Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been writing about my time at Rezzed 2017, an event that takes place in March in London and has a strong focus on indie video games. Take a look at my photo gallery to get a feel for what was there and read about my highlights – if you haven’t already seen them, go take a look at The Occupation by by White Paper Games and Four Last Things by Joe Richardson. I’ll be buying the former as soon as it’s released and will be playing the latter as part of the Gamely Giving marathon stream this weekend.
A number of other WordPress bloggers were at the event too and it’s been lovely reading about their own experiences in their posts. When somebody talks about their first time at a show you’ve attended yourself for several years, it brings back a warm glow of nostalgia: you remember the excitement of walking through the doors and seeing the crowd, the anticipation of meeting developers and talking about their work, and the happy exhaustion that comes from spending days on your feet.
There’s also the buzz that comes from getting your first press pass for an expo. The process itself is pretty simple – you usually complete an application form on the event’s website, provide details such monthly traffic and number of subscribers, give links to your work and keep your fingers crossed – but that feeling of walking into a show with that wristband on your hand is special. It’s an experience that every blogger should have at least once and some members of the WordPress community had their opportunity at Rezzed this year.
Every show I attended during my first years of blogging was on a press pass and it taught me a lot. But over time I’ve stopped applying for them for several reasons: although there are certain benefits that come with having such a wristband, there are hidden advantages to having a just-a-normal-attendee ticket too. For anyone who’s worried about not being recognised as an official ‘journalist’ at an event, please don’t let it hold you back because you don’t need that pass.
No press pass: no pressure
Although I love going to shows like Rezzed, there’s one aspect of them I don’t completely enjoy: that’s having people watch me play video games. I guess that sounds a little weird when you consider I write for this blog but there’s something about having a developer standing there while you try showing off your gaming credentials without messing up that makes me feel really awkward. I’d much rather play their demo in the comfort of my own home where nobody can see my character die a hundred times or struggle with a puzzle.
There’s even more pressure on the developers themselves, who are there trying to promote their projects above hundreds of others in the same venue. Some have a tendency to watch out for press-pass-wearers who come within a metre of their stand and jump on them with a rehearsed sales-pitch; I understand why but I’m not sure such a situation is good for either the creator or the journalist. Both feel under pressure to ‘perform’ for the other and the conversations that arise as a result aren’t as useful as they could be.
The best experiences I’ve had are those where people assume I’m a regular attendee. I’ll walk up to a stand and ask if I can play their game; they let me sit with the demo while they take care of other duties on their stand; then if I like what I’ve seen, I can have a chat with them rather than feeling obliged to ask interview questions. When a developer isn’t performing for a journalist, it’s easier to get a true sense of who they are as a person and why they’re passionate about their work – a much more interesting discussion that the pitch they practised in front of the mirror the night before.
Professionalism works better than any pass
While talking to developers after playing their demos, many have guessed I’m a blogger even though I haven’t been wearing the appropriate wristband. It shows that you don’t need a press pass to be recognised as a journalist and first impressions count: the way you present yourself and ask questions reveals far more about you than your ticket ever will. If you rock up to a stand in a nonchalant manner, spewing expletives while trying out a game and coming across as uninterested in the work behind it, no amount of press passes will ever convince someone to take you or your blog seriously.
As such, I’ve never felt as though not having a press wristband at an event has ever hindered my ability to report on it. Most creators don’t care that you’re not officially recognised as press and with the pressure removed, the opportunity of a really insightful conversation arises. I’ve stayed in touch with a number of people I’ve met at expos over the years and we now bump into each other at places like Rezzed – which then presents a good excuse for a catch-up and chat about how their game is progressing.
Experience the event as an attendee
In a post I wrote about my blogging history back in February, I explained that in the past I attempted each new gaming experience in a way that was almost clinical. When I realised I always had one eye on the lookout for material for the next article and had forgotten about the sheer joy that comes from playing video games, I decided it was time for a change and set up Later Levels with Ben. Our new home has given us the chance to remember that a game is more than the sum of its parts and to love them for what they are.
I think the same can be true for expos and conventions. It’s easy to switch to seeing everything through a journalist’s eyes once that press pass is on your hand and the focus shifts to networking, interviews and making sure you’re not late for appointments – the ‘fun’ of the event is put to one side and you forget to experience it as an attendee. I’d much rather hear about how it felt to be at the event and what caught your eye there as a gamer in a blog post, than reading yet another ‘news article’.
Here’s the advice I gave in that post I mentioned above: play for playing’s sake, and write because you have something to say rather than something to post. The world of blogging is a wonderful place and you have something unique you can bring to it.
Even the downsides of a regular pass can be overcome
Although I mentioned at the start of this post that a press pass does come with several benefits, having a regular pass doesn’t mean you have to miss out – it just takes a bit of preparation. Being recognised as a journalist will mean that you can get into an event for a day or two for free but with day tickets usually costing around £20, they’re not extortionate and can be saved up for if you give yourself enough time. Train fares and hotel rates can be pretty expensive though and so I’d recommend booking these as early as possible if you need them as you may find you receive a bit of a discount.
The main advantage of having a press wristband is that in completing your application form, you’ll automatically be added to the mailing lists of the developers attending the show. Simply use the event’s website or associated mobile app to find out which games are going to be exhibited; get in touch with the creators; and politely ask them to add you onto their press list so you can stay up-to-date on announcements. Sorted.
Hopefully I’ve managed to explain why a press pass isn’t necessarily a requirement for shows like Rezzed, and that you can get just as much out of events with a regular ticket. For anyone thinking of attending their first expo or convention this year, take a look at this post on NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog for some useful advice.
And importantly, don’t let that wristband hold you back!