Unorthodox tips on getting the attention of games press

The video above is a presentation put together by John Polson of Indie Fund (previously EiC of IndieGames.com) on the topic of unorthodox ways to reach the press. He presented it with this video at the Full Indie Summit in Vancouver on August 10th.

John asked me to be a part of the video by writing on the two topics he wanted to cover. Not everything I wrote was included in the video as expected, but I thought that I would put it here, in this post, just in case anyone was interested in reading it. You should also watch the video for opinions and advice on these topics from the likes of Patrick Klepek (Giant Bomb), Jess Conditt (Joystiq), Tracey Lien (Polygon), Mary Kish (GameSpot), Chloi Rad (Pocket Gamer), Jamin Warren (Kill Screen), Justin McElroy (Polygon), Justin Davis (IGN), and John himself.

Maybe for a minute’s worth of chatter you can share instances of a game or games you’ve covered that originated from a nontraditional source/manner. I’ve come across some of the best things by some unexpected recommendations and tips (not cookie cutter press releases).

Tumblr has been quite big for me, recently. Anywhere that allows game creators to share their work in a concise and, preferably, visual manner is great for me when scanning. You see, when I’m looking for a project to write about my first filtering process usually involves scanning for screenshots and gifs that catch my attention.

Tumblr is one place (maybe the best) that allows for that. Twitter is another, of course. It’s there that I first discovered Threes! when no one knew what it was (such a time did exist). Back in January of this year, Asher Vollmer mentioned his new project at the time, which was Threes!, in a tweet. Following this up, I found a trailer on the game’s IGF submission page and contacted Asher for more information. That’s how this early article on Threes! came about: http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPhone/Threes%21/news.asp?c=56645

What I will say about this process of “discovering” these games for myself, is that it feels more rewarding than being handed a new game on a plate (i.e. via email). It’s great that someone will contact me about their game, but I get loads of emails about games every day and so it’s likely that it won’t stand out. The ones I remember vividly and associate more with joy in retrospect are those that I have found myself. A sense of ownership can be had over those games I’ve discovered in a forum, or a Tumblr page, or on Twitter, I suppose – I can say to myself that I found that game!

You could also compare my process to a game in itself, kind of like a treasure hunt, or something similar. The point is that while contacting me is a very good idea, another good idea is to spread word about your game elsewhere, as I may ignore lots of words in an email but will scour the web every day and that only ups the chances of me writing about it. Sometimes I’ve been delighted to find a game somewhere and when researching it, which involves typing the game name in my inbox, I discover that the creator has already emailed me about it, but I didn’t think much of it for whatever reason. Perhaps it was pitched to me as a “puzzle platformer”, to which I may have naughtily responded with a yawn and moved on – it happens. But when seeing a screenshot I may have been excited about the art style, or what seemed to be a clever puzzle on show in a gif, and that consequently propelled my excitement and interest towards that same game. I guess that’s case and point, right there.

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Oh, and I’d also add that sharing and writing about games regularly, I’ll often receive tips from people I don’t even know. Here’s one tip that I got recently (image above) regarding a game that the creator was blogging about on the TIGSource forums. This happens quite often, so it’s worth spreading word of your game to as many places as you can keep up with. You never know who is going to help support your game.

Are you more inclined to respond if an indie contacts you for an exclusive? How much time should an indie give you to respond or consider uninterested?

Exclusives feel like an unnecessary hangover from print press, to me. It’s like you’re trying to trade with an outdated currency. Most of the time, the exclusiveness of the coverage will last only a matter of hours as that’s how the online world works. Exclusives did work really well before the rise of the internet as the magazines are issued monthly or bi-montly, meaning that competing magazines wouldn’t have any coverage of that game until at least the next issue. Exclusives were also sometimes traded for the game appearing on the front page – that was the big sell.

Anyway, all of that isn’t to say that some online publications don’t accept and run exclusives, even these days. However, to me, these exclusives often tend to be quite boring and the exclusivity doesn’t seem to add anything compelling to the coverage. That happens when, say, the article is focused entirely on the exclusive announcement and not much else. This is an easy angle for the journalist (“here’s an exclusive”) and it may, in turn, make them lazy.

What is preferable is to try to get as much press bandwidth as possible by telling as many people about the game as possible. This means that the journalist has to come up with an interesting angle to make people want to read about the game on their publication over another. As a result, this may result in much better (read: interesting) coverage of your game, too.

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