Even though the 93 Made Games team has been exhibiting at gaming conventions and expos for over 6 years, nothing quite prepared us for the 14-hour days on our booth at PAX Aus 2015. Coupled with only 4 hours sleep each night, the weekend was close to taking a casualty. When posed with the question, “Would you do it again?” Our resounding response was, “Hell yeah! And these are the reasons why…”
REASON 1 - MATES HELPING MATES
PAX Aus is the biggest event of the year for independent Australian tabletop game designers and publishers. Two years ago at the first PAX Aus, I met people like Alex Dijk from Blue Room Games and Wez Lamont from RAEZ. These two fellows would go on to launch Tabletop Game Designers Australia (TGDA) – a Facebook group for Australian designers/publishers to share knowledge and experiences and to help each other succeed in creating and marketing great games.
Last year, TGDA had its first pre-PAX meeting where we discussed how the group could help grow and legitimise the Australian tabletop game design industry. We only had about 10 people at this meeting. However, this year, the meeting boasted over 40 representatives from a range a different design firms, publishers, distributors and retailers, who all shared their wisdom and helped set the future focus for TGDA and its 550 plus members.
These are the raw details that demonstrate the growing significance of the Australian tabletop game design and publishing scene and how the TGDA group is a major part of it. However, the thing that really highlights how much mateship there is amongst Australian game designers is when, after not seeing Alex for a year, he comes up to me at the pre-PAX meeting and gives me one of the warmest embraces I’ve had outside of my family. He wasn’t alone as there was a lot of platonic man-love that went on over the PAX Aus weekend.
REASON 2 - ONE BIG, PROFESSIONAL TEAM
The tabletop games industry is dwarfed by its bigger brother, the electronic games industry, in Australia. However, this doesn’t mean that its members are any less committed or less professional. We were fortunate enough to share booth space with Al Caynes and his crew from Senyac Games over the weekend and we could not have asked for better neighbours. Al ran his booth like a well-oiled wrestler (check out his Mexican wrestling game El Luchador Fantastico Grande) and it was evident that he’d recruited a great support team.
The 93 Made Games team also had a great PAX Aus supporting cast, including David Harding who demonstrated his Grail Games (which practically sold out over the weekend), The Master Cogineer Wez Lamont who challenged people to best each other in COGZ and Alex Dijk who helped Ninjanimals escape from the zoo. The 14-hour days were made much more bearable as each designer shared a significant workload by promoting their games on our shared stand.
I’d like to give a personal thanks to my team and the Senyac Games team who covered for me on day two when, after 2 straight hours of standing up whilst demoing games, I was on the verge of collapsing. I think if I’d been targeted by one more copy of Blind Freddie, I would have been out for the count. Luckily the guys gave me the time to recover in the finely catered PAX Exhibitors’ Lounge.
REASON 3 - PEOPLE PLAY FOR FUN
I know it seems obvious that people play games for fun but sometimes exhibitors (not specifically exhibitors at game conventions – I also have experience on booths in other industries) focus too much on sales and getting their “numbers”. You know what we did all weekend? We asked people to play games. It didn’t matter if they had already bought our games or weren’t even looking to buy. We were just happy that they wanted to play games. Playing games all weekend energised everyone in our booth and filled us with glee as we saw people enjoying so many wonderful Australian designed and published creations.
REASON 4 - THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Seven years ago, when 93 Made Games was created, the game design industry was fairly small with only a handful of semi-professional designers self-publishing micro games or licensing their designs to well-established foreign publishers. The primary barrier to self-publishing larger, more complex games was cost since, even though manufacturing in and importing from China is relatively cheap, it is not without expense. This meant that the pool of active designers was extremely small. And then, 2 years ago (in Australia at least), Kickstarter happened!
Kickstarter effectively kickstarted a new era of game design around the world but more significantly in Australia since the tyranny of distance limits our access to the biggest global game markets in Europe and the United States. Australian designers and publishers are now able to bankroll substantial projects through crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter. This means that more projects are coming to fruition and more designers are putting their hands up to share their games with the world.
This was very evident with the number of first-time designers who were demonstrating their games to publishers at PAX Aus. We were visited by the likes of Dale Maccanti who showed off Beware the Trap Door and Harold Kho who demonstrated his monster bashing game. Both designers received feedback from publishers earlier on in the weekend and returned with revised copies for further evaluation. This shows great dedication to their craft and Dale and Harold are just a small example of who will be the future of the Australian game design industry.
REASON 5 - WE'RE ON THE RIGHT PATH
A week has passed and I’ve been able to reflect on PAX Aus, why we chose to exhibit and whether or not we’re taking the right steps as a member of the Australian game design/publishing industry. I can say, unequivocally, that we are doing the right thing in designing, publishing and distributing independent Australian-made tabletop games.
There’s no reason why independent Australian games should not be put on a pedestal with top-ranking games from other countries. Australian designers are receiving the accolades they deserve – Rise to Power by Rule & Make was awarded the Best Non-Digital award at the 2015 Freeplay Awards as well as being a finalist in the Boardgames Australia 2015 Australian Game of the Year Awards. Elevenses and Pack of Heroes were also finalists for the latter award. Australian designers make great games and the evidence is no longer anecdotal. We’re proud to be able to promote and distribute these games throughout game stores in Australia and beyond.
IT'S A WRAP!
Only 5 reasons, you say. Well, yes, but the list could go on and on and on. I’m going to leave the rest to all of the wonderfully professional media who visited our booth and other’s over the PAX Aus weekend and link below to their articles and podcasts as they are published. Thanks for reading and keep your eye on the prize!
Aaron Lim from Victory Points Podcast
Jair McBain from Another Dungeon
Matthew Lee from The Campaigner Magazine
Ray Morgan and crew from Zed Games
Stephen Heller from Whiskey Board Games
Indie Games United
Indie Games United is a distributor and advocate of independently designed and published tabletop games. We collaborate with designers and publishers to provide game stores with unique compilations of high quality and novel games.