The Epilogue – Show and Tell

Hello you lot! This is the start of a new series of posts here that give recaps from each VideoBrains event for those of you who couldn’t make it (or anyone who wants to relive it). August’s theme was ‘Show and Tell’ – a couple of our speakers had some certainly niche items to bring with them.

And so, we opened with Mink Ette, and her talk “GET THE CRYSTAL GET THE CRYSTAL: Why Room Escape Games are the most fun reason to be locked in a room for an hour”. Yes, that’s a Crystal Maze reference. To those of you who have never heard of The Crystal Maze before, that guy that wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O’Brien, had a game show in the 90’s where he played a harmonica while a team tried to complete puzzles. It was great. Mink has built a Room Escape game, off in Portland, Oregon, and spoke about the challenges of making something so unique, citing her inspirations in games such as Myst or Detarou’s rather abstract titles. If you’re ever off to Portland, or you know someone there who would be interested, give her game a go!

Following on, Will Freeman spoke on his niche passion – arcade machines! Showing off his fancy arcade board, as well as a picture of his “favourite cardboard box”, he described how the designs of arcade games are fundamentally different to that of console releases, and how that caused the growth of a true challenge: the 1cc run. A mark of achievement in arcade titles, the elusive 1cc run is where you complete an arcade game with just one coin, no continues. Unfortunately you can’t do any 1cc runs on dance machines, though, that’s the real crime.

Then, we had our absolutely phenomenal resident speaker Hannah Nicklin on her third of six talks around the psychogeography of games. Kerry Turner was the subject this week, driving force behind The Rabbit Club and co-developer of Heartwood. On stroll through Brighton and Hove, they discussed her fascination with fake environments, her background developing, and it’s all brought together with Hannah’s typically poetic style. If you’re in a reading mood, you can find her talk hosted in that lovely textual form over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

This month saw a number of people talk about their niche passions, and Pat Ashe brought evidence of his – a sample of his collection of games made for and developed by musicians. Collecting cookies and money to cause women’s panties to literally drop with R-Kelly isn’t exactly something you’d normally see on the back of a game box. There are games from Peter Gabriel, Prince, even Frank Sidebottom himself, Chris Sievey. There was even a Shakin’ Stevens game, The Shaky Game, which came with a lovely introduction from the man himself!

Have you ever heard of First Banister by Juan Muñoz? It’s a sculpture that is simply a piece of flat banister against a wall, except it has a knife hidden on the other side. If someone was to run their hand along it, they’d get more than a little surprise. That was the basis for Thomas McMullan’s talk ‘Putting pins in the buttons’. He spoke about how games can use a feeling of discomfort to great effect, citing the end of Red Dead Redemption as a great example. Sometimes, games make you more than a little uncomfortable, subverting tropes and rules to make you squirm.

Under the cover of darkness, VideoBrains August came to a post-watershed close with Alice Bell’s talk on XXX Fangirling, the world of shipping, and fanfiction, and some drawings you probably wouldn’t be showing your family. Exploring the the premium fantasy dating simulator series Dragon Age, she closed the event hilariously! With fantastic representation in the LGBT+ community, these communities are for everyone, whether you’re looking for smut or romance, there’s something for everyone. That said, the one risqué drawing shown did elicit the reaction “Oh he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying that” from someone. I’ll let your mind wander to what that could have been.

September’s event will mark one year of VideoBrains! With the theme of Spy Party, and including Michael Cook, Helen Gould, Edward Burton Joe Martin, Holly Gramazio, Tom Hatfield, and our resident speaker Hannah Nicklin, it’s sure to be a belter. You can buy your tickets here – and, if you want to give a little more, you can support the VideoBrains Patreon here.

See you next month!

VideoBrains March Epilogue

To think I was panicking when I sold 65 tickets.

It turns out the seated capacity of Meltdown is still reasonable for our needs – although we are at Loading next month to test the video setup before June.

Videobrains March

The event was excellent. My attendance worries from last month were entirely unfounded, although the press we got from Destructoid and Polygon probably helped out. Before we get started I’m going to mention you can support VideoBrains on Patreon. Sorry. 

Speaker Drop-Outs

So, my plan is to drop back to six speakers a month so there’s more social time. That’s convenient. I think 6 gives you a nice diverse mix of speakers without trying to fit in the extra 30 minutes that the 7th speaker takes up.

Thing is, since December I’ve had a speaker drop out each month. Either at the event or on the day of the event. That’s okay because real life happens – but because real life happens I don’t really see a way to plan around this. I guess the problem with hosting a monthly event is that it’s not viewed as a gigantic thing to bail out on. Again, life happens so I don’t know how to get around this fact, but I’m worried that if I drop back to scheduling just six talks then we could end up with five speakers every month.

