Okay hi! It’s been a long time since I wrote a post, and I just got back from my first GDC a few weeks ago. What an awesome experience. If you are at all interested in game development, it is well worth your while to go. So here are some highlights from an action packed week.
GDC stands for the Game Developer’s Conference, a weeklong event that takes places early March every year in San Francisco. Essentially, a bunch of nerds get together and get a week long vacation from game design. Industry leaders give talks, there’s a huge expo floor, a career center, etc. It’s the best opportunity to meet future collaborators, your inspirations, and make new friends.
This year, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Conference Associate (CA) program – a group spanning all areas of game design who are committed to helping put on the conference, often seen in bright neon colored shirts (this year was school bus yellow, but apparently purple is what everyone wants.) The CAs are our only little family within the GDC community, and are a huge part of why I had such a great experience.
Something that struck me throughout the week was how welcoming everyone was. From the first CA gathering on Saturday night all the way to our closing party, people were excited for me to be there. Our home base for the conference, the CA lounge, was probably my favorite part. Having a place to retreat to after a shift or just hang out and make friends was the best. It allowed me to network and stay at the conference, while also letting me recharge. GDC had 26,000 attendees this year, and that becomes a bit overwhelming fairly quickly. The CA lounge was our little safe haven where you could walk up to anybody and have a meaningful conversation, regardless of whether you’ve met or not. I always felt instantly welcomed and part of the group, an experience I haven’t had anywhere else.
So many things to do!
Besides being a weeklong vacation, GDC is an opportunity for people to learn, find work, and meet people! There are so many sessions, and panels, and meetings, and booths, and showcases, and events, and oh man that’s too much to handle. My favorite of the week was composer Tom Salta’s talk Mastering The Creative Process! He showed us some of his early works on a couple projects, and outlined how he moves through a project. If you have access to the GDC vault, I’d recommend his talk if you’re in any creative field.
There were so many games to play, from the Indie Megabooth, to the Expo Floor to the Alt.Ctrl.GDC. I spent most of my time exploring the indie sections of each, speaking with developers, and playing games! The Alt.Ctrl.GDC area was SO COOL and I didn’t get a chance to go until Friday! All the games there are using alternative controller methods. I played this awesome game called SpaceBro Justice Rocket, where my friend and I wore these gloves with sensors, and we had to either high five, fist bump, or smash elbows, and any combination in between to defeat the evil space monster. Super cool, and really clever.
Surprisingly, one of the events that stuck out to me was the coffee break. I was assigned three coffee shifts as a CA, where I check the attendees’ badges to make sure they have access to the coffee. It’s super simple and you stand on your feet the whole day. Doesn’t sound like the most fun, but everyone was SO HAPPY to be getting coffee. The power of caffeine is real. They walked into the line all drained and left looking completely refreshed. Incredible. I also met some great people who invited me to various events, and play-tested games for. All the attendees were extremely grateful, and it was rewarding to help them all out in whatever way I could.
Networking & Nightlife
In addition to all the conference events, there are many after parties and hangouts hosted by various game companies (Valve was the big one I heard about, but I’m sure there are more). These are often what people say are the best networking opportunities at the conference since people are loose and relaxed. It’s all about making friends! I personally ended up not going to any parties, because I found the CA nightlife to be too much fun. And to top it off, the networking was already done.
We’re fortunate enough to be able to hang out at the CA lounge after hours, so we all play games or just chat and hang out. No one is “trying” to network. We’re just a big team celebrating a successful day and looking forward to the next one. I like this WAY more than parties because it isn’t too loud, and I feel like I’m making real connections with people. I ended up passing on a couple events because I wanted to hang out with the CAs instead. Besides, playing a game with someone is one of the strongest ways for you to connect.
Til Next Year!
Then suddenly it was Saturday morning and I was on my way back to LA. Despite being a weeklong event, this felt like the shortest conference ever. I’m really thrilled that my first experience at GDC was part of the CA program. I think I would have found myself with a lot of down time and lack of direction without it, and the people I met were some of the most welcoming. GDC is an awesome event and I’m grateful to have been part of the team that helped make it happen. Big thanks to all of my CA friends, I’m looking forward to seeing you all again soon! 😀