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Soapbox: About the Industry

How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1

by Sandy Antunes
Dec 05,2002


How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1

Well, I suppose the best way to start this column is to let you know a bit about me.

In the 80s, I did a lot of writing for this industry. As the web appeared, Emma and I realized it was going to be a big thing, and we created RPGnet and a host of other game-related ventures-- many of which have continued on to great success. We positioned ourselves so we basically could jump-start the web industry talks at GTS (now a regular feature), acquire other web companies, and really grow the rpg-web scene. RPGnet itself we finally sold for a tidy 7-figure sum. Now I do consulting and help start-ups, sort of a 'grand patriarch' role in this industry, plus I have steady published work coming out (mostly live action and other experimental/upcoming niches).

Now let's analyze the above statement. Is it true? Yes... barely. But it grossly overstates my role in this industry, emphasizes some things a bit broadly, and takes shocking liberalities with the english language.

In the 80s, I did a lot of writing for this industry.
Articles and regular columns for lots of magazines-- enough for pizza money, I reckon. 1 sourcebook for Chaosium.

As the web appeared, Emma and I realized it was going to be a big thing
True enough... so did thousands of other folks.

and we created RPGnet and a host of other game-related ventures-- many of which have continued on to great success.
Well, besides RPGnet we mostly _hosted_ other people's game ventures, so any success there is their own. Otherwise, it'd be like the phone company taking credit for every corporation that uses phones.

We positioned ourselves so we basically could jump-start the web industry talks at GTS (now a regular feature),
Or, more simply, we did the first GTS web talks. The web was big enough that of course web talks at GTS became standard. Someone had to be first, at best we got it going at GTS a year before someone else would have.

acquire other web companies,
Err... maybe 1, the rest were part of our co-op, not really 'acquired'.

and really grow the rpg-web scene.
Ooh, isn't that a nice, intangible, unprovable statement!

RPGnet itself we finally sold for a tidy 7-figure sum.
... if you count the 'cents' column.

Now I do consulting and help start-ups, sort of a 'grand patriarch' role in this industry,
... and if I pulled the 'grand patriarch' line with anyone I give free or even paid advice to, they'd laugh and ignore me. Let's not overstate things! You have to admit 'start-ups' sounds more perky than, oh, 'gamers who want to start a new company'.

plus I have steady published work coming out (mostly live action and other experimental/upcoming niches).
Actually close to true, if 'steady' equals 'a couple of paying pieces a year'. Steady, but not worldshaking.

Oh boy, this was depressing, deconstructing my own lies. The ironic aspect is that most of the stuff that _did_ give me great insight into this industry, isn't in the above writeup.

Being a booth monkey for Eric Rowe at the Armory open house (back when Eric was Chaosium's Sales guy and the Armory, well, existed) was great. At dinner with the sales folks (Eric, Woody, Tara), I was told "no publisher will talk with you now, you've been tainted by being seen with the sales people". I mean, you can't buy insight (or ostracism) like that! But it's kind of flaccid as a credential-- "I had dinner with 3 game industry sales people at an open house [yawn]".

Yet that was also where I learned about how to get sex onto book covers, found the Armory's money-sink repository of unsold back issues of InPhobia, and had countless other experiences that I'd remember if I wasn't viewing it all through the fuzzy rose-tinted goggles of nostalgia, ah, *sigh*. Hey, that was a decade ago!

So, frankly, my best experiences were experiential, not teachable. So if you are reading this hoping to become me, well, you're screwed (not to mention mis-motivated).

But you can pretend to be me, and be able to do so instantly, at your very next convention appearance, just by following the following steps on Self-Creating Yourself as a Game Industry Insider![tm]

Build Up Credentials

Any Pay is Good Pay

Get a paid writing gig. It doesn't matter how obscure it is, just that it paid. In fact, if you can't a 'name' gig like Dragon or with Chaosium or such, more obscure is better. Compare:

Loser case:
"I just got my article published in White Knight!"
    'What'd it pay?'
    'Oh, a fan thing [snigger]'.

Winner case:
"My last column in Cryptych _finally_ came out, then they folded. Good thing I got my check first!"
    'Woah, yeah, pretty slick-- I'd never heard of them, were they, like, that prestigious German mag?'
"Something like that, yeah. I don't know all the details"[other than that I got the gig as International Columnist for Japan because, hey, I lived in Japan, and the pay was mostly comp copies, though I did sell an article or two, and it folded because their sister mag, Scrye, was just way more popular.]

