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Local Game Dev Community Tips

Local Game Dev Community Tips
This past week IGDA Phoenix held another one of its monthly meetings. We had about 60 something people turn up for the meeting to check out a presentation from one of our local game developers, which is pretty awesome. I'm the co-chair of IGDA Phoenix along with Corey, so we are responsible for putting together each of these meetings.

Our meeting turn out is pretty impressive, especially when new people show up and they tell me that they had no idea that Phoenix even had a game development scene. We're one of the few IGDA chapters (from what I hear) that has consistent monthly meetings, and I believe that we've only actually missed 3 monthly meetings in the past 3 or 4 years that we've been running it.

Since we've been running this thing for a couple years now and it feels pretty successful, I thought it would be neato to share some tips that I think are important to maintaining an active community of any kind!



We try to hold a meeting every month no matter what. Sometimes this means scrambling to figure out content for the meeting, but lately we've had a new influx of members and with that comes a new group of people that are interested in speaking to the group. Each meeting we try to have a feature presentation of about 30 minutes that has something to do with game development, but if we can't manage to get a presentation together then people still don't mind coming out for the meeting just to hang out.

We also find that always holding the meeting on the same day of the week helps a lot. We always try to hold our meetings on Wednesday nights, but sometimes due to scheduling conflicts with our event space we have to switch to a different night.


Event Space

We've gone through a lot of different options when it comes to our meeting space. When IGDA Phoenix was first revived back in 2009 we were meeting at a local restaurant. They had a private upstairs area that could hold about 40 people and even from our first meeting we had filled it up. The main problem with this space was noise -- it was a private area, but it had a loud air conditioning vent system in it, and noise from the rest of the restaurant and bar was bothersome, and they would also play music into the room. Noise made it difficult to have a speaker audible by everyone in the room.

We tried a handful of different restaurant spaces because we were convinced that people wanted to eat dinner, drink, and also listen to a presentation. We would scrape together some sort of set up where one of our friends would bring a projector, Corey and I would bring a computer, and we would duct tape a projector screen to the wall and somehow figure out how to set up the computer and the projector. It was a giant pain, but it mostly worked.

Eventually we had too many problems with restaurant spaces. Serving everyone while the presentation was going on was a hassle, finding a room big enough and quiet enough was impossible. We also needed a handicap accessible space which scratched off about 95% of possible places in the area. Eventually we made the switch to a lecture hall at a local university. We thought this would be a bad move, but it turns out people preferred it more. They ended up caring about the meeting's content more than being able to get dinner and a beer at the meeting.

As far as the city location goes, we mostly settled with Tempe because that's where most of our development scene is in the Phoenix area. We had some requests to take the meetings to Phoenix, but whenever we did we would have a very low turn out, and almost no turn out from the people that requested the meeting to be moved.

Our location currently alternates between Tempe and Phoenix. In Tempe we're holding meetings at UAT in one of their fancier lecture rooms, and in Phoenix we're holding meetings at Game CoLab. Both venues are great and offer a lot of space for a presentation and an audience, which was another problem we were running into with restaurants.

Keep in Touch

We've always maintained a mailing list of people interested in our events, and at each event we put out a sign up sheet for the list. We would mail out local game development announcements, as well as the schedule for our future meetings.

This also allowed us to gather feedback easily. We made use of SurveyMonkey more than a few times to get feedback from our community, especially when it came down to location.

Even though we have all these different avenues of reaching people though, we still get plenty of people saying "I didn't know when the meeting was" or "I didn't know who was speaking" and all that kind of stuff, even though we always post about it and tweet and email and release carrier pigeons and send smoke signals. No matter what we do there are still people we aren't reaching, and we don't really know how to solve that yet.


Spread the Word!

When it comes to talking about IGDA Phoenix we try to update our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and mailing list as often as we can without being too spammy about it. We're especially careful with how many emails we're sending to people, but we tend to post like crazy on Facebook since that seems to get the most attention from the local scene.

We post all of our events using Eventbrite which turned out to be a really great service. For all of our events we have different tiers of tickets from totally free to 20 dollars. Any money that we make for the event goes right into our food fund.

