One of the greatest challenges for any game is landing a solid pitch. You have to sell people, maybe even a publisher, to take your idea seriously. Most of the time, it’s an obfuscated process that leaves the average developer scratching their heads, but Liam Twose and his team behind #PitchYaGame, “PYG” for short, are looking to change all that with some clever social engineering. In these monthly sessions of open call pitches, anyone can put their game forth and have a real shot at getting attention they might have never seen otherwise. I sat down with Twose to find out how the bold initiative came to be, as well as his goals for it going forward.
For Twose, game development wasn’t a career, but a core part of his life from when he was “knee-high,” programming simple games as a child on the BBC Micro. He’s humble and energetic, recalling those days as he coded away in the bedroom: “(I’ve) always been a lone wolf indie dev.” Rather than transition to the AAA sphere like many devs in those early days of gaming, Twose valued the freedom of indie development above all else, becoming seasoned at wearing “many hats.” It wasn’t simply about finding a commercial niche, but an enthusiasm for exploring the medium’s potential, even crafting a multiplayer MUD engine with graphical support and user creation tools.
Yet, #PitchYaGame would come about not from the usual creative source. A few years back, Twose was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. Grappling with this led to rough times and a pause from not only game development but social media in general. After two years off game development and working with the United Kingdom National Health Service, Twose’s experience upon returning was harrowing.
Compiling a huge log of questions / reminders to drop periodically, to..
Aim: get you all thinking bigger picture!
You in?https://t.co/LiTwGYo7qf 👈🏻🐷
— Liam Twose | #PitchYaGame | #GameDev Veteran (@liamTwose) October 19, 2020
“I was pretty much back to tweeting zero again,” he said, “which reminded me just how tough game developers all over the world will be feeling right now, slaving away on their awesome games, just to fly under the radar.” It was with this sobering restart that Twose was struck with an idea of how to solve this, those old designer gears turning. The result was #PitchYaGame.
Twose recalled the lead-up to the first round of the initiative vividly. “I launched #PitchYaGame completely cold, but with a strong vision and purpose. I knew it was going to be popular, especially based on the traction from the run-up week to launch. I was seeing a ton of similarities to #30DayDev, the last hashtag I ran successfully between 2014-2018. It immediately resonated.”
From the get-go, the purpose and direction was clear to Twose. #PitchYaGame would only be about pitching, and it would be focused on empowering indie game developers to strengthen their position in the industry. However, there were some growing pains: “I started to feature creep it initially, especially with what are now the official #PYGAwards.” What had started as a simple idea had expanded to try to highlight all manner of categories, which grew a tad much in the early sessions of the initiative.
“We spent hours judging for a tonne of categories that really only ever needed to be about pitching,” Twose said. “We actually had to change the awards mid-judging in June! I made the executive decision to switch to Gold, Silver, Bronze, plus Runners-up and Most Viral. By Round 3 it was streamlined perfectly, including shifting the time zone ahead four hours in order to capture more time zones.”
In the end, it’s all been worth it to Twose, elated to see developers being approached by publishers and gaining followings previously out of reach. Twose attributes the initiative’s success to having a strong call to action while remaining “multi-dimensional,” giving gamers and industry professionals alike a reason to check in on the festivities.
— #PitchYaGame LIVE! (27-10-2020) 🐷 (@pitchYaGame) October 20, 2020
Since #PitchYaGame began, it has since grown to having an established website and several team members working alongside Twose to shepherd even more promising projects to the fore.
While tight-lipped about the future, Twose was keen to hint that there are potential future collaborations down the line. Twose has also become a talent scout for 2Awesome Studio, a European publisher based out of the Netherlands and Spain, helping them find great upcoming games.
For those either just starting or still struggling with finding their audience, Twose had this advice to share: “One of the most important aspects is to know how to speak to your audience, whether that’s players, platforms, publishers, press, or investors. Learning to talk about and describe your game is half the battle. In terms of audience, bigger does not always mean better as niche equals focused and a lot more achievable, especially if you’ve not released a game before or if you’re still finding your feet.” And as far as his own success through life’s trials, he attributed it not to himself but to work towards giving back and fostering a healthier, happier game industry.