Videobrains March

This isn’t really what I want, and it’s not really fair on the guys that’ve bought tickets for a specific speaker and then shown up to the event to find out that they’re not actually there. I’m still looking into ways to resolve this.

Future Themes

So, when I said Hannah would be taking over as resident speaker from June – December I guess I kind of soft announced that we’d be hosting VideoBrains events until December. I guess if I’m going to commit to that it’s time I asked for more pitches.

Videobrains March

I haven’t got solid dates ready just yet. But here’s some themes. Some are already full.

April: EasterBrains (Full)

May: Competition (Full)

June: The All Day VideoBrains/Evening Drinks (Full)

July Nottingham: NottsBrains (Full)

July London: Summer Holiday – Free pitching (Full)

I’d like to start accepting pitches for the below:

August: Show & Tell (Gaming brought into the real world. Bonus points if you have something you can actually show.)

September: Spy Party (Stealth and deception in games)

October: Dungeon Keeper. (I want to hear about bad guys. What makes a good bad guy? Which enemy is your least favourite?)

November: The Castle Doctrine (Your home is your fortress. Pitches about the role of home in games)

December: The Lost and the Damned (Hidden gems, forgotten games. Take a look back into the past.)

All pitches should be talks 15 minutes in length. Travel allowances can be discussed within the UK for the right pitch, and you should email me your pitches at with the VideoBrains Pitch and the month in the topic.


Don’t feel you have ot be “someone” in the games industry, if you think you’ve got an interesting idea, I want to hear it.  Similarly, I’ve got a strong interest in talks from a variety of viewpoints, so please don’t feel put up if you feel like you might not have much to offer. Send an email anyway, we can talk through your ideas.


VideoBrains February Epilogue

‘Don’t call it a comeback’, LL Cool J screamed down a mic. He was right, comeback isn’t the right word for his exceptional career. In a similar way, ‘post-mortem’ doesn’t really seem right. We’re not investigating the death of VideoBrains or focusing on what’s gone wrong.

Maybe I’ll refer to it as an epilogue from now on. That fits better, I think.

Anyway, March.  Another fun blog with me. I’ll be pulling out some ideas I’ve been thinking of over the week and sharing them as I did last month.

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First though, an apology regarding a slightly spiky subject. I had a few noise complaints from both speakers and listeners and while I try to be pretty hands-off in moderating the event once I’ve got people to the venue, people were talking during the questions and even during some of the talks. This isn’t cool, so if we could all be aware of this for future talks I won’t have to get frowny-faced.

Anyway, let’s brush that under the rug and talk about scheduling.


We’re breaking attendance records month on month and getting closer and closer to the capacity of the venue. This time we had to move all of the tables out of the way. Eek.

There’s a lot of quiet suggestions that we search for a bigger venue but I’d like a couple of months of normality before I consider that. I’m having conversations regarding running VideoBrains in four cities at the moment, so my metaphorical plate is pretty full. Ticket sales for March are a little slower than they were for February, but I’m not concerned.

Scheduling. Social Time and You.


This is the main part I want to touch on – At VideoBrains the formula for a successful event is a little different to other events: it’s essential to balance making sure your guests have fun with making them come away feeling like they’ve learnt something.

A concern of mine is that I’m failing somewhat here. There’s lots of lectures and talks, but not as much of the fun, and I know for a lot of people that’s absolutely fine. I’m lucky to have a whole bunch of supporters who come just for the talks and I really value them. There’s also a lot of people that’ve told me they felt a little cold that there wasn’t enough of a break time. Our shocking reputation for overrunning supports this claim.

I don’t much want to overrun, and I definitely don’t want people to come away feeling like they’re not getting enough learning bang for their buck, but I also don’t want people to feel like they’re trapped in secondary school.

The solution for this has fallen into my lap somewhat. Since December, we’ve had someone pull out of the event every month, bringing the slightly optimistic seven speakers down to a more manageable six. I’m intending to make this the norm from now on, so all VideoBrains events from July onwards (not including Nottingham which is FULL of talks) will just have six speakers. There will be a greater focus on making sure that talks run to time and, as a result of this, we should be able to give people better breaks. I haven’t come up with a perfect idea for the scheduling yet, but, as it’s a few months away, I think we’ve got time.