Eventbrite also will keep track of all of our attendees that have RSVPed, so we can easily let them know about future events as well, and if they don't want to hear about future events they can easily unsubscribe and not get any more emails from us. We're up to almost 350 different emails that are all notified about events now.



One thing we implemented recently was providing free pizza to our meeting attendees. We partnered with UAT, a local university, to provide the funds for ordering about 15 pizzas every month. I order all the pizza from Dominos which might not be the best quality but you can get a lot of pizza for cheap with their ridiculous online coupons.

This has been a great addition to the meetings since we no longer are able to meet at restaurants for various reasons. Free pizza is also a big draw for new people to check it out, since even if the meeting sucks at least they got free pizza out of it.

People that RSVP through Eventbrite have the option of buying a paid ticket which contributes directly to the pizza fund, so between UAT, myself, and other people pitching in we end up having enough money to cover pizza for 60+ pizza every month.


Community Pulse

The Phoenix IGDA chapter is 100% about the Phoenix community, so we make sure to pay special attention to any cool happenings that are going on with any of the people involved. We make almost any announcement that people request of us. This past month we announced cool things like a new game hitting the app store from a local developer, upcoming local game jam events, a new game project reaching its beta milestone, and even more stuff.

Having people come up and talk to the crowd about their recent developments is a great way to start off our meetings. It's really fun to share your recent accomplishments with the community, as well as set up some things to talk about after the meeting is over. It's also really awesome to know that cool stuff is happening in Phoenix and I think it helps inspire and motivate our local developers.


Just Do It!

When we were just starting out with IGDA Phoenix we were constantly worried that we were going to hold an event and nobody would show up. Every time we thought this, we had at least 40 people show up for our event. I think even our lowest turn out for an IGDA related meet up was maybe about 15 people, but even still that's enough people to have fun.

We had to become comfortable with the fact that maybe nobody would show up. There was one time where we planned a picnic, and we were a little worried about what would happen if nobody showed up. What would we do? Well, even if the worst case scenario is nobody shows up, at least we'll still go to the park and have a good picnic with just the few of us who are organizing it.

It's a little bit different when you have a guest speaker, or something like that, or some sort of external pressure to get people to show up, but there's only so much you can do at a certain point. I feel like with IGDA Phoenix we have a core group of 10 or 15 people that would show up at every single meeting regardless, so I'm no longer worried about the possibility of nobody showing up for a meeting.

That's all

I think that covers everything! If I had to pick one thing that was most important, I would say it's consistency. If you have a meet up every month, two months, week, or whatever, just make sure it's at the same interval.

We always try to have our meetings at the end of the month, and when we're in a good rhythm of meet ups then we don't want to break it. When we have missed one meeting, the next meeting just becomes all that much harder to put together. Just like when I miss one day of playing Dance Dance Revolution, the next day it just becomes so much harder to jump back in.


Haven't been on the blog in a loooong while, glad to hear the community you started is going well. I recently started on in my local area (http://www.meetup.com/KW-Hobby-Game-Development/). We have a lower turn out than yours, however we are quite young at only 3 months running.

Currently we are using the cafeteria of the office I work in as a meeting space, it works quite well but I feel it won't work well beyond 15 people. How receptive were most restaurants to having a group come in to do a meeting etc, especially if not everyone necessarily will eat/drink anything? (I'm also eyeballing the local library, but then I doubt I can do food/drink whatsoever...)

I recently got our first "guest" speaker (as in someone who isn't me), did you ever try to get industry pros etc. to speak, or normally just stay within the ranks of the members?

Thanks for the post!
Posted May 19th 2014 4:49 PM

Restaurants are tough. We now hold our meetings at a school and provide some pizza for food for people that want it. We could never find a restaurant that was good for a presentation with people watching. Most of them were very receptive to our group though, since we would usually be bringing in a bunch of people on a normally quiet night (wednesday nights)

It's tough for us to get speakers that are outside the community since most are either hesitant to speak in front of a crowd, or they are just too far away to make the travel (and we don't have a budget to cover their travel expenses) Often times we have frequent attendees of the meetings giving talks.
Posted May 20th 2014 2:35 PM
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