I pitched this exhibition to Ohayocon in August of 2017. In a late night chat with the Senior Director of Programming and the head of the convention itself, the latter of whom I’d basically just met, I walked them through what I thought a different convention’s indie gaming space had done poorly and what Ohayocon should do differently if they ever wanted to do something similar.
I was 19.

I still don’t know why they said yes.

I didn’t even mean to take the job! I was just telling them what another show had done poorly, and they said “You seem like you know what you’re talking about. Put together a pitch for what you’d do differently and we’ll see if it’s a good fit.”

I didn’t know how to open applications, write contracts, or create maps. That’s basically the entire job description. I especially didn’t know how to delegate, which was obvious to anyone who saw me running absolutely ragged by the end of our first exhibition. (Not that I don’t still suffer with that today, but I now have a staff who will force me to sit down and eat something when they see me running on fumes. They’re the best in the business.)

True story, I actually skipped the big celebratory staff dinner on Sunday night of that first year because so many other staffers were telling me how cool the room was and how well I did while we were packing up and… I basically hid in a bathroom crying because people were being too nice to me. I just didn’t know how to handle that much praise.

I did know one thing, and it’s the very first line of the original document I submitted to Ohayocon when I was pitching what would become the #OhayoIGS:

Ohayocon has the potential to become
The Anime Event for Indie Gaming.”

the definition of optimism

I don’t know if we’re there yet. This isn’t a unique concept; I’ve actually made friends with a couple of the other folks who run similar spaces at similar events, just because of how niche our jobs are. (Shoutout to Raf over at Anime Central’s Indie Game Party specifically; that space is my goalpost for cool.)

But I know we’re getting closer to that ideal every year. Sentences like what I quoted earlier pop up in our feedback forms every year, plus even more complimentary things I still don’t really believe. We must be doing something right.

And, with the following help, I think I’ve gotten a little better at running this thing. I wouldn’t do it without them, so I’m glad they’ve stuck around.

  • Matt Geisen, for bringing me on and always giving the best advice. Someday, I’ll be smart enough to listen to it.
  • Cody Marcum and Ben Ng, for keeping me here. Lighthouses in the storm, these guys.
  • Cody Starcher, for leading the way. I can’t think of a single aspect of the #OhayoIGS that hasn’t been improved by watching GDEX do it first.
  • Chris Quay, for his Adobe login, proofreading, and best friendship-ness. In that order.
  • Jay Kidd, for being the #1 advocate for the #OhayoIGS out in the world. You’re the one who makes this room as good as you’re always telling people it is. Now finish that damn game.
  • Looney Labs, for starting the direct ancestor of the #OhayoIGS, and for teaching this kid a card game ~15 years ago.
  • every single developer who’s ever spent time with us. Thank you for taking a risk and bringing your hard work to my weird not-free play/not-dealers/not-expo space. (Even the ones who were mean about it.)
  • Elsie Bradley, for the other 362 days. Your thanks deserves its own 3-book series, I won’t do you the disservice of summarizing it here.

    and most of all, my dedicated staff:
  • Shelby White, Michelle Williams, and Nick Williams, for making me look good.
    I said it earlier, but it bears repeating specifically: I wouldn’t do this without you.

To them, and you: Thanks for helping us get here. This year will be my eighteenth Ohayocon, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend it.


– Griffin Voyls