All the world’s a game…err stage…and all the men and women, merely players. That’s (basically) what Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago and it certainly seems as true today. Immersing oneself into games is only going to get hotter as we see virtual reality take hold. But how can you capitalize on the popularity of those games and create events around them? Here’s what you need to know.
How Gaming Has Changed
First, hosting a “gaming event” is not a casino night or poker tournament. For this article, when we refer to games and gaming events, we mean interactive video games that have a cult-like following.
Back in the 80s, a gaming convention would’ve yielded only the top competition from the different arcade games. Today, because of the interconnection of everyone on the Interwebs, gaming is more of a lifestyle than an occasional challenge. There are YouTubers who make a living (and a very nice one at that) giving tips on how to be more successful at gaming and trying out new features for millions of people (yes, seriously) watching their every move.
Today’s gaming events attract skilled players but because many of the games involve role-playing and advanced storylines, you’ll also find cosplay and other ways people are finding to bring the game outside of the screen.
On the basis of your event may be a “video game tournament” (please don’t call it that because today’s games are much more about the community) but what you’re actually hosting, in most cases, is an alternate universe or an elite cybersports competition.
What Goes Into Gaming Events
There are two major components of top-notch gaming events: the actual skill competition and the community you’re building. Don’t skimp on either. Since most gamers at this level make connections around the world, a lot of gaming events are going to draw global audiences. Even people who are not involved in the top-level competition, watch and connect with others.
Technology is Your Celebrity Star Draw
Tech is going to be a major draw for a gaming event. Since a large part of the attendees will merely be watching the competition, you have to create an experience that will be enjoyable. They’re not going to be satisfied simply peering over someone’s head watching the screen. Take, for instance, the Epic Esports Event held recently in Moscow. They wanted their audience to feel a part of the game so they broadcast the game on big screens throughout the hall and used video mapping to play up the effects from the game onto the surrounding walls so that attendees felt like they too were “in” the game.
Interactivity Is an Absolute Necessity
In keeping with technology possessing a starring role in a gaming event, you need to look for ways to create a top-notch experience. This means decor that’s in line with the game, that immerses people in the world of the game. You don’t want the main hall to merely be decorated with the game’s logo. You need attendees to virtually stamp a passport and live in the game for a few days. That’s what they’re looking for. Some events use electronic LED bracelets to trigger lighting effects as attendees walk by. This gives the feeling of interacting with the virtual world of the game.
Experience and Escape
Your attendees aren’t coming for boring “click here now” type of sessions. More so than perhaps any other event type, they want to get lost in the experience. Their desire is for the game they know and love to welcome them into its world on a larger scale. You must create that experience and invite them to escape into that world like a virtual version of Alice down the rabbit hole.
Anything that is not part of the game, will be disruptive to their experience. For instance, wait staff in traditional black pants and a white shirt will seem incongruent with the experience. Instead, dress your staff to look like they stepped out of the game. That sort of detail keeps attendees in the fantasy, which is what they are paying for.
Marketing Should Be Otherworldly
This is not the type of party you’re sending a paper invitation to. Your marketing for the event should be in keeping with the game you’re promoting. Landing pages should have cool effects. Your marketing may be the first experience they have with the event so give them a taste of what you’re offering.
Influencer Marketing Will Be Key
As mentioned before, gaming is about the community. This makes your job of marketing easier because word-of-mouth goes a long way with gamers. Bring influencers on early. Figure out the top names in your game. Give them discount codes or incentives to bring in the crowds. Gaming talk is their currency and they borrow and trade against it regularly with their tribe.
Gaming events are perfect for using an online community because gamers enjoy the comradery of the online social experience. However, adoption of your own online community may be a challenge because these attendees are probably already a part of a gaming community and may not want to take on another one. Research your audience and find out a little about their online habits. You may not want to build your own competing online community but instead, participate in the ones your attendees already belong to.
Your attendees will want to meet the influencers they’ve watched and the people they’ve played with so “networking” parties should play a big role as well. But these won’t be traditional networking parties. They’ll need to be game-world appropriate, continuing on the experience of being “in-the-world.”
Know Your Game
At Star Trek conventions you often hear arguments between traditionalists and fans of newer adaptations over the inaccuracies that occurred in film and television shows. Gaming events are no different. In addition to the regular stresses of hosting an event, you need to make sure you are true to the game. Some of your attendees will know the game better than they know their neighborhood block. Triple check all of your details.
Personalize the Experience
If your game event involves a role-playing game where people have adopted a player character (a fictional persona that they carry through all gameplay) find creative ways to incorporate this. Make sure when they sign up you ask their “alter ego” name. Use it on name badges or enter them into their interactive bracelets so that you can complete the immersive experience.
A gaming event may be one of the biggest undertakings you approach as an event planner. It still has all of the normal stresses and requirements of any other large-scale event but it also requires you to recreate a world your attendees love. It’s not as easy as simply creating an escape, you must be true to the game world as they know it.
Their tribe is strong and they will come from all parts of the world to unite in this game world. For them, it’s a skills competition and fantasy to spend time in the world they love with and without a screen. For you, you are event planner, scriptwriter, producer, director, actor, passport stamper, and circus trainer of a game brought to life. Are you up to the challenge?