How to Scam Games for Freeby
'Tis the season to be jolly (or so they say). I live a gamer's dream every month-- free games just appear in our mailbox! Then I live the gamer's nightmare-- I have to mail out those games to other people! All of them, *poof*, gone. It's enough to push me over the edge someday, but that's another column, another time. The important thing is, for various reasons companies like mailing me free stuff. And now, for free, I'm going to reveal the Secrets of Scamming Games.
I'll start with the hard way and get easier later. Method One: start up a website or a 'zine that has at least a thousand readers. Then spend several conventions running around like mad convincing companies that yes, darn it, you're not like all the other dozens of freelance editors running around promising something for nothing and you will review anything they give you. Then, actually do the reviews, noting that this crucial extra detail will distinguish you from the dozens of similar outfits trying the same scheme (see also Method Three, below). Note also that this plan requires organization and work, so I don't recommend it.
Someone once said the industry exists primarily for freelancers to scam games from each other. Which leads us to Method Two. Write a game sourcebook for a company (or self-publish). Now, just trade it at conventions for other people's books! Since most companies will give you at least 10 free copies of your own work, you've just multiplied your book ninefold (because you have to save one for your mother or she'll kill you.)
Method Three gets even easier. Start an organization with a prestigious- sounding acronym (SRPGS, for example... the Secret Roleplaying Gaming Society is not yet claimed as a name.) List yourself as President on some business cards you print up on your computer... or better yet, as Marketing. Then go up to booths at conventions, introduce yourself, and explain that, by providing you with free copies as prizes for your many events, said gaming company will reap infinitely great "exposure". Take the games you've conned and go home. Enjoy reading them. Live in fear that your ruse will be discovered. Announce one month later on the Internet that SRPGS is being disbanded because of "staff conflict". You're clear! (But wait for that karmic payback someday.)
Too unethical? Then why are you reading a column on "scamming games for free?" Sheesh. Okay, here's a low-work way to try it. Method Five: join the review staff of a paper magazine, online magazine, or web site that does reviews. Ask the editor to send you games, and you'll review them. For "work" (reading the book) you'd do anyway, you get a game! You know, this method is just wacky enough to work!
Method Six is the booth weasel approach. This is actually a lot of fun. Get in touch with your favorite game company and volunteer to help work their booth. If you know someone that has worked with them, ask them to be your "in" to the company. Otherwise, just find the smallest convention in your area that they'll be at, and then email them saying "I know you'll be at LostCon X in Nowhere, N.A., and if you need help staffing your booth, I live 5 minutes away and also know where all the best restaurants are." And yes, this last bit is crucial; it's really tough finding good food quickly while on the road. Presto, they'll give you a badge for the Con, you get to stand around looking pompous and official for a few hours, and you're in! Most companies will slip you a book or two as a token of appreciation, and now you have experience enough to volunteer for bigger Cons.
Assuming you succeeded with this last method, you can now booth weasel with the best of them. The basic trick here is to work your way up to GenCon. Once there, you're in trading nirvana. In your spare time, walk to the other booths, find the other weasels there, and start making vague promises. "If you can give me a copy of Book X" (you might say) "I'll try and get a copy of Book Y from my booth." Of course, people in the know are like spies: they'll only swap goods, not promises. So find out what you can get from your booth (any slow moving product is usually worth asking about-- most companies hate shipping back token quantities of product). Build up a stock of trade goods for the last day's mad swaps. Then, in the final hours of the Con, the orgy of trading can begin.
I suppose I should mention one last method. Method Seven: be famous. Really, just write a handful of excellent games or columns or something, be well respected in the industry (if perhaps a bit controversial), then walk up and say "Ah, interesting book there... I've been fascinated by your work, mind if I have a copy?" This works like a charm, I tell you. Every convention I go to, I get dozens of books. I just go up and say "give me a book. After all, I'm Jeff Freeman."