What are you doing!? I don't even know you!
On June 2-3, 2012, the Game Designer Convention in Göttingen, Germany will be held for the 31st time. Since its humble beginnings in 1983, the first – and still largest – convention of its kind has grown to fill the municipal hall in Göttingen pretty well. (There is still some room for further growth, but it is hard to see everything already.) In 2011, over 150 tables were set up so that designers from twelve countries – ranging from absolute newcomers to former Spiel des Jahres winners – could present their latest prototypes.
The event is co-hosted by the Fachdienst Kultur (department of culture) of the City of Göttingen, by veteran game designer Reinhold Wittig, and by yours truly. Reinhold Wittig had suggested a gathering of game designers in the early 1980s, and after some irregular dates in the beginning, it now always takes place on the first weekend of June.
Unlike at many other conventions where publishers have booths and everyone flocks around these (as in Essen or Nürnberg), the roles are reversed in Göttingen. Designers can book a table (for a mere €10 to keep it affordable for everyone), while the publishers send their representatives (editors rather than sales managers) to look around for promising new ideas.
Since most designers don't talk to publishers for an entire day and a half, we encourage them to go around and try out their fellow designers' prototypes or simply get to know one another. In 2011, this worked much better than in previous years; lonely people glued to their tables were rarely seen.
As mentioned before, there is hardly a chance to take in everything. Prototypes range from messy notepapers to lavishly designed pieces of art. Whenever I think I have the most spectacular pieces, others tell me about fascinating games that have completely eluded me. Well, that's what you get for trying to co-organize such an event, present your own prototype, and meet exciting people all at the same time.
On Saturday evening, a spaghetti dinner is held in a nearby restaurant for anyone who is interested. Of course, after the meal, games are put on the tables and it can be a great time to try games which you hadn't been able to look at during the day. It's a very communicative event in any case.
On Sunday, the event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open to the public. This doesn't mean that thousands of people fill the halls, but anyone can have a look and try the new games on display.
On Saturday, the "Göttinger Inno-Spatz" is handed out, an award for outstanding contributions to the gaming world. While in earlier years the prize usually went to designers, nowadays it usually goes to organizations or groups of individuals. BoardGameGeek received it in 2010, for instance.
Two prizes are awarded to designers as well. One is the prize for the best unpublished designer, awarded by the Spiel des Jahres jury. Contestants have to be present in Göttingen and submit two prototypes which are tested extensively on Saturday. This award is open only to those who can communicate well in German, as the prize consists of a grant covering four week-long internships at a big publishing house, a small publishing house, an FLGS, and a game designer studio. (This itinerary changes each year to accommodate the winner's needs.) The 2011 award was won by Janet Kneisel, and judging from the output of previous winners, we can expect some published games from her in the coming years.
The other prize is the Hippodice Design Competition prize, for which the results were recently published on BGG News and elsewhere.
In recent years, the Göttingen Game Designer Convention has become more and more international. (I think designers from twelve countries were present in 2011, and we are receiving more and more inquiries from international publishers as well.) I am more than just a little curious about how this will develop in the future.
Those of you who are interested in participating in 2012 can download all the necessary materials here. If you need any additional information, you are more than welcome to contact me directly. Please be advised that due to another large event in Göttingen on the same dates, hotel rooms will be harder to get than usual. Don't let that scare you off, though; if you absolutely cannot find anything, let me know and I will try to make something possible.
Hope to see you in Göttingen!