Soapbox: About the Industry
How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1by Sandy Antunes
Soapbox: About the Industry
How To Be An Industry Poser, Part 1by Sandy Antunes
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.
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).
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:
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:
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:
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
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?]
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:
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!