Playing with Strangers

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Recently, I went to a game night at Blue Highway Games here in Seattle. I took in a copy of Vye with me and plan. I was going to sit down at a table and convince people to play my game.

BoxIncludeShotsWebI had hoped people would like the game enough to sign up for my mailing list. A mailing list that would become one of the foundations of my initial launch for the Vye Kickstarter. I knew I needed to build a community if I had any hope of having a successful campaign. To do this, I needed to get more than just my friends, family and coworkers playing the game. 

I had to play with strangers.

So, there I was in the game store, wandering awkwardly around, like a nervous boy trying to build up the courage to ask a girl to dance. In this case, the girl was the manager behind the game counter. Finally, I walked up, put my game on the counter and said, “Hi, I’d like to talk to you about this game. I created it and I’d really like to play it with some people here.”

The man behind the counter, who I later learned was named Scott, looked over the game, gave me some encouraging comments about the artwork, then regretfully informed me that they were doing a tournament tonight and all the customers were involved.

Crap.

“But, you’re welcome to hangout,” he said. “Maybe you could show it to a couple people between games.”

With those encouraging words, I found an empty table and started laying out the cards. The art for Vye is eye catching. So, I hoped putting the cards out on the table would draw people in. It paid off. One of the guys at the store asked about the game, commenting first on how good it looked. He sat down in-between his tournament games and started playing.

BlueHighwayGameNightShortly after that, the manager brought some people over to play Vye. He told them they should take a look at the game and give it a try.

The next thing I knew, I had four people playing and others standing around watching. Everyone was having fun and I had gone from incredibly nervous to incredibly elated in the span of an hour.

This is why we make games, to see others enjoy playing them.

That night over a dozen new people played Vye. Everyone had fun and I got a decent amount of them to sign up for the mailing list. It was a great evening and I got a lot of encouragement from Scott , the other employees, as well as from the completely random strangers who played the game. All signs point to success.

However, I’ve been in other game stores where things didn’t go anywhere as well as that night. I plan to post about those experiences another time. Now I wanted to talk about this success and what I’ve learned from it.

What I Did Right

  • I made sure to pick an open game night to try and play Vye.
  • I talked to the guy who runs the place before I sat down and started pushing the game onto people. This not only let me take the temperature of the place, but also gave me the knowledge that they were doing something else that night.
  • I displayed the art of the game for others to see.
  • When I got people playing I sat back and let them play. I didn’t get in their way of enjoying the game.
  • I wasn’t pushy with the mailing list, maybe I should have been, but it didn’t feel right.

What I Did Wrong

  • I should have gone in months ago. Meeting these people, playing with them and getting to know them helps on so many levels. It was stupid of me to stay at my house, dreading the encounter.
  • I shouldn’t have given up nearly so easily when he said they were doing something else that night. I had one foot out the door before he stopped me.
  • I should have known before I walked in there if they were running a tournament or not, though in the end it did work out.

What I Couldn’t Control

  • The manager was awesome. He talked with me about the game, gave me the name of someone to talk to about shipping fulfillment and encouraged the people in his store to play a game he had never heard of before that night. That was huge.
  • The vibe of the store felt like a casual party rather than the typical ‘magic the gathering’ game night. These people were there to socialize, play games an meet new people, not to test out their new deck on their select group of friends.

I was really lucky with how well the night went and I plan on posting more of these “drop in play sessions” with Vye. If any of you have insights into how to improve the experience I’d love to hear them.

Have you tried to play with strangers? If so, how did it go?

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