I’m Old, Part LXVI: CGDC

When I was at Newfire, we had a really good set of people doing marketing. I know this because I was at a party where I met my wife and her brother-in-law was there and he asked where I worked. When I mention the Newfire, he said, “Dude – you’re the guys who do 3D really fast!”

We had a booth at the Computer Games Developer Conference. The company worked together to try to figure out how to maximize our reach at the conference. For example, we set up a conference game of assassin and supplied the conference with Newfire branded suction cup dart guns. We gave out t-shirts. We embraced the “fire” aspect of the name. I made a faux bomb which was 8 dowel sections painted red and bound together with black electrical tape with wires running from them into a project box with a Radio Shack clock. These days, I can’t imagine that this prop would make it into the conference. We also set up a hospitality booth the first night of the conference. The way this worked is that we allowed each person in only if they got a Newfire temporary tattoo. Each person was allotted one cheap beer (Bud or Bud Light) and a bowl of Chili. I bought a couple very large bottles of Tabasco sauce, soaked off the labels and replaced them with our logo. In the suite, I was uncapping and handing out beers and Cowboy Dave was giving out chili. The thing that I really liked was that Cowboy Dave was being intentionally rude to the people coming through. When someone approached him, he would bark, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!!!” which I found especially funny because there was no actual choice. It was chili or nothing.

The door was staffed by the girlfriends of Alan and Cowboy Dave. They were assigned the task of checking for tattoos and applying new ones. At one point there was some commotion at the door. A man was insisting that he get his tattoo applied to his butt. Oh Sweet Jebus. There was so much wrong with this. First, dude, not appropriate. Second, he hardly had a physique worth showing off. Third, he put the two women into a very uncomfortable situation.

After we ran out of chili and beer, we wound down the suite and headed out to mingle in the crowd. I remember being up on a balcony with Harry Vitelli, our salesman and he was completely itchy. He was looking down at the crowd and muttering about how there so many people and how could we take advantage of that. In a burst of inspiration, we grabbed a demo machine and a monitor and dragged it down to the pavilion and set up our “killer” demo on a grand piano and started selling people. I remember that we managed to get the attention of John Grigsby, an engineer at Atari with whom I went to college a few years earlier. We turned a lot of heads, which was the point.

As it turns out, this kind of sales work was not OK according to the conference rules, but we got away with it so yay?

During the days of the conference, we had people working the booth and also sent people out to get intel on competition and information from other booths. I remember Mike, one of our QA techs saying, “Let’s go out and get free stuff!” before disappearing into the crowd to get t-shirts and tchotchkes.

As I’ve matured, I’ve realized and embraced that I’m an introvert. This is funny because I’ve been a lifelong performer. Conferences. I’ve realized, are a challenge for me because even though I get along quite well with people, I get overloaded pretty quickly. However, with a team that’s all working in the same direction, it makes it that much easier. With a small company like Newfire, I really liked having the opportunity to contribute to the trade show and seeing how our team came together to get our messaging across.

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