VideoBrains January post-mortem

I’m going to take a different tack with the post-mortem this month. I’ve been doing this for five months now and you’re going to have to trust that I know vaguely what I’m doing. Rather than tediously examining how the scheduling went and the little mistakes I’ve been going over, I wanted to talk about a few overarching themes

The event was great though, and I’d quickly like to thank all of the guys helping me run it, all of the speakers and everyone who tweeted nice things about it. You guys are the best.

On cost – February and beyond

Here’s something surprising: did you know that selling tickets for £5 with a free drink actually costs you money?

To be honest, we sold 51 tickets for this VideoBrains. The hard limit is generally 50 but I made a small mistake with Eventbrite. The total amount we made after the Eventbrite fees (more on that later) was £250.32, the total amount that we spent on the drinks was £230. Once you factor in the cost of printing our drinks tokens and other fees, we lost money.

So, for February we’re going to sell tickets for £4. This was settled on after looking at our general costs. I just want to be able to pay for speakers’ travel, for the general upkeep and pick up a few bits and pieces that VideoBrains needs to really shine. We’re not looking to make money, but my naïve belief that VideoBrains could run on nothing but a few quid out of my bank account was foolish.

We’ll look at how the accounts look at the end of February, but we want to be making a slightly positive amount at the end of February so that we can build a bit of a nest egg for a rainy day (or a second mic/video camera of our own).

Ticket prices might adjust again for March but hopefully that’ll be the last time for a while. £4 is very sustainable at this rate but there’s one big extra expense to consider: paying for video editing.

On media – Cost and importance

There’s a lot of VideoBrains stuff that I can do myself, and all it costs is my time.

One of the things I can’t do myself is the media production side, primarily the filming and editing of the talks. This is a gigantic aspect of what we do. Twice as many people have seen Alex Roberts’s talk from the Christmas event than those who were actually at the event in the first place. There are three main reasons why we need great video production:

  • The video is great for our speakers. They prepare a talk and give it to us for next to nothing. This is a nice way to let them share their talks later.
  • The video is great for us. It’s the best marketing we can get. Every month has seen a surge of ticket sales directly after each video release.
  • We’re building a resource of talks that anyone can view. This is part of the spirit of VideoBrains, but also I hope that people might find the archived talks to be useful further down the road. We’ve got 31 videos now, with another 6 being edited. We already have a lot of good talks and we’re going to have a lot more.

These videos are a big part of VideoBrains now and the time it takes to shoot and edit the videos is prohibitive. I’ve been advised previously by people to take advantage of other people’s kindness so that we can get the filming done for free, but it feels dishonest.

So I’ve hired a professional. It is an expense we haven’t previously factored in, so we’ll have to budget for it from now on.

Misc – Seats and fees

There’s a couple of minor points that don’t fit well elsewhere that I wanted to slot in here.

Since we started charging for tickets, we’ve seen no real change in ticket sales. Every event so far has sold out and if anything it looks like February is going to sell out in the next week or so, making it our fastest selling event. This raises questions about our venue’s capacity, but they’re questions I’ll look at down the line.

What we have seen is a nearly 100% attendance rate. Only 5 people out of 51 didn’t show up to the January event and every single one of them contacted me beforehand to apologise for being unable to make it. This is a big change from the first couple of events where the attendance rate was around 50%.

I also wanted to mention the Eventbrite fees. Despite them being totally optional, 45 out of 51 of you chose to pay the optional fees yourselves. This probably saved us a good chunk of cash. Eventbrite bill a month behind so we’ll see what the fees end up like moving forwards, but I should say that it’s touching so many of you are willing to help us out a little extra.

If you want to help out with things even more, I have a Patreon which is being supported quite generously. You help us get a bunch of cool stuff to make the event better, but it’s totally non-essential.

ChristmasBrains! – The Inevitable Post Mortem

Merry Christmas and goodwill to all for the inevitable dissection of this, the most festive of VideoBrains.


Because it’s christmas, I don’t really want to mention the patreon. Let’s just pretend it never happened. There are also January Tickets available, with the lineup fully announced.

What Went Well?

It was all so nice!

Spilt Milk Studios, Chucklefish, Gamecity and FiveoutofTen all donated goodies to give away, and a lot of the audience really got behind the baking thing and brought along some pastry.This is good because I:

  • Can’t bake
  • Like eating baked goods
  • Set VideoBrains up entirely for the purpose of people bringing me food.

I actually only got to nibble on a few of the treats on offer, but general consensus from the audience and the twitters is that everyone brought incredible and delicious baked stuff.

The talks were great, although I’ll refrain from commenting on my own one – my first at VB. I was a little nervous, but I’ll let the video speak for itself when it shows up.

