I followed journalist Stephen Totilo as he explored the GDC expo floor and the MIX event. I recorded him interacting with developers and booths and I have some thoughts….

But first, this leads into my broader topic surrounding my study of how journalists play your game…

Introducing my Spring lecture series!


  • This Spring I am doing a series of 3 live virtual talks + plus Q&A through my site GameMarketingIdeas.com
  • The talks will be broadcast live at 9AM PST
  • Talk #1: Monday April 11th all about making online festival demos and conference booths and my research following around a journalist
  • Talk #2: Monday May 9th all about Wishlist and visibility numbers on Steam
  • Talk #3: Monday June 13th is a pep talk about what happens when your first game fails and why you shouldn’t talk.
  • Each talk will be followed by a live Q&A. 
  • The talks AND the Q&As will be recorded and uploaded to GameMarketingIdeas so you can watch them at any time forever and ever and over and over.
  • Can’t make it live? You will be able to submit Qs before hand and I will answer them live.
  • The live talks will only be streamed through GameMarketingIdeas.com. Typically this site costs $70 USD to access. However for the week of each live series I am discounting it to $45.

Long description: 

For some reason I always give a lot of talks in Spring. I worked really hard on these talks and put a ton of research into them. Buuuuuut this information is stuck behind someone else’s pay wall right now. I have no control of when they are going to be released. 

Also each talk has to be a quick 25 minutes because they are just one part of a larger conference. In fact, I had only 10 minutes on stage to cover a subject that I wrote 1 hour worth of content for! I had to cut out a lot of details that smart developers like yourself really need.

THEREFORE I am recording 3 all new, extended-version, director’s-cut, un-abridged, detail rich talks for you. 

I am doing a live lecture and Q&A on the second Monday of every month at 9AM PST. The talks will be recorded and saved in the Game Marketing Ideas archive for you to review any time.

To watch the talks, sign up for Game Marketing Ideas for my special spring sale and you can get it for 40% off.

Join today and get ready for the talks. The next one is on Monday April 11th.

Preview of the first talk: How journalists look at your game demo

Are you showing a game at PAX this month? In person shows are coming back and you need a demo to really connect with potential influencers and the press. If you are, you must watch this lecture.

I am going deep on demos. Specifically my findings for in person shows. I didn’t know what journalists wanted in a demo so I convinced my friend Stephen Totilo who is a gaming reporter at Axios and co-writes with Megan Farokhmanesh the Axios Gaming Newsletter (which is really good and you should join here.) Stephen is also the former Editor-in-Chief of Kotaku.

In Monday’s talk I will be giving a thorough review of everything I observed when he explored the Expo floor at GDC and the MIX showcase. 

Here is a preview of one such encounter:

Floor demos are special

The game you show at a booth is not the same as the demo people play at home during the Steam Next Fest. People are not in the same headspace. It is loud (which is why I added subtitles to the video), it is chaotic, there is a lot going on. Your demo should immediately drop them in the action in SECONDS. 

I know I know you are going to say “but I want to playtest the full experience, if I cut out the tutorial I don’t get to see how people understand my game.”

You should not be playtesting your game on a show floor. You should be showing your game on a show floor. 

Playtest in a quiet room that will mimic how people will actually play your game at home. People do not typically game in loud chaotic expo floors. Your “playtest” data for your game is ruined if you do that.

Get right to the action

This is the same advice for trailers: You must give them gameplay immediately. Derek Lieu had a hilarious tweet/tiktok about this

In the full video and it took 2 minutes and 23 seconds from when Stephen stepped up to the booth to when he was actually able to play the game. 

That is too long! 

Think about the hours that you put into the game. The hours you took flying out to the convention. The hours planning and setting up the booth….

But it all boils down to the 2 minutes of patience of the journalist playing your demo.

You need to remove everything. Think of it as if the game is at an arcade. You need to be able to step up and start playing the moment you grab the control. Remove all lore. Remove cut scenes. Even remove the tutorial. 

I sped up the video that was featuring a LOT of tutorialization and lore building in the demo. There was a whole dialog with a giant octopus. Stephen was mashing his way though those menus. He just wanted to play. Get rid of those in your floor demo.

For tutorialization you can either explain it to them while they are playing and/or have a little card sitting under the monitor that explains the basic controls. I remember the Streetfighter arcade cabinets just put the controls right there above the buttons. Do that. Get stickers, tape them to your controller that says “shoot” “ jump.”

You have seconds to tutorialize. Don’t waste them.

What type of game is this?

Stephen asked this a lot. He just wanted to know what type of game it was. 3rd person shooter? Tower defense? RPG? That is the most important question you need to answer.

After a bunch of explanations and back story and just before Stephen actually got to play, the host said “It’s a Twin Stick Shooter with Tower Defense” – That is the most important thing and should be the lead.

Want more?

I am giving an entire lecture just about my observations watching Stephen play a bunch of demos and look at a bunch of booths. 

I will also be teaching you about my findings studying dozens of demos for virtual festivals like Steam Next Fest. 

If you are already a member of GameMarketingIdeas.com you just have to show up on Monday April 11th at 9AM PST. 

If you are NOT a member, I am discounting the whole site to just $45 (it is usually $70)  just for this lecture series. 

To sign up for GameMarketingIdeas and be there for Monday’s lecture, sign up here