Brevity in Presentation

Nov 17, 2013

Talking about a game succinctly can be incredibly challenging. Prototyping aside, even within the hobbyist or independent scale fully developing a videogame often ties up at least a few dozen hours on the game jam extreme of the spectrum, outside of which development time easily stretches into hundreds upon hundreds or even thousands of hours for more polished and content-heavy projects.

That doesn’t summarize nicely!

Presented with a chance to speak to a crowd or an important industry contact for a few minutes about one of your projects – any of your projects, old or new – would you be ready and able to do so?

I lived in San Francisco for a few years, and one of the benefits to living and working in a city where there were plenty of other independent developers was that I’d frequently face the question: “What’s your game about?” People want to hear what makes the game special or different. It’s well worth practicing how to do that in a few minutes or less. That’ll be helpful to recruit team members or make connections early during development. That’ll be helpful to land a publishing or branding deal later in development if desired. That’ll definitely help in figuring out messaging for players when the game’s finally ready to play. It can even be helpful to you as the developer to get a better handle on what it is that you’re making.

My first public presentation of my Interaction Artist experimental gameplay series happened at an IGDA meeting held during Art History of Games back in 2010. Without much prior notice, everyone in attendance was informed that anyone could have a few minutes to present anything we’d like with all the other members as our audience. I scrambled a bit, but managed to pick a few examples for show and tell to convey the gist – not enough that it was thorough coverage, of course, but enough that someone hearing it could decide whether they’d be interested in checking out the rest.

When a few minutes are all we have, the best we can hope for is to say the right things to let people know what awaits them if they put the time into checking out the real thing.

Dr. Celia Pearce recently gave each of her graduate students (myself included) three minutes to present past work to her experimental media class. Although every couple of years I put together a comprehensive listing of what I’ve been up to those are far too dense for most folks to digest, so I was excited about the opportunity to piece together a highlights reel focusing on just a handful of projects with context:

In the time since the release of these projects I’ve discussed each of them many times now, every occasion trying different approaches to figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s still not as succinct as I’d like for this material to be, but that’s the shortest I’ve achieved for now. And, of course, here I enjoyed the benefit of visual aids!

How would you describe your project – or projects – in only a few minutes?

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