Whoa, folks loved IF at conventions

So showcasing interactive fiction at conventions and demonstrations can be really difficult. After all it is mostly text so generally there is nothing “flashy” to draw the crowd in. Plus you wouldn’t think anyone would want to sit down and “read” while they are out-and-about.

That served very much to not be the case. I’m excited. Very. Folks are still really into this stuff - and my packed convention table and hundreds of newsletter sign-ups proved it! Folks came back multiple times to play. Stayed for hours (seriously). Brought friends and family over. Some even stopped by for another visit at a different convention.

It was much easier to explain the game to folks that were familiar with CYOA, but many were not familiar with the genre - and soon became fans!

So keep on trucking along guys. Keep making good stuff. But most important of all - get out there and show it off! Folks aren’t good at giving feedback, so you need to watch them play. See what excites or frustrates them. I was able to iterate between each convention and saw leaps and bounds in improvements.

Very cool! Glad your work got such a good response. Seems like people at cons will jump at the chance to do things–not just look or buy, but do–so long as there’s someone there to break the ice for them.

Thanks for sharing the pics, too.

Any other tips?

You know I think you hit the nail on the head regarding “someone there to break the ice for them.”

I think part of the success was my excitement in pitching the game to every single person that came to the booth. Be up and active, don’t just sit behind the booth.

I always started with “Have you ever read CYOA books”, and then “are you familiar with table-top roleplaying”. If neither hit the mark, I’d explain the “old-school” books. And some would go “oh yeah! I loved those!” and some would be intrigued… and of course there were those that walked away. So Have a short pitch that potential players can relate to. If they are hooked, keeping talking about what makes your game different from most. If they look disinterested, try to wrap it up so they can go their merry way.

One unique twist I did with my convention table was having a card game setup. Yeah. Odd. My IF is similar to gamebooks (dice rolling and RPG elements), but instead of endless dice rolling for combat - I introduced a short mini card game for combat (wanted more strategy). So folks could interact with and learn about the game by playing the physical version as well. I was able to mix in the CYOA style play by taking the player through a short story to build their character (similar to Choice of Games). Make your demo more interesting by having alternative ways players can learn about your game - like a live interactive narrative. Folks loved this.

OK. So this will be a tough one and I may get a lot of flak. But this is just my opinion. Don’t have just raw text. There are a few things that help to “spice” up my story-based experience:

  • Music / Soundtracks: Folks really liked this. Especially nice for a loud convention hall.
  • Interactive Map: Makes visualizing the world so much easier. Sorcery! series does an awesome job of this.
  • Stylized Backgrounds/UI: Everything from the page you are reading on, to the inventory, to the menu should help to place the player into the world they are reading about. Again Sorcery! and even Tin Man Games do a great job at this.
  • Keep It Short: This relates to the amount of text you have to read in one go. Don’t just show the player a screen full of text. John Ingold does a really good job of explaining this.
  • Animations & Art: Just like seeing the dice roll or the occasional portrait in Tin Man Games, it all helps to give the player a bit more fuel for their imagination. Opposite of traditional games today, these types of things take a backseat to the whole experience.

Lastly you need to have a good story or a good game. I have a good game. I’m not A-list writer and I never will be, but games and the “fun-factor” I understand. All I can say here is iterate on your work and play other works. Everything I do is very much inspired by others and just wanting more as a player myself. Simply ask yourself “what would I want to play” and “why would I play this over another title”?