Watch for the signs
Each year as the UK Games Expo looms large on the horizon like a friendly stampede of buffalo I get a creative surge to re-design my stand. It has evolved annually from one plastic shelf unit with a cleverly constructed cloak, through to three shortened shelf units with a wooden board holding it all together, to this year's masterpiece which is last year's stand with a .... banner on top!
Getting the banner has involved 4 trips to the other side of Birmingham and I've ended up with two banners, one of which has pockets slightly too small for the poles, one of which is perfect. The company I used were immensely helpful in solving the pole pocket problem, I'm a firm believer in judging people on how they react when things go wrong. Even though this banner buying experience wasn't seamless I really enjoyed it, everyone at the sign shop were genuniely interested in the fact that I make games. As is often the case I found myself in an unusual setting whipping out my wares and slapping them onto the table.
If you look for it you can always tell when people want to play games. The signs are easy to spot. Just mention games and, if they want to play, they leap on the subject. I believe that it's because in many parts of our lives we are starved of positive interaction, any true opportunity to get together in a safe, friendly, unambiguous social situation is actually a relief to most people. Gamers are independent thinkers and they believe in inclusion.
All too often when I bring up the idea of games moods instantly brighten and eagerness to play emerges, yet if you ask anyone if they would call themselves a "gamer" most will say "no" like it's an embarrassng childhood habit. We played games in public not so long ago for tabletop day and I feel it's massively important to be loud and proud about gaming. Over 5000 real live human beings will be congregating at the UK Games Expo soon. The vast majority do not live in caves, cannot quote the entirety of Star Wars and have girl/boy friends (ok I lied about Star Wars). The more I see of the gaming community the more I realise that it includes EVERYBODY. All you need to join is an enquiring mind and a desire to be with other people, the games are really just an excuse, sometimes a really well crafted, carefully designed excuse, (ahem) but they are mainly there to give everyone a focus to sit AROUND a table looking AT each other instead of arraying ourselves ACROSS a sofa looking at the TV.
So be proud of playing games. Be prepared to be a gamer. Wear a massive banner if necessary, and if you don't have one, come and see me at Hopwood Games, I have a spare.
UK Games Expo, 30th May - 1st June at the Metropole Hotel