SpillExpo2018. Big floors, six hundred sheets of drawing paper and loads of aspiring space colonizers. Running a stand at Norway’s largest gaming exposition for three days was not only rewarding but also amazing. It was, however, not a walk in the park for two human game developers.
We arrived in Oslo a good few days before the show started. Oslo is the capital of Norway, and we have only rarely been here before. This is not our home turf, to put it mildly. By arriving in good time, we had the opportunity to get familiar with the city of Oslo, its public transportation system and getting comfortable in our quarters before the day. This severely helped reduce stress when the show actually started. Being just two guys about to run a major promo-operation at the largest game expo in Norway, we needed as much leeway in our stress bar as possible.
We spent our extra days in Oslo prepping Bonkies with a much sought after in-game join function, finalizing our digital wheel of fortune prize distributor, sewing some home made totebags for VIPs visiting our stand, and just chilling out with our friends, whom we also borrowed couches from, and showers, and food. Thank you <3
Ok, so it’s wednesday, the show floor opens up to visitors on friday. We went to set up the stand. We had already rented a VW Caddy from nabobil.no. Missing only two indicator lights and one wheel nut, she served her purpose dutifully for an entire week. On our way to the expo hall in Lillestrøm, half an hour drive outside Oslo, we stopped by IKEA and Power to pick up furniture and a 55 inch TV for our stand. In total, we spent 8000 Norwegian crowns (that’s around 1000 US Dollars), expecting IKEA’s and Power’s generous 30 day “no questions asked” return policies to work in our favour when we returned three days later.
We park outside a huge garage door by the expo hall. We locate our stand and start carrying boxes upon boxes of flat packed furniture and work up a real sweat. We find that our booth is twice the size we had anticipated. Baffled by this, we contact one of the managers there, and he tells us “your neighbors canceled their stand. Hey, would you like a carpet to cover up this ugly floor for no charge?” We accepted his offer. This was a surprise, to be sure. More room, and a carpet in Bonkies blue, for free! As we were sharing the stand with Norwegian Game Award for the entire weekend, the surprise of extra space was a particularly welcome one. Now we just had to rethink the layout of our stand a little bit. It was fairly easy to figure out a new layout there and then, easier than it was sketching it up back at the office a few weeks earlier. Prototyping a spatial layout with actual physical objects in the real world is so much better than having to imagine scale in a sketch or a model. Now we got instant feedback on the stand’s, what do you call it… Feng Shui!
So our stand is finally ready, and instead of testing our latest game build for bugs, we took shots of ourselves posing as rulers of the seven kingdoms. Self confidence is very important.
Honestly, Friday, Saturday and Sunday is mostly a blur, come to think of it. I remember myself giving away flyers for our game, explaining the main features of the game to children, to adults, to families, to groups of friends. I remember people declining flyers, making me feel like a pushy salesman. But I pushed through, and got into a sort of pitching groove, and by making sure people understood that I was telling them about that game being played by those people right there *pointing at the TV*, most people wanted to know more about it, and even how we made it.
We also had invaluable help from many of our lovely friends who also attended the expo. When people struggled with the controllers, they helped explain. When there weren’t enough players, they stepped in. We also got to know Casper, a great guy who really took a liking to Bonkies and our stand. He also helped out, explaining the game, picking up unused joysticks and being a good motivator with his never disappearing smile, even when facing not so cooperative players. We love you, man. Also, shout out to WheeperJeeper and Aron, both of them A-grade level designers who received T-shirts for their effort (just had to… hack the prize distributor a little bit).
People seemed to really like our our stand. I think it had to do with the fact that we offered activities. We heard from a lot of the groups walking by that they looked for stuff to do. Offering visitors the opportunity to sit down in children’s room-like surroundings, play the game, draw level designs for the game, and spin a wheel of fortune for a chance to win prizes helped engage visitors. People hung around long enough for crowds to build up, resulting in even more curious people stopping by and taking part in our activities.
I think what made the biggest impression on me during the weekend was whenever kids asked their non-gamer parents to join the game, and the parents agreed, reluctantly. Seeing how engaged they all got, I realized Bonkies is not only something that may be fun for friends to play while downing soda or beer, but something parents and children can bond over. We have always wanted Bonkies to be for families as well, but this was the first time we’ve seen the game being played by actual families (other than our own), and seeing how they all enjoyed themselves together was really moving, actually.
If we didn’t have to manage our stand the entire time, there was loaaads of other cool stuff we could have checked out. We only got to take a peek whenever we went to the bathrooms or took one of our short breaks (we felt we could not leave each other to manage the stand alone for too long). There was a cosplay competition arranged by SpillExpo, a treasure hunt for dragons (a dragon hunt, if you will) by Cosplay Against Cancer, a Fortnite tournament on a humongous cinema screen, several pop-up shops with all sorts of geeky gear and gadgets for gamers and cosplayers, and even Andøya Rocket Station had a stand, but unfortunately we never got to discuss our plans about sending a Bonkie to space with them.
Suddenly, it is monday. We wake up late. The Expo is over, and in our trusty Caddy lies 250 level designs, a 55 inch flat screen TV, and furniture, not so flat packed anymore. All the T-shirts gone to people we think will appreciate them. We breakfast, meet up, and notice that we both are getting more and more sceptical about whether we actually get to return these items. We’ve risked 8000 Crowns on this to work. We head out to IKEA and Power again, trying to stay below 80 km/h, because the car have started to make weird noises all of a sudden. Just hold it to together for a few more hours… We Arrive at Power, carry the TV to the service desk, and tell guy working there that we want to return the TV. He asks if it’s anything wrong with it, and we tell him no, we just didn’t want it anymore. We walked out with a full refund – the same from IKEA. Their customer service was impeccable, and we had no hassle returning any of the furniture we’ve bought. Mind you they were in impeccable shape when we returned them, the visitors at our stand were very nice people and the only thing they ruined was each other’s best times. When driving back we felt a bit bad for, well, exploiting such customer friendly systems. We’ll be sure to buy from both IKEA and Power in the future, but as long as we are taking out no salaries, have no funding, and live on strict budgets while we work towards Bonkies’ big break, we’ll stay thrifty, any way we can, and hopefully, we get the chance to pay it forward in the future.
We return the car, still in one piece. We whip up dinner for our Oslo hosts, thanking them for letting us stay. The impressions from the city of Oslo, from the positive player feedback and successful stand preparation to furniture assembly and social gatherings truly made this not only a weekend, but a week to remember. We hope to return next year.
All pictures @Studio Gauntlet, unless otherwise specified