Overstating isn't a Crime (yet)

A little overstatement is pretty safe-- no one bothers to do much fact-finding in the industry, as they're too busy covering their own tracks.

The thing to be careful of, is that overstatement or misstatement of facts has to be done live, in person. The internet has greatly empowered the armchair librarian, and a mis-speak on credentials is all to easily found out. Live, people are deprived of their electronic memories and obscure-editor connectivity, and you can safely bluff past.

And yes, there are folks that like to pedantically check out even the most innocuous of statements. After all, since you're faking being famous, the 'little people' see great challenge in trying to bring you down. So fake your credentials only against people of higher status, and dumber, than you are.

In such situations, a little Chutzpah can make even the blandest of attempts seem like a home run.

Gold medal for Chutzpah:
"I think 'Dragon' is really on an upsurge in quality. I had to go through 3 edits on my recent piece, that's a good sign that they're really focusing on content, not glitz."
    'Woah, you're published in Dragon? [awe]'
"Well, who knows _which_ issue it'll come out in, you know how it is [smiles knowingly] [neglects to mention that was 3 edits on just your pitch/inquiry, and the editor ended up turning down the piece, but hey, you'll resubmit as soon as they switch editors again.]
[Note: don't pull this line on the current editor of Dragon]

Go Obscure

It's always safe to be pitching an area or service that no one in the game industry is likely to really be interested in. Say you're a D20 publisher, well, you might have to actually talk about:

  • products you've done
  • your opinion of the SRDs
  • distribution penetration

On the other hand, say you create animations to support online gaming mapmaking for network play, and people's eyes might just glaze over. And that's a good sign! It means you're in safe bluff territory!

Now you can ramp things up-- talk about how the Europeans are much ahead of this, but you just can't get the smaller US publishers to look into it. Talk about how the high costs are making it hard to get more than, oh, 3 or 4 clients for this.

Make it so that, even though they don't want you, they want you, baby.

Beware not-as-obscure-as-you-think topics, like 'steampunk games', 'neo-victorian meta-fiction', or 'live action'. In any industry crowd of 3 or more, you might blunder into a real expert on these.

Remember, game industry people don't just exist in space, but in time, and some of them stretch back 3 decades or more. A lot of funky ideas were tried in the past, and you don't want their wacky failures to accidentally cross over with your bold-faced lies!

Work Behind the Scenes

Aim High

It's always better to be in a top level position. One with power, status, and anonymity, with none of that pesky "actually have to produce something" pressure. For example, a role as 'editor'.

"Yeah, I'm chief editor of HL" [and all the staff], "we're having a bitch of a time being picked up by Alliance" [because we've neglected to, like, even try contacting them about this since we're a web thing]. "For that matter, which printer do you use?" [always a good, vague comment, especially as we don't actually need a printer for our web journal.]

Ask for Help

"So, like, any tips on how we can break the 2000-subscriber mark" [neglecting that our current subscriber base is, umm, 3-- me and the writers] "and get Alliance's attention better" [or even, for the first?]

Assume Doom

As long as your questions and anecdotes presume an unfair market rife with bad decision making that seeks to press out the small fry, you'll probably be able to get everyone to a) agree with you and b) be impressed by your analysis of things.

Noted faux pass:

  1. Yeah, it's a growth industry right now, I just must suck.
  2. D20 as a system is much better than anything I could design.
  3. Wow, your daughter is really hot.

Act Like a Playa

Never Namedrop To Peers

On an industry list, one person wrote of the Hogshead closing, "One of my greatest blessings over the last few years has been being able to call James Wallis a true friend." And I'd like to echo that statement, that I too am proud to call James a true friend. But not on that industry list, oh no.

Specifically, I'd like to echo that here, in this column that James doesn't read. Since James isn't here, he can't call me a liar. Err, I mean, this way, my comments aren't adding to James' workload at this recent turn of fate.

For that matter, though I am upset that John Wick has left gaming and also left visiting RPGnet forever, I am happy to call him a true friend. And John Tynes, who recently left gaming-- rack up another true friend there. And John K., too, and James E., who I'll refer to using only initials in case I get cross-examined.

