This was a long time coming, an inevitable story that I knew would happen, sooner or later. This Friday, I was invited as a speaker to the Swedish Game Awards, in Stockholm.
My talk was called “99 reasons NOT to open a game studio and one as to why you should“. The audience was Swedish students and young people and the majority of them did dream about making a living with their games. My business purpose was to make them aware and direct them to open up their studio in our incubators, but I wanted to talk about much, much more. I wanted to make them as aware as I can that opening a game studio has little to do with making games; and that, if you only dream of making games, you have other, far less stressful and risky alternatives, such as finding a job and/ or making games as a hobby.
Slides available here.
This was my first ever public talk and I dreaded it. I am extremely grateful for all the support and kind words I have received – I LOVE YOU FOLKS!- but I cringe when I hear the sound of my voice in the video and I feel quite ashamed for the many, many, many mistakes that I did. I hoped that I would not panic and I would have an eloquent talk because I deeply believe in the subject – I really wish people are passionate to open new game studios that can really make a serious, wonderful impact in the video games industry, but I want them to do that fully aware that a passion for gamedev is not a passion for business. I want them to question themselves about taxes and company registrations and hiring and firing and I think I can help them get to love that quest, of building an organization that’s true to the products it developers, its team and it’s clients.
But despite my deep conviction for the subject, I made a lot of terrible mistakes, and I need them public and written down because I want to learn and overcome this. I want this because I believe in the subject and I hope I can do my small part to inspire people to open up good gamedev studios.
When I prepared and imagined my talk, I had a lot of concerns in my head, such as: the timing per each slide, how can I encourage the audience to participate, remember to take breaks, and can really talk continuously for 30-40 minutes (as my slot was 45 minutes). I also gave a lot of thought to my presentation: I know people do not read slideshows during talks so the presentation needs to summarize the point of each “chapter” and also to serve as a guide for me. I have actually written down my speech and I had a backup plan to just read it, as I have seen others do (but that was kind of terrible). I have hoped I’d get a lot of questions. And as a last minute advice, the wonderful Swedish Games Awards organizer, Alex Milton, encouraged me to repeat the questions that I will receive during the Q&A part.
So before I talked, I made a mental list of what to remember:
- look at the time, keep track of your time slot
- try to engage audience
- look at your written speech as opposed to the slides
- remember to change the slides 😀
- repeat all questions
But when I got on stage… all of that and more had escaped my brain completely. When I started to talk, if someone would have asked me my name, I might have had difficulties responding… Who am I to tell anything to these people, why would they care?? And there was a second there when I imagined everyone falling asleep, or maybe even booing me out of the stage, cause there’s nothing, NOTHING of value I can say, to compensate for those 45 minutes that each and every one of that full room of future gamedevs were giving me.
Anyhow, I started talking. Some 5 minutes in my talk, I had a panic attack, and a pretty long pause. That was embarrassing, my heart was racing, and I didn’t know what to say or do. I took a deep breath and went on. A little time after, something happened in my soul, and I became calm and genuine to myself. I am who I am and this is what I have to tell you. My body and voice remembered why I was there and how much I believed in what I was there to say. Please DO, please do open your studio. Please change the world, and here is the help I know you can get. Please do that, because I work in this industry, and I also play your games, so you are the ones who will fabricate the quality of my work and entertainment for the rest of my life. Please do something meaningful and valuable and amazing.
Which is when I said: a conversation is best had between two parties. DUH. I mean, like, really, Laura!!! Really?!!!! And then I almost burped. In the microphone. Yep, that is what I did.
Lesson learned: even if you have a panic moment that passes, you are still in the danger zone when you are calm. You can totally say big bulls**t. Publicly. In front of many people. And also knowing you are recorded to be published on the internetz.
Also – do not freaking drink bubbly water on stage. Just. Don’t.
I failed and picked myself up again. And again. And again. I spoke and forgot to look at the time, so I had a small panic attack when I realised the time. I did not pause. I aaaa-ed and mmmm-ed instead. I forgot to look over my written speech. Which is why I repeated myself in many occasions. And of course, of course I did not repeat the questions asked during the Q&A section.
Oh and my multiple languages brain is so fraked up, that I no longer am able to say Gothenburg correctly. One should say Göteborg, or Gothenburg, but NOT Göthenburg. But I forgot this detail during the speech, one that I really was a ware of and hoped I would not do.
Despite all these terrible errors, I got so much love and support. Actually, the entire event inspired comfort and support, including the amazing hall that had a huge wallpaper with the landing on the moon. People – and especially gamedev people – are so incredibly warm and loving and encouraging towards scared speakers.
I never expected I would feel so loved.
And yes, I fully intent to speak again. There only one way to cure this fear, and I do believe I have a few things to say, things I deem quite trivial but apparently are not said enough.