Good afternoon everyone, welcome to this week’s Sunday Sidebar. I’m really excited to present to you an interview I conducted with Kelly Wallick, the superbrain behind the ever-wonderful Indie Megabooth. My pledge before was a sneaky one, you see. The PAX East interviews are now finished, but that leaves only one option: to go forward and progress onto PAX Prime’s sequel to the Indie Megabooth! At next week’s PAX in Seattle, attendees will be able to visit any of the 30 independent studios who will be showcasing their work as part of the Megabooth. It’s awesome to see it grow like this, but it made me wonder: just how does one go about organizing 30 developers? The cat-herding has been well documented in the series already, so this week I present the cat shepherd herself: Kelly Wallick: Organizer of the Indie Megabooth! /applause I know!
Please introduce yourself, Kelly.
Hello, I’m Kelly. I’m a Project Manager atInfrared5 and the organizer for the Indie Megabooth. I enjoy matter of fact descriptions.
I enjoy origins stories: What inspired the Megabooth?
I was helping out at Fire Hose for PAX Prime last year and all the Indies were on the 6th floor. Mostly people wandered there by accident and the traffic flow was sporadic. Eitan (Fire Hose) had the idea that if all the Indie studios banded together they could have resources to compete against AAA companies on the main floor. Alas, he didn’t want to deal with organizing something so ridiculous… I, on the other hand, love to organize and the rest is history I suppose.
How many people are on the Megabooth background team?
Well that depends…anywhere from 1 to 30. Everyone who wants to volunteer their time and has a skill is welcome to help out. For Prime we currently have a press team, a designer, a web developer and even outside volunteers for things like the logo and trailers. The Megabooth is full of talented, creative, widely attractive people so I try to capitalize on that as much as possible. We are never short on ideas or volunteers and really if we didn’t have everyone pitching in we would never be able to afford pulling something like this off. It really is incredible when you think about it.
Did you work on behalf of yourself, or Infrared5? I even heard a developer refer to you as working for Fire Hose Games?
Well, initially I was doing this as myself since my primary role at Infrared5 is a Project Manager and I was more interested in organizing and meeting developers to try something new and challenging. Since it went well for East I’ve talked with Infrared5 and they’re happy to be supporting my role for Prime. They’re an awesome company to work with and this is something that’s both interesting personally and professionally for me so they are happy to help me out. As for Fire Hose I am currently dating the Fire Chief so I tend to spend a lot of time hanging around the booth and offices
“There isn’t much about the Megabooth that I’m not involved in.”
What got you started into games PR and consultancy?
It’s kind of a funny story… Condensed version? I was an Analytical Chemist/Bioengineer until my sister and I had the great idea to start a video game company. She’s a developer and I’m a manager so we figured why not? A few years later we haven’t branched out on our own but we’ve both switched career paths and are loving it! The games community in Boston is amazing and the people, support and friends I’ve made have been incredible. Shifting to an organizational role is right up my alley mostly because my list making and cat herding skills are unrivaled.
What’s a day in your life like?
These days it’s a bit crazy. I spend my days managing anywhere from one to six different projects at work, fielding Megabooth questions and planning, working on sponsorship deals and generally being fabulous. Evenings are full of new apartment setup, cooking, traveling, game meet-ups and watching Battlestar Galactica. I remember a time when I used to be bored and decided to fill my time. Maybe I went a little overboard?
Maybe just a tad, haha. How was the Indie Megabooth for you, Kelly? How involved were you from start to finish? What about during PAX?
It was great! Lots of work but totally worth it. I was involved from conception to implementation and every bump in between. During PAX I help with setup, volunteer at booths, play games and go to panels. There isn’t much about the Megabooth that I’m not involved in.
What were some of the hardest things about organizing it?
Herding cats and giving away free things. Believe it or not but getting sponsorship and allocating equipment donations is probably the most time consuming part of the Megabooth. Most companies are very strapped for cash and a conference is a large expense in the first place. Saving hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment rentals can mean a lot so there’s a big incentive to get it done right and then a tough time figuring out who gets what. The other aspect of getting 16 smart, opinionated people to decide something is…well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Seemingly impossible, frustrating, funny and genuinely rewarding.
Is there anything in particular you learned for this next edition at PAX Prime?
Tons and tons! Most companies had never done a convention before and it was my first time organizing one from start to finish, let alone 16 (or 30) of them. There are so many little things you’ve never considered that all of a sudden become super important. We had a post mortem for East and I’ve been really trying to implement all the ideas and feedback for Prime. Some have worked out well, while some had great intentions but didn’t pan out. It’s a learning experience for sure and the more we do this the better it’s going to get.
What are the requirements for a developer to take part in the Megabooth?
Asking! We’ve doubled in size for Prime so this may need to have some reconsideration but currently it’s open to pretty much anyone who currently has a game that is released or close to being released that’s involved in the Indie community.
What’s in store for PAX Prime?
A faster, stronger, more productive Megabooth! Like I mentioned before we’ve doubled in size, we’ve learned from East and we’re back with a vengeance. We’re next to the PAX 10 booth so basically all the new, creative games are crammed into one delicious section of the convention floor. All the booths are full of actual game developers so you can play the games, talk to the creators and have a totally different experience than you would at the bigger-name booths. I’m really excited to see everything come together! It was a blast at East and I can only assume it will be twice as fun this time around.
How do you decide where each team will be situated?
We haven’t separated groups by platforms or anything like that. I have a fancy spreadsheet I use based on companies’ general location preferences. Surprisingly this always works out. Someone’s idea of the ‘best’ location is actually very different from everyone else’s. This has actually been one of the easiest parts of the Megabooth.
Finally, what is your prized geek possession? Is there anything you’re still holding onto from way back when?
Ha! I guess it would have to be either my Game Gear or my Dreamcast. The Game Gear still has the fancy carry case, my games, adapters, etc..I was the most neurotic little kid with my games. I can’t bring myself to sell it so it hangs out next to the rest of my games. The Dreamcast I always get made fun of about but it was a great system before the PS2 was even a thing. Shenmue and Soul Caliber are still two of my favorite games and It’s something I’ll pick up and play when I get the chance.
Thanks for your time, Kelly.
Indie Megabooth returns to PAX Prime Aug 31 – Sep 2 2012. You can get more information about the Megabooth from their website.