And... hmmm... let's see... there's probably folks here who'd forward this to Gygax if I name-dropped him, so I'll leave the list at that. Besides, if you haven't had a book of the bible named after you, you're not as good to name drop, right?

If You Can't Be Honest, Be Vague

At my last GTS (Gama Trade Show '01), I was really happy to be at the booth with the WotC folks, swapping tales and finding out the inside scoop. And seeing Peter Adkison again was very cool, he's also so nice to talk with!

(Note that this covers everything from 'private invite to WotC party' down to 'told booth babe about my character, saw Peter give a talk, left'.)

We're Paid to Write Fiction, Right?

Also, for those in the know, I'd like to thank Fairfax Vienna, my first editor back at, oh, it was either FASA or Chaosium or perhaps that other 3-letter acronym company, it was so long ago-- you know, he was the unsung editor of all those great books? Even though I had to write under a pseudonym, I think those D&D 1st edition modules were among the best-selling work I've done.

If the Reader Thinks Gary = Gygax, It's Their Fault

And I'd like to thank Gary and Dave for their help in those early days, when I was starting out. More recently, Peter and Ryan were a big help in getting my gaming startup going. And, of course, James for help in 'cheapass' packaging to keep costs down and Liz for her marketing savvy.

Promise More Than You'll Deliver

Actually, the next section is a biggie, so we're going to save it for part 2 of this 3-part series. We'll also be covering "Who's Who" in the industry name-game, 3 sure-fire 'industry pundit' lines that show you're in the know, and mention of how you can use other people's mistakes to boost yourself while belittling them in the process.

So join us for the second and third parts of this column next year! TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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All Soapboxes

