all what’s where. It starts as a trickle, and ends with a torrent. We’re currently at the one every day stage. Next week it will be several a day. The week before the event it will be one every few hours. That’s on top of our regular press release workload of a dozen or so a day. We have to filter out the typical PR dross and distil it into a list of things we want to see, then slot it into our aforementioned event organisation schedule. It’s not difficult – although some of the English translations on the press releases aren’t perfect – but it is tedious.
Step five – more organisation but different plus revisions.
During the last week or so before an event we get slammed by PR reps. Out in full force they query schedules and requisition interview opportunities. They say they’d like to meet up for a chat about [product]. They ask if we’d be interested in interviewing [developer]. And they make plans. They schedule these meetings. Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you get a frantic 7pm email apologising but they just can’t make it can I do a different time? Because however frantic we writers are about our schedules, the PR reps are even moreso. They have to organise not only us writers, but stage manage their products as well. I don’t envy them. But I also don’t like getting jerked around last minute by an interview that falls through due to conflicts that are beyond my control. I have that to look forward to next week and the week after. While away. On holiday. Enjoying my ryokan’s onsen and strolling through the bamboo forests of Arashiyama. Without a computer or stable internet connection. FUN.
Step six – the best laid plans…
I finally arrive at the day of the event. I have my plans. I have my accommodation. I have my schedule. I have maps of the area. I have maps of the showroom floor. I have a list of train times. I have food places circled. I have keynote session times. I have interviews scheduled. I have games I want to demo highlighted. Hell, I even have one or two catch-up sessions with fellow migrant writers.
I wake up early, I get there on time, I go to the press desk, I trade business cards, I show ID, I show my completed and accepted application, I collect my media pass, I look at my perfectly organised concrete watertight rock solid schedule.
And everything falls apart.
Someone is not available when they said they would be. The media room’s internet goes down or is congested. The stalls have been rearranged last minute. A PR manager has made a conflicting meeting. I’ve made a conflicting meeting. An opportunity to do something I hadn’t planned on arises. The food is too expensive and it means I won’t have money for the train without an ATM. The ATM is not there. My colleagues go missing. I go missing. We all meet up for drinks. We all get hammered and have a great time. I file my coverage drunk. I edit my coverage sober. I fall asleep around 4am. I wake up around 6am.
And I repeat for four whole days.
It is the invariable cycle games writers go through during a gaming event. It’s the same everywhere in the world. It will be the same for TGS. And it will be exhausting stressful fun terrible terrifying exhilarating sobering depressing and probably very smelly.
Interestingly enough, the very next day after I get home from my holiday, EB Games Expo in Sydney starts, and I’ll be at that one too. And a few weeks after that is PAX Australia in Melbourne, and I’m going to be at that one as well. That’s three events in two months, and I’ll be repeating this process at all of them, covering all the greatest, latest, lamest, silliest, most grand entertainment products to be created, all for you guys.
I guess what I’m trying to say is everyone in the games industry – from event organisers, exhibitors, developers, PR representatives, writers, bloggers, YouTubers, content creators – we all try really hard for all of our readers and listeners and fans and players everywhere during these times – often for very little recompense. It’s all for you, so you can enjoy what you enjoy.
So enjoy what you enjoy, and let everyone else enjoy what they enjoy too – without threatening death, hacking personal details, destroying lives. Let’s all get along and do our best to have fun, okay?
I guess what I’m also trying to say is forgive any grammatical errors or late articles from me over the next few weeks – I’ll be knackered.