Anyway, everyone seems to have had a great festive time.

What Went Badly

I made a particularly poor joke that has been playing on my mind since the event. It wasn’t the worst thing ever, but I think I let the manflu/personal issues I’ve been carrying around all week get the better of me.

Everything else was great. We finished on time, people really enjoyed some of the diversions and it was the fullest it’s ever been. Still. That joke. So awkward.

Things To Consider

We’re still weighing up a few things with regards to pricing. For January we’re still offering the free drink but we’ve opened up a new ticket type that includes the cost of the EventBrite fees. This just allows people to help us out with the cost of the event a bit.

Honestly, having run two quite successful events within three weeks, the VideoBrains team are winding down now for the Christmas Season. Videos will emerge but otherwise we’re all just relaxing for a few weeks before we come back and deliver January.


All of our speakers and everything involved, basically.


Further Reading

Some other great blogs and things surfaced in the wake of VideoBrains, I wanted to share some and I’ll edit any more in as they’re brought to my attention:

VideoBrains November Post Mortem

Another month, another event, another post mortem to pick over the grisly details. I’m a tiny bit late with this one, but I was in Spain helping PocketGamer with the Big Indie Pitch. I’m sorry, I’m not worthy.

Of course, here is where I mention Patreon. I hate to bring it up,. you hate to hear about it – but until someone wants to pay me a salary for doing this it offsets the cost of running the thing.

Read more

VideoBrains October: What Scares You?

What scares me?

My event crashing and burning into the ground. Luckily, that didn’t happen. Again, plenty of hours of work and plenty of me worrying needlessly.

If you enjoyed it, here is where I mention Patreon. I’m not trying to get rich out of this, but your pledges might help me to break even which would be fantastic.

What Went Right

Again, the speakers were fantastic. This time was many less of my direct friends and more of a general buzz. I enjoyed it a bunch.

Meltdown stepped in for VideoBrains lack of budget and as an investment to the event provided us with a bunch of flip chairs. It means people can view the talks better. Charlie’s still working on the photos but wait till they show up, you’ll see.

The videos from last time had a few problems, the camera we borrowed last time could only record for about 15-20 minutes at a time which lead to a bit of looping/magic with the footage. This time we got the a camera that could record for hours.

We recorded for hours. I haven’t seen all of the footage, but I’m informed it’s coming along pretty well.

What Went Badly?


People didn’t really show up till 7.30, so we started the first talk at 7.30. In an effort to start the talks on time and still fit 7 in, I’m going to have to start the talks at 7 exactly. With this in mind I’m going to start opening the doors at 6.30 I think so we can start at 7.

Everything else was pretty good. I had more breaks, I pointed out the alternate routes to the bathroom and did some prepwork to stay confident and talk throughout. No one told me I should be more of a presence this time, so I think it’s all good.


Things to Consider

Getting people in at 7 on the dot is a big consideration. I’ll try the 6.30 opening and hopefully it’ll resolve but starting at 7.30 is too difficult for scheduling.

I’ve been thinking more about ticket prices for the future as a way to reduce the 50% drop out rate that I’m seeing. It’s grating to have to turn people away and then 50% of people don’t show up, so I’ll be looking into how to reduce that. I think what I’ll be trialling in December is a £5 ticket price that’ll give you one free drink when you get in – I still don’t want to price anyone out, so I’ll be leaving my email address up there so that anyone who can’t afford it can send me an email and I’ll send them a free ticket, sans the drink.

Me and Meltdown have agreed on dates from here all the way out to March, so that’s something. Expect more information on that soon.

We’ve also picked up Christos Reid on something of a “residency”. He’s been pitching more good quality talks then I know what to do with, and honestly, I want to share them. For the next few months he’ll be featuring repeatedly in the line up. Probably until he’s tired of the amount of work organising a talk takes.

Thank Yous


Thanks to my speakers: Laura K Dale, Rob Morgan, Thryn Henderson, Helen Gould, Ewan Kirkland, Seb Atay and Christos Reid.


Alan Williamson remained on hand throughout to bounce ideas off of via Skype.


Meltdown London again, particularly Duncan and Sam for manning the bar.


I’m also welcoming a few new faces to the “team” to help out.


Charlie Firth came back to film and photograph, and she did such a good job dealing with the YouTube last time, I asked her to help out as an official “one of the team” capacity. Thanks Charlie!


Will Blackstock came on board mid-month to help me organise this and take some of the strain off my shoulders. He’s helping with the blog and all of the stuff that I’m otherwise too stressed to deal with adequately. Will has been an absolute lifesaver in this, and it’s been appreciated.