  • See What Sticks by Sandy Antunes, 06jan06
  • Simple Gifts for Pre-Gamers by Sandy Antunes, 09dec05
  • Col vs Blog by Sandy Antunes, 04nov05
  • Running a First RPG for Kids by Sandy Antunes, 07oct05
  • Making It Pay by Sandy Antunes, 02sep05
  • The Hazards of Non-Combat Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 05aug05
  • Just-in-Time Pre-order Hell by Sandy Antunes, 01jul05
  • Cassandra's Industry Report by Sandy Antunes, 03jun05
  • Fiction or Non-Fiction by Sandy Antunes, 05may05
  • I am not a Storyteller by Sandy Antunes, 08apr05
  • A Better Job by Sandy Antunes, 01apr05
  • Advice For Working Writers by Sandy Antunes, 04mar05
  • Startup Fever by Sandy Antunes, 04feb05
  • Why Blogging is Lame by Sandy Antunes, 07jan05
  • Being a Pro Writer by Sandy Antunes, 10dec04
  • Viral Marketing Invitational by Sandy Antunes, 05nov04
  • The 24 Hour RPG Challenge by Sandy Antunes, 08oct04
  • A Decade of Distilled Advice by Sandy Antunes, 03sep04
  • Go Ahead, Hit Me! by Sandy Antunes, 06aug04
  • Promoting Yourself by Sandy Antunes, 09jul04
  • 10 Hurdles to Selling Your Game by Sandy Antunes, 11jun04
  • Let's Team Up! by Sandy Antunes, 07may04
  • Beyond Role and Pla(t)y(pus) by Sandy Antunes, 08apr04
  • Slow Improv and the Post-Kilgallon by Sandy Antunes, 05mar04
  • Paradox Redux by Sandy Antunes, 06feb04
  • Mad Scientists and the Kilgallon Paradox by Sandy Antunes, 09jan04
  • It's Not Your World, It's Mine by Sandy Antunes, 05dec03
  • Murphy's Law for Adventure Writers by Sandy Antunes, 07nov03
  • Eigentesting by Sandy Antunes, 09oct03
  • Atomic by Sandy Antunes, 05sep03
  • Is Writing a Commodity? by Sandy Antunes, 06aug03
  • Designing Amidst the Tides of Gaming History by Sandy Antunes, 08jul03
  • Buy This Book by Sandy Antunes, 05jun03
  • Hobbies by Sandy Antunes, 08may03
  • The Websites That Wouldn't Die by Sandy Antunes, 10apr03
  • The Path to Atrocities by Sandy Antunes, 06mar03
  • Cattle Mutilation: The Game Design by Sandy Antunes, 06feb03
  • Gaming With Children by Sandy Antunes, 09jan03
  • How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1 by Sandy Antunes, 05dec02
  • all i game with, i learned from kids books by Sandy Antunes, 19nov02
  • TCG: The Total Cost of Gaming by Sandy Antunes, 10oct02
  • Game Publishing & The Law by Sandy Antunes, 06sep02
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Sandy Antunes, 01aug02
  • Buying Time by Sandy Antunes, 04jul02
  • April 10, 2002 13 New FAQs
  • March 1, 2002 Give Me A Closet
  • January 2, 2002 Let's Go Shopping?!?
  • December 13, 2001 Conflict, Ethics, Winning, and Money
  • November 13, 2001 Secret RPGnet Operations Document Leaked!
  • October 16, 2001 Leadership and D&D
  • September 4, 2001 Leading Industry Site Reports Secret: Sex Sells!
  • August 7, 2001 Any, Anyone Can Be an Internet Success-- Why Aren't You?
  • July 3, 2001 Fine Print, Part U
  • June 5, 2001 Fine Print, Part I
  • May 8, 2001 Pushing Limits
  • May 4, 2001 RPGnet State of the Union special feature
  • April 6, 2001 The Other Magic: Niche Hobbies and Other Markets
  • May 9, 2000 Running a Business as an Old Style D&D Party
  • April 14, 2000 First to Market
  • March 20, 2000 Labor Pains
  • February 15, 2000 One Trick Pony
  • January 6, 2000 Creativity is Bad, Hard to Sell, and Great for Business
  • December 14, 1999 Oranges versus Bananas: Entertainment Costs
  • November 2, 1999 Why Editors Lie
  • October 5, 1999 How to publish a quality game, accept criticism gracefully, and lead a happy life: Pick Any Two
  • September 7, 1999 It Takes a Village (to publish an RPG)
  • August 3, 1999 All Gamer Money Isn't Equal
  • July 6, 1999 Tides of Cash Flow
  • June 1, 1999 Ad-itudes
  • May 4, 1999 Who, What, Give me a Guiness
  • April 6, 1999 The GAMA Trade Show '99
  • March 2, 1999 Roleplaying would have saved Millions
  • February 2, 1999 Games That Won't Suck
  • January 5, 1999 Dangerous Games
  • December 1, 1998 Making Gamers the Old Fashioned Way
  • November 3, 1998 The $1K Company
  • October 1, 1998 So You Want to Start Your Own Company...
  • September 1, 1998 Holy Grails and Marching Morons
  • August 4, 1998 Gamers Must Die!
  • July 7, 1998 Profit versus Prophet
  • June 2, 1998 Acquire! Acquire!
  • May 5, 1998 Power
  • April 21, 1998 The GAMA Trade Show Report, Part 2 (eventually)
  • April 7, 1998 Schroedinger Games, or, the GAMA Report
  • March 3, 1998 Culling the Herd
  • February 3, 1998 Horatio Hornblower's RPG Company
  • January 6, 1998 Double Feature (Us and Them/A Clash of Images)
  • December 2, 1997 "How to Scam Games for Free"
  • November 4, 1997 "Women in Gaming?"
  • October 2, 1997 "Fear of a Gaming Planet" (Welcome to the RPG ghetto?)
  • September 2, 1997 "Rush" (fame and adoration in lieu of pay)
  • August 2, 1997 "For the Money" (convention mating rituals)
  • July 2, 1997 "Good Deeds" (the dearth of evil game companies)
  • June 2, 1997 "Dirty Laundry" (copyright and slander on the net)
  • May 2, 1997 "Communications Breakdown" (company and player schisms)
  • April 2, 1997 "The Quick and the Dead" (dying companies versus new ideas)
  • March 2, 1997 "It's All in the Timing" (on hype and late deliveries, and on genres)
  • February 2, 1997 "Insiders and Outsiders" (who's who and who uses the web)
  • January 2, 1997 "Fits and Starts" (web presences, print runs, live roleplaying)
  • December 2, 1996 "Procastination Season is Over" (delays and new products)
  • November 1, 1996 "Best of Times, Worst of Times" (on rumors, survival, and larps)
  • October 1, 1996 "Post-Con fallout and not that many new games"
  • September 1, 1996 "Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPS"
  • Our reason for existence

    Other columns at RPGnet

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