Five things I learnt at Guru LIVE

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Guru LIVE conference for Film, TV and Games hosted by BAFTA in London. It was the first real conference I’ve attended and I had an absolute blast! The talks varied from presentation to panel discussion and were hosted by some game industry veterans and big name collaborators. Each gave me an insight into the different disciplines found within the industry and it was great to hear about the trials and tribulations others had gone through to get to where they are today.

As a way of documenting the conference I’ve decided to devote a blog post about five things that I took away from (not literally!) the Guru LIVE event.

Indies are human too.

Before attending I didn’t know that much about the indie game development scene. All I really knew about was the odd scrap of information that I might have stumbled across on Twitter or Kotaku. I find there’s generally a lot of information about Indie success stories but you never really hear about what each developer had to go through in order to get to where they are today. The presentation “Your First Game” was all about these untold tales and how it worked out for them.

One thing I always forget is that Indie developers are normal people. They’re not born with magical super powers that make them brilliant at making games. They have to learn the same way everyone else does. What I respect the most is that they have an idea for something that they want to make and they put everything on the line in order to make that idea work. Sometimes the thing you want to make is just out of your reach and you have to stop working on it to learn more about how to move past the issue. It’s about knowing when to call it a day and when to continue. It’s not about money or pride.

It’s nice to know that the people making these great games have families, mortgages and other things in their lives that affect their livelihood. They didn’t appear to be phased by cash flow running out or the game they are working on going under. They just made games because they enjoyed it and that other people might enjoy playing them.

Take notes

This is the one thing I wish I’d done more of throughout the weekend. I think the main reason I didn’t really do this was because I was in a new place, meeting new people and just happy to be attending talks hosted by known industry professionals or people who had worked on big franchises. I did end up writing a few pointers down on the second day but I think I’ll make a consorted effort to write things down in the future.

Research your talks

As this was my first conference I didn’t really do any research on the talks I wanted to attend. The event was for Film, TV and Games people and the schedule was split up accordingly. None of the talks overlapped with each other (within a single industry) so you didn’t have to pick from several at any given time slot. This won’t always be the case, especially at bigger conferences, so have a plan of which ones you want to attend and a backup one for each time slot in case your first choice is full.

I found the Business of Creativity talk super interesting and full of useful information. The presentation was about how to find funding, attract investment and how to build a product. Each presenter was from a different industry and each spoke about how they came to be where they were and what they do to support up and coming projects in their respective industries.

The “How to Freelance” presentation I found less interesting and not a great use of my time. Despite the name it didn’t actually cover how to freelance and instead should have been called “How to write a CV”. I hoped to find out about the inner workings of being freelance: How to price myself. What resources are available to me for writing my own contracts with clients. What to do if a client doesn’t pay up. What’s the best approach to working a typical day without it taking over my life. Although I’m not currently freelance, this information would have been far more valuable to me.

Network, network, network.

Since University I haven’t been to any specific ‘networking’ events and as such I’m a little rusty. Having said that I like talking to people that I don’t know and find it pretty easy. I was a little disappointed to not receive a name badge at the event launch party but on reflection I think this worked out quite well as it meant I had to talk to people in order to find out who they were and which industry they were in. For the first two hours I didn’t meet anyone from the games industry but instead of shying away and not chatting I now know a few people in both the Film and TV industries.

Being able to network is a skill that can be learnt and mastered, it just takes a bit of time and experience. You have to remember that nearly everyone in the room is in the same boat and that the first introduction is always the hardest and most awkward bit. Once you’ve said who you are and what you do (and asked them the same questions) you’ll be past the awkwardness and into the conversation. It’s all plain sailing from then on!

I’m a firm believer in being proactive. The event is only so long which only gives you a small window to talk to people. If you want to speak to the presenter, go and talk to the presenter. If you’re unsure of someone’s name ask them what it is again. You’ll be glad you did when the event finishes.

On one last note, you don’t have to have business cards.

Keeping up appearances

As with all events of this nature following up new contacts is the way forward but you shouldn’t do it to get ahead. Personally I like contacting people because they’re doing awesome work and I want to know more about it or want to get involved myself. A tweet here, an email there goes a long way and it’s always good to thank people for their time. It could be you one day!

For more information on Guru Live, please click here, and for information on all things BAFTA please visit their website or follow along on Twitter @BAFTA

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