Emma Sinclair is helping out by livetweeting the events, and writing some bits for the blog/looking after the Facebook.


Philippa Warr who I somehow missed off last month’s thanking of the speakers. Sorry Pip. I’m the worst.



VideoBrains September Post-Mortem

To quote Anchorman:  Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast!

I was really nervous in the run up to VideoBrains. All of the tickets had been sold out, I had a long list of emails from people that wanted to get in, and did I mention it was the first time I’d ever organised an event?

An Idea I decided to start working on after NineWorlds ended up being around 50 hours of work for me and it all hinged on the event not being rubbish.

It went pretty good.



What Went Right

So, the speakers were good, basically. I won’t single any of them out but there was something for everyone and they definitely carried the first event.

There was a good crowd, and a lot of people came up to me and said that they appreciated the atmosphere, Meltdown has a unique layout that meant it was like something of a poetry reading, with energetic speakers talking about 2 feet from their audience.

The filmed talks means there is plenty of media still to come, which is fantastic. It’s nice to be able to share these talks around.


What Went Badly?

I think perhaps the idea of having a panel involved was a mistake and so I probably won’t be hosting any panels in the future. The layout doesn’t really suit and while the panel was great, I feel like it was a bit muddled in regards to audience and that’s my fault.

Scheduling was interesting. I actually built in buffers for technical errors and drink breaks but talks overrode and one of the biggest criticisms when I was courting feedback afterwards was that it was a little crowded with not enough time to chat. To get around this, in future I’m only going to schedule in 2 hours of talks, with plenty of breaks. It’ll still run 7-10, but there will be less of a panic and I won’t have to limit questions or look at my watch frantically and everyone will have more time to get beer.

There’s a weird layout quirk where to use the bathroom you have to get behind the speakers. This isn’t really changable without changing venue, but I’ll make sure the alternative routes are pointed out. With more breaks this should be less of a problem too.

There could do with being more of a stronger handle on things from the MC. This is entirely my fault because I was nervous and very bad at public speaking. I’ll get around this by not being completely rubbish next time and doing a little bit of prepwork.



Things to Consider

A big question for me has been how to monetise this. Running an event on a budget of 0 is quite the thing, and although it worked this time, the lost earnings for missing out on 50 hours of freelance has stung.

Admittedly I probably would have spent 25 of those hours playing videogames but as the event was popular and VideoBrains is a thing that I “do” now, I need to look at making it self sustaining. There are two factors for this: After a few missteps and investigations I’ve decided the best way to hand out the video and audio of the talks is entirely for free on youtube, although backers on Patreon will get the talks emailed to them as soon as they’re available. Similar with any photos from a stills camera.

Backers of my Patreon will get the occasional bit of behind the scenes news, in addition to a few days of “early-bird” access on tickets, but by and large my big thing has been to have no barrier of entry on the talks. If you want to listen to people being smart about games, you should be free to experience that. If you like what you see, you can make the choice to back on Patreon but it’s entirely up to you.

Secondly, I think I’ll also be looking to take someone else on in a purely administrative role. Just to help me respond to emails, contact speakers and manage things like the eventbrite page. I can probably run this as a one man show until Christmas but it is a gigantic timesink for one person. It’s absolutely key for me that anyone involved in VideoBrains shares me seem views on it, so it may take a little while to get that together. Something to consider for the future.


I took a couple of days off after Videobrains to clear my head and get things centred. In that time, Joe and Pip wrote up their notes on the talk, and they really got some traction. VideoBrains has now been mentioned in VG247, Rock Paper Shotgun, PC Gamer, Games Rant.. the list goes on, including  reports in other languages.

As more speakers write up their notes and the videos are released I imagine more coverage will surface, but it’s exciting to see interest.


I want to round off this particular bout of word vomit with a series of enthusiastic thanks:

Thanks to my speakers: Alan Williamson, Ben Meredith, Christos Reid, Dustin Connor, Emily Gera, Joe Martin, Laura K Dale and Meg Jayanth. They all took a gamble on an unknown event.

Joe Martin for putting me in touch with a ton of other speakers with recommendations.

Alan Williamson for… well, just about everything.  He spoke at the event, made the excellent logo and has just been pretty invaluable for bouncing ideas off throughout.

Jenni Goodchild and Tim Skew for putting me in touch with a bunch of speakers and also offering tons of help throughout the process.

Meltdown London and particularly Duncan Morrison for working the event and giving VideoBrains a home.

My Housemates for putting up with me rattling on about this for the better part of a month, and also coming along to help with the running of the event.