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No GDC Pass? No Problem!
by Bradley Rose on 04/05/13 03:46:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


If you were at Game Developers Conference 2013 on Wednesday, March 27th; you might have seen a man dressed up as Luigi from Super Mario Bros. holding a large sign that read "LUIGI NEEDS GDC PASS!" That guy was me; and, yes - I succeeded.


That Wednesday morning, I swung by Kinkos within a Hilton nearby the Moscone Center where GDC '13 would take place, bought a foam board, and created the sign right there in the hotel's lobby. Next, around noon, I headed over to the spot on the sidewalk corner of the intersection that lies between North Moscone and West Moscone buildings.

I chose this spot because this was where the most quality traffic would be outside of the conference itself. Folks attending GDC are able to travel between the North and South buildings either above ground or underground, and the traffic isn't as narrow. So, that's not as appealing.

Plus, I know that spot between Moscone North & West was a great choice because NOS and other advertising parties had folks there, too - handing out flyers and freebies to GDC passersby. Hundreds of GDC attendees are forced to walk past me and see that I needed a GDC pass (It helps that there's people walking around trying to find food during lunchtime)!

Also, I have done this "sign-holding thing" twice before at GDC during the years of 2010 and 2011 at that same spot and succeeded, each time. So I knew I had a chance. Though, each of those times I was "panhandling for a pass" did not involve dressing up as Luigi at all.

I chose to dress up as Luigi this year because this was the Year of Luigi (as declared by Nintendo), and I had already cosplayed as Luigi before (I had already collected and purchased all the materials needed for my outfit) - so I figured this was the year to play my "cosplay card" and adopt Luigi's persona when I hit the streets.

(Source: Wired)

A little more than an hour of holding the sign, dancing along to the music put on by the NOS area behind me, and making Luigi noises while GDC attendees passed by or stopped to take pictures of me; I had received a GDC pass from a man named Danny. He took it off of his person and handed it over to me. I was in.

Go, Weegee

"Why?" is what Scott Bromley of Tech Feed asked me when he saw me on the Expo Floor of GDC. While he may have been asking why I'm walking around dressed as Luigi and not so much as to why I needed a GDC pass, I still answered him as if he asked the latter: I need a job.

I worked at a social/mobile games publisher/developer for ten months in social media/customer support/community management before I was laid off last year. This is one reason why I needed to go out there with a sign asking for a pass: because paying $250 for an Expo Pass ticket was just too much money for me spend.

(NOTE: Before you point out the "become a Conference Attendant" option, I legitimately had completely forgotten about going that route.)

However, another reason to stand out there on the sidewalk and potentially feel foolish is to, well, stand out. I don't mean to stand out from among the crowd (I'm sure I succeeded in that regard) - what I mean is to stand out from the rest of my competitors.

There are other job seekers, too. Among the vast number of job seekers, there are going to be some that aren't memorable to potential employers. And if I don't stick in the mind of a prospective employer as well as the next person, I may as well have lost my chance. When there's someone with similar skills as me, choosing "that Luigi guy" is probably more enticing than "this person that is exactly the same as 'that Luigi guy'."

Luigi Numbah One

Additionally, to flex my social media muscles, I created a hashtag related to the Twitter conversations that would be about me at GDC: #GDCLuigi. I put this on my business card along with my Twitter handle.

#GDCLuigi Business Card

Since folks would be taking pictures of Luigi because, well, I'm LUIGI - there's going to be some uploading of photos to social networks - which could use some hashtagging if I can help it. Thus, I handed out my business card with verbal  instructions to each person who stopped to take a photo of me.

(Post-Mortem: I should have included the #GDCLuigi hashtag ON the sign itself. That would have saved me a lot of trouble and been a lot more effective for social media purposes. Alas. Also, I had completely run out of all my business cards handing them out to people on the street taking pictures of me and did not have any to hand to folks I network with after getting a pass!)

So, I explored GDC. I hit up some companies at the Career Pavilion and Expo Floor over the course of Wednesday through Friday. Of course, I also went to as many GDC parties as I could go to. There were folks at GDC that had an exclamatory reaction when they 1) realized I was "that Luigi guy," (I dressed in my "normal" clothes for Thursday and Friday) and 2) learned that I actually obtained a pass. I met a lot of amazing people and experienced moments of equal caliber that most likely wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't become Luigi Holding a Sign.

Here We Go


I had folks tell me that I had a lot of guts doing what I did. Truthfully, I wasn't that nervous (I had done it before, after all), but I can understand how some folks wouldn't even think to have the audacity to do what I did.

