Opinion: Indies, your industry conference needs you!
The importance of attendance
As last weekend drew to a close, I knew something wasn't right.
I could feel something invading me, spreading by the second. At the same time, my skull seemed to be physically gaining weight, pressing down through my neck upon the rest of my body.
On Sunday night, my nose started to fill up. The following morning, my throat felt like it had been attacked from multiple angles with a rusty razor blade.
Awaking with a hot head on Tuesday morning (after a bizarre temperature-induced dream, where editor-at-large Jon Jordan flew into a tirade over the industry's refusal to adopt the word 'unconsole' instead of 'microconsole'*), all was clear.
I was officially unwell.
For the last couple of days, I've been consigned to one of three places: restlessly tossing and turning in my increasingly tissue-laden bed, sat with my eyes straining at the PC desperately trying to get my mind to function normally, or at my local pharmacy store buying enough (legal) drugs to open up my own chemists in my bathroom cabinet.
The one place I haven't been, however, is at this year's Mobile Games Forum in London. If it hasn't clicked for you yet, that's where I was meant to be.
It's (not) my party, and I'll cry if I want to
It's also where I want to be.
Last year's Mobile Games Forum was genuinely one of the most entertaining events of the year and – Develop aside – probably the best opportunity for mobile devs to make connections.
By the looks of the Twitter feeds of those currently down in the big smoke, this year's event is following a similar pattern.
Strangely, however, not being at MGF 2013 has made me ponder the value of attending such conferences for those who really matter: developers.
One of the Pocket Gamer team hard at work
For the press, there are obvious benefits to popping along.
While it's sometimes difficult to immediately process the information pushed out from each talk, turn up at enough events and you quickly begin to form a coherent industry narrative, almost subconsciously.
It's not until you talk to folk who don't regularly sample the free coffee at such shindigs that you realise, either. Midway through a conversation you'll suddenly spot that, trends you know are already on the way out are only just occurring to others.
If that makes me sound conceited, then let me clarify: I'm only on the right page (some of the time, at least) because I've sat, listened and typed up the accounts of experienced developers, consultants and 'thought leaders' who take the the stand at these events.
They talk, I listen.
But that's only one side of the coin. The other, often more beneficial side, is the social side.
For developers, events tend to be rather expensive excursions, more than likely costing more to attend than many have ever taken from sales of their respective apps. But the connections you make can prove to be worth their weight in gold.
Save perhaps from the first day of school, nowhere have I seen more people boldly striding up to people they don't know than at conferences.
Throw a little alcohol into the equation at the post conference drinks, and you have ideal amount of emotional lubrication - an equation that triggers new connections aplenty.
And, maybe, that's your route in.
Steel Media MD Chris James forming vital connections at another successful PG party
Drinks – such as Pocket Gamer and W3i's official MGF 2013 party – are often open to all, rather than just to those with a tag around their neck. There's nothing to stop you going along and making an arse out of yourself in front of a load of strangers.
Alternatively, you could go along, impress all you encounter and meet someone who changes your business forever.
Either way, events like MGF are an essential cog in the wheel of an industry that, rather than stabilising, is still accelerating. For any indie just setting out along the mobile path, the best advice I can give them is, try and set some money aside and get yourself along to your nearest conference.
That, or just hang around outside waiting for those lucky enough to have a ticket to emerge, and listen in as their wisdom – and the drink – flows forth.
There is, of course, a risk that the number of conferences available could, in fact, hold back the debate rather than push it forward, but that's not something you need worry about if you're yet to book your first ticket.
My message to all such indies is, mix with the kind of bigwigs currently expelling knowledge in spades at MGF 2013. Take everything they say on board, even if you end up dismissing some of it.
Take it from the man (with the big red crusty nose) who isn't there.
*Oh wait, that wasn't a dream. That actually happened.
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Leo Mozzarello | 11:53 - 25 January 2013
Very well written post Keith. One of my favorites. I couldn't agree more BTW
Digiment | 21:57 - 24 January 2013
"For any indie just setting out along the mobile path, the best advice I can give them is, try and set some money aside and get yourself along to your nearest conference."
We could not agree more. We were lucky enough to get invited by Sony Mobile previous year, and MGF was certainly one of the best events/conferences we have attended so far. And we have been to a lot! Unfortunately, we missed MGF this year as it crashed with something else.
MGF is highly recommended to indie mobile game developers!
Keith Andrew | 11:44 - 24 January 2013
Doesn't have quite the same ring to it. :)
Mitch (Dave Mitchell) | 10:34 - 24 January 2013
So the headline should be Indies need conferences? ;)
Jon Jordan | 10:19 - 24 January 2013
I would like to say, someone used the term 'unconsole' in conversation with me yesterday, unprompted...
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