Deck Around at SXSW -- Free SXSW Booth Space, Gamer's Voice Award & the Whole Deal
Posted by Chris Lesinski on March 18, 2014. 2 Comments
Let's be honest here -- does it really look like I've got ten grand sitting around here for booth at the SXSW Interactive festival? Hell no. Even if I did -- and I LOVE that conference -- I'm not sure I'd be investing in something like that. So here's how Deck Around landed a huge, killer booth space and ridiculous amounts of word-of-mouth (and tons of fun) at SXSW in Austin for free.
A few weeks ago I was browsing the SXSWi site and I got distracted by their brand new Gaming Awards. They were calling for submissions. Knowing that South By loves their indie stuff, I shot out an email to the organizers and sure enough, I got a passionate response back -- they were indeed accepting tabletop games too. How cool is that? An interactive conference knowing that a game is a game is game.
Weeks later, I got a depressing-sounding email back... "We received hundreds of submissions," "it was very tough competition" and I almost hit delete until I read, "we're excited to announce that Deck Around has been nominated!" So that's when I heard this great news -- Deck Around was nominated for a Gaming Award! Not just any award, though... the "Gamer's Voice" Award.
Here's how the Gamer's Voice Award worked -- and why it's probably the coolest award to be up for: about indie 25 games were nominated and given free booth space in the tiny, intimate, Palmer Events Center for the SXSW Gaming Expo. We were all crammed together and folks would walk through this "Indie Corner" and vote on their favorite new indie game of 2013. The most votes got you the award. We got free exhibiting space right next to Xbox, Intel and Settlers of Catan in a SXSW event that attracts 50K passionate gamers in 3 days.
I won't keep you hanging -- Deck Around didn't win the award -- but screw that! Deck Around became the first tabletop game to EVER get nominated for a SXSW Gaming Award. Deck Around was also the only board/card/tabletop game up for an award at the 2014 conference -- it was in company with Tomb Raider and The Last of Us and Call of Duty who were also nominated. Pretty epic, right?
When I got to Austin, I found out that the lights would be low in the convention center to accomidate all the screens in the house. Yikes! Pretty much the opposite situation I needed for a physical game like this one. So I made a last-minute trip to Lowe's and pieced together what turned out to be a pretty kickass, low-budget lighting scheme using a strand of food truck lights, a wooden shaft and an umbrella stand. I found easels for $8 (welcome to Texas!) and bought a huge, color banner for the backdrop.
My friend Scott Rowan -- who I COULD NOT have done this without, thanks a ton buddy -- and I manned the booth all weekend. We attracted traffic, basically by asking people, "Do you know what 'taco butt' means?"... which, honestly, who's going to turn that down? Then, we walked each group through a sample round: coming up with silly definitions as a group, walking them through some ridiculous definitions we'd made up for the demo and polling them on which they thought was the true definition.
We probably played the game hundreds of times that weekend and sure -- we got a ton of word of mouth, email addresses and even sold some games. But I bet we made over a thousand people laugh or smile. And that's the coolest part -- seeing those faces and sharing those awkward moments with complete strangers. People were loving Deck Around and they only knew about it for 15 seconds. What a blast!