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GDC 2019: Shackled to the booth

William Barr is the director of BillyGoat Entertainment. Currently they’re making some game about a guy and a goat screaming – that you’ll find on booth N3037 at GDC – called Supermarket Shriek.

Ask 90 per cent of indie video game developers to describe their greatest fear and they’ll tell you it’s either clowns, creepy Japanese dolls sending them messages on social media or dying alone. However, their second biggest fear will most likely be having to stand awkwardly demoing their game in a loud, imposing convention centre to their peers, press, publishers or, worst of all, the general public.

Being trapped for up to 12 hours a day (often for as long as a week!) shackled to a booth you can’t leave (lest you be forced to hastily locate the nearest GameStop to replace a pair of wireless controllers) would be bad enough. But your sole purpose for being there is to willingly allow other human beings to judge your game and, by association, you.

It’s horrific, and I haven’t even mentioned the air conditioning that your booth has invariably been positioned under, thus ensuring your sweat is perpetually ice cold. That is, of course, if you have any moisture remaining inside your body as your lips turn to sand paper and your throat dries to resemble the surface of the Sonoran Desert (somewhere you would rather be, in many ways). 

Then there are the diseases being carried from all four corners of the globe, incubated in the bodies of hapless hosts preparing to shake your hand, touch your stuff and simply respire in a vicinity closer to you than you’d feel comfortable allowing an intimate sexual partner.

But I digress. Back to the judgement, because that’s why you’ve spent all this money getting here! Obviously, the build you’ve brought to the show is missing features that another 15 minutes in the departures lounge would have allowed you to include. Try to look at this positively though, missing features helps craft conversation when you demo your game. It gives everyone that plays the opportunity to continually point out that this really cool feature would be really cool. 

Questions like: “Is this art final?”, “Where am I supposed to be going?” and “Can I talk to you about our new blockchain platform?” will slowly chip away at whatever confidence and feeling of self-worth you felt you had that morning prior to leaving your suspiciously affordable accommodation in the stabby end of town.

Every so often, however, somebody sits down (while you stand, of course, despite your agonising feet) and they like what they see. Their face contorts into something resembling a grin. Their teeth, instruments you are familiar with simply for their ability to crush and tear biological matter for sustenance, become visible. Sometimes, they even produce laughter, and not because they’ve observed some amateurish flaw in your programming but because they are having ‘fun’.

This is the worst situation of all, you’ve tricked them, you’ve conned this poor, innocent, impressionable individual into thinking that you are a competent human being with talent and purpose. Have a great show.

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