The way I looked at this stunt was this: either I could NOT do this and have a lot of people have no idea who the hell I am and never talk to me at all. OR, I could dress up as Luigi and potentially turn off a lot of people and have them never talk to me for that reason. Either way, in the worst cases, I'm going to get the same result. Thus, to be a good gamer of life, I had to do it.

So, to those of you thinking, "I could never do that." Don't let your own self inhibit you from being awesome. Fight your inner demons of worrying about what other people think. Sure, it's possible that people are thinking, "What a fool." or "This person is SO rude!" ...but, really, most of them are amused to see you there holding a sign.

I could also have easily told myself pessimistically, "What are the chances someone is going to give me a $250 pass?" The hyperoptimistic self that I am believes in life being an amazing thing full of amazing opportunities and possibilities. If there really was NO WAY for me to get into GDC, then life would just plain suck. I refuse to believe that life sucks. Therefore, there IS a possibility that someone would hand me a pass!

In a more "rational" perspective: there are vouchers that companies get that can be redeemed for Expo Passes. Employees of these companies get ahold of these vouchers, but sometimes a company has a surplus of these vouchers. So, they go unused. This is a tragedy while there are some folks who would love to go ...Surely, there's someone walking down the street that might see me holding a sign that would have one of these spare vouchers!

Lastly, some people have GDC passes on them but are on their way to leaving GDC for good because they're too busy with work or have seen everything they've wanted to see. They would just go home and toss aside their pass to sit there being unused. Its use could have been maximized around your desiring-to-go-GDC neck! This might have been the case with that man named Danny who gave me his pass. Had I not been out there on the sidewalk with the sign with not a care about other people and feeling no shame for doing what I was doing, that pass might have collected dust in his home, and I wouldn't have had an unbelievable experience at GDC.

Bradley Rose with GDC Pass

Okey Dokey!

So, did I get a job, yet? No. At least, not as of the time I write this. Does that mean I failed? No way. In fact, if I hadn't done what I did as Luigi, I wouldn't have written my first blog post on GamaSutra (the one you're reading right now). And that would mean you never would have who I was at all - and you might be a prospective employer who would be interested in contacting me for an interview; an opportunity I would have missed had I not written this.

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Sharon Hoosein
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It's hard to tell, but it seems like your pass has Danny's name on it. Pass trading is fraud and strictly forbidden. The reason why no one stopped you is probably because the CAs have no way of knowing if your name is really Danny or not.

If you want to be a Conference Associate in the future or get a job, I would not advertise/condone breaking the conference rules on the Gamasutra site or internet in general.

Ernest Adams
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Pass trading isn't fraud. DUPLICATING a pass is fraud. Lots of small-time companies buy one pass and one employee uses it one day, and another uses it another day. As long as two people aren't by some nefarious means using the same pass at the same time, nobody is being defrauded.

I don't know what UBM's formal policy is, but in practice I think they turn a blind eye to it as long as nobody is doing something egregious.

Sharon Hoosein
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Fraud: " deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage."

It's deceit, because you're pretending to be the person who paid for the pass to gain entrance into the conference.

I was a CA at the conference this year. We are told to stop people we see doing this. Like I said, it's hard to enforce because we have no way of double checking attendee identities on the spot and there are a ton of people there.

It would be nice and small developer friendly if GDC had day passes like SIGGRAPH does. Still doesn't change that you shouldn't be pass trading. And if you do, don't advertise it.

Rob Graeber
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Yes, pass trading is a highly immoral and sinful act that reflects deeply on a person's character. I would never hire a person who would even consider doing such a thing. Next thing you know this guy might be stealing paperclips from work.. Or perhaps even pens, heaven forbid. I hope everyone sees this, and shuns him from ever going to GDC or working again!

Jacek Wesolowski
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I remember seeing Bradley dressed as Luigi just accross the street from Moscone West. It was an obvious stunt, but it was charming, colorful and added to the conference's informal and friendly atmosphere. Personally, if I were involved in organization of a similar event, I would have a (small) pool of free passes to give out to people who pull off acts like this.

Also, someone basically gave away their right to be at the conference to someone else. It was a gift. Bradley asked for an act of kindness and received it. That's not wrong - that's wonderful.

Bradley Rose
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Hi Sharon,

Thanks for warning me about GDC fraud and the ramifications of it. I don't know exactly what the rules are when it comes to handling badges for the Game Developers Conferences. I do realize that ignorance is not an excuse if it is true what you are telling me. As such, I accept whatever consequences will come my way!

Lex Allen
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Well, I'm sure that they don't want people trading passes, but the truth is that only a small number of people are probably doing that.

For the amount of advertising GDC will get from this funny article, it will probably more than make up for the $250 that the guy saved.

Considering that GDC had record attendance this year, I don't think that they are terribly concerned about Luigi breaking in.

