How to attend game / tech conferences for FREE?

Yes, that sounds like a click bait (but it’s not, I swear).

I have spent the last month in 5 countries, a bunch of airplanes and some ferries, and I just got back home and I’m tired and still groggy.

Okay, I was only in two countries for conferences, namely Casual Connect Asia in Singapore, and Rise Conference in Hong Kong (look those up, they are awesome). The other three are for vacation.

If you had looked those two conference up, and checked the ticket prices, you’ll find out that they are quite expensive (at least for someone broke like me- the indie game developer with a day job).

Okay, let’s cut right to the chase.

There are actually quite a few ways to get free tickets, but I’ll just share mine. I’ll also give you some tips on how to stay on budget (Tip #1 learn to love budget flights).

If you had been following me on Twitter or reading this blog (sorry, had been absent lately), you’d know that I love game jams. In case you don’t know what a game jam is, it’s this: you get 48 to 72 hours to make a game based on the given theme from scratch (fun, right? lots of coffee involved though). So earlier this year, I went to Global Game Jam, and they raffled away tickets to Casual Connect Asia. For my case, no one else at our GGJ site actually wanted the tickets, so I took them. So yeah, that is the first way to get free tix- attend community events in case they hand out conference tix for free (but no really, you should attend those events anyway, they are great).

For Rise Conference, they actually started two initiatives, one is to get more Women in Tech (we are still sadly a minority, and there should definitely be more of us) to attend the conference, and the second is for people who contribute to Open Source. So yah, if you are either, you can get free tix. I just got my tix from Women in Tech.

If you have a game or a startup you can always sign up for Indie Prize or Rise Alpha or Beta or Start. But let’s say you didn’t get in those (competition is tough).

Okay, what if you are neither of those things? No worries. Most game or tech conferences actually need volunteers. Lots of volunteers (cue photo of us happy volunteers). So yah, volunteers get free tix too, in exchange for some hours of work (for CC, it’s for a days work, and for Rise it was for 1 and a half days work). But after your shifts you get to enjoy the conference like the rest of the attendees. Also you get a free shirt. Also you get to meet a bunch of awesome people, like those happy smiling people in the picture below.

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So what do we actually do as volunteers? There are different roles, and the organizers usually let you pick what you want to do. And you can get to do everything (registration, goody bag packing, ushering, crowd control, bringing water to speakers, assisting booths, basically all kinds of things).

Plus point, you can add volunteer work to your resume.

Okay, okay, so the question is: volunteering only get you free tix? What about travel and accommodations and food?

For those two, food is actually provided (Well, CC was catered for all attendees, anyway). So that solves the problem of lunch. And for dinner, there are actually quite a few night events (or parties) that come with free food and drinks (free flowing beer at CC, by the way).

Next, is travel. I think I already mentioned budget flights. So yah, go for those. The thing about budget flights though, is well, you get what you pay for. And as long as it does the job of safely delivering you from point A to point B, well, I’m satisfied with that.

For accommodations, well, just because the conference is held in Hard Rock Hotel, doesn’t mean you need to stay there (although they do offer discounts. they also sometimes partner with a couple of other hotels and offer discounts). Be less picky and you can get away with only spending 2000 Taiwan dollars on a week’s stay (well, I only got a bed. But I was at the conference all day and night anyway, I just needed a place to sleep).

And if you have a bit of wanderlust in you, you can even spend a few more days exploring the cities or traveling to nearby countries (hence, my additional countries for vacays).

And I suppose another question is why attend these conferences? Well, I personally think, that everyone should step out of their doors, and see the world and see what the rest of the world are doing. Why live in a bubble when the rest of the world is so big?

Feel free to chat me up on twitter or leave me a comment below.

I’ll try to post more often.

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