As a small, indie developer, we’ve definitely looked into different ways we can build up our community. Our main focus has been on building up our social media presence on Twitter and Facebook with a little Google+ experimentation in the mix. So far our reach hasn’t been huge, but we’re slowly building up our fan base as organically as possible. Still, it’s getting harder to really increase your reach organically. The standard advice is, “Put some money in advertising on these social sites.”The problem with this is need to keep pumping money into it in order to keep building your community and engagement. Maybe if we had the money we’d be doing just that, but as it happens we just don’t have the budget. Instead, we’ve been trying to find ways to connect with our local community. We’re attending local events hosted by Playcrafting and The Sheep’s Meow to show off our games. So far it’s been fairly successful as we’ve gained some fans and game development friends. And of course we’re attending larger events like Pax. Thanks to a lecture at IndieCade we realized we had been missing out on a huge local opportunity – the local library.
Libraries and games are not a new invention as speaker Scott Nicholson points out. In fact, the two have been connected since at least the 1800s when a library in California held casual chess games for the public. Today, the idea of games as we know them might seem out of place but 75 percent of libraries support gaming. Many librarians have turned to games and gaming, but the number one reason is to attract an underserved group of users as the slide illustrates below:
While libraries might support gaming events, many are looking for qualified volunteers to improve these programs and attract even more people. This is where game developers come in. As a game developer we can provide a level of expertise and knowledge that librarians and other volunteers cannot. After all, we understand there are many games available that attract different types of people. Not only that but you can even provide insight into the entire game making process. This kind of knowledge is invaluable but Nicholson points out we won’t get very far without knowing the lingo. In order to get librarians on our side we need to “speak Librarianese”:
Once the partnership is set up, there are plenty of different ways to engage the public whether it’s gaming events, workshops or jams. The key is to understand what the local populace needs and how to integrate this with games and the goal of the library. As well, find ways to get different groups to interact with each other to really form a strong community bond. This could be something as simple as timing the game events after things like senior events. The more people get involved, the more they will spread the word about it and you. And, as has been noted time and again, there’s no stronger marketing than word-of-mouth.
To be honest, I had never really thought of library partnerships as a viable strategy. After listening to Nicholson, it seems silly NOT to take advantage of it. I encourage other indie developers to look into the programs of the your local library and see if they don’t already host some gaming events. Even if they do, it’s possible that you could improve upon it. After all, they are always looking for eager volunteers who also have experience. One of the best ways to start this relationship with a local library is to get involved with the International Game Day. Every third Saturday in November the American Library Association encourages libraries nationwide to participate. Not only is this a great excuse to forge a relationship with the local library it should also give an idea on who attends these events.
Have any of you partnered with a library? If so, what has been your experience?