Does anyone know what kind of profit GDC made this year?

Sharon Hoosein
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Why does it matter how much profit UBM made for hosting GDC? They put in the time and money to host the conference, they make the rules. You attend their conference, you follow their rules.

What Bradley could have done instead that would be within the rules:
-join the CA program, and still dress up as Luigi
-ask Danny to buy him his own expo pass
-contact UBM to offer his Luigi services in exchange for a pass
-contact UBM, offering to use his Luigi persona to advertise online about GDC in exchange for a pass
-contact UBM, explain situation, see if they're willing to make an exception for him.
-not attend the conference, but ask around about parties and go to those.

Lex Allen
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The profit doesn't matter; I was just curious what they made because of the record attendance.

I'm not sure what the CA program is, but I'm guessing it has something to do with volunteering. I've done this once before for another game conference, and they kept me so busy, that I was unable to do anything accept attend a few conferences.

Also, I'm not sure what UBM is.

Thanks for giving people information on how they can access some aspects of GDC if they can't afford to pay, but I think that you should realize that Bradley is not alone in his situation.

Every year, hundreds to thousands of people don't attend GDC for financial reasons. For most of us, the plane ticket cost is the biggest deterrent, but in this economy, a lot of people are unable to come up with $250.

Whenever I ask people if they're going, they tell me the same thing. "It's really expensive." Plainly, this means, "No, I'm not going."

I think that there should be more Luigis standing out front of GDC so that they can see how the price is really keeping people out.

The other side to this, is that it probably keeps people that aren't serious about the conference out, and I also understand that GDC needs to make money, but there should be a way for serious people to attend who don't have money, and volunteering isn't really an answer because it usually involves a lot of working for free with fairly little benefit in return. However, I have never actually volunteered for GDC specifically, so I could be wrong about that and I would love to hear from people who have. From what I've read, volunteering at GDC is a lot of running around, so you better wear comfortable shoes.

Frank DAngelo
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A few points. I gotta admit I don't like this article at all, even less because the writer seems proud of what he did.

- In my eyes, what happened here was no better than begging for a GDC pass. Regardless of whether you dressed up as Luigi or not, it doesn't change the fact you are just trying to get a pass for nothing by begging for it.

- You don't have enough money to pay for a $250 GDC pass, but you have enough money to get to the convention, buy a luigi outfit, and spend days outside the convention. Time is money too.

- As someone else said, what occurred here was fraud. I didn't attend GDC this year, but right on their website, it says clearly in black and white that trading passes or using another person's pass is strictly prohibited and that person will be forced to leave the convention. It says that each person must have their own unique pass and actually be that person. You essentially were falsely posing as the Danny that gave you the pass, something that is very much against the rules.

- If this works, what's to stop everyone just trying to cosplay for a pass? People need to remember that past the fun GDC can be, it is foremost a strictly business and professional conference. GDC is not the place for cosplay in my opinion. Everyone is allowed to attend, but yes, you have to pay, and that's the way it should be. No one should be allowed in for free like this when others have to pay that money. I would care less about this point if it was at E3 or something.

I don't know... maybe it's just me, but I'm not amused by this article, which seems very much like the writer is jovially boasting about how "Look, I dressed as Luigi and got a free pass! har har har". I think everyone wishes they could have gotten a free pass, and I'm sure there are many people that did not attend this year because of finances. It upsets me that one gets a free pass for a stupid stunt while so many others can respect the rules and had to miss out.

Bradley Rose
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Hi Frank,

I'm sorry to hear you didn't like the article! Here's some comments on each of your points:

- Yes, I agree that I was begging for a pass! Of course, I was also turning it into a mini social media campaign. A campaign that got people talking about whatever it was I wanted them to talk about. In this case, talking about me. And it looks like I've at least somewhat succeeded, Frank!

- I'm a local around the San Francisco Bay Area, so travel doesn't cost me very much. I take public transit; but, thankfully, Moscone Center is nearby BART. I spent a little over an hour outside Moscone Center, not days. Let's say it took me two hours instead of just over an hour. That means I made $125 an hour! You're right, time is money; and that's the most I've ever made for my own time at a job in my life! Lastly, I purchased all the materials for my Luigi costume years ago.

- I wasn't aware of what was stated on the Game Developers Conference website, but I accept the ramifications of my actions, whether or not they were breaking the rules of GDC.

- Because I've never seen anybody else do what I did before at GDC, I saw doing what I did as a viable option at this professional event. As mentioned above, dressing up as Luigi was part of my whole campaign. I only dressed up to get the pass and to promote myself as a job seeker. Looking for work, networking, and making connections was my business, which ties into purpose of the conference. For Thursday and Friday, I did not dress up as Luigi, since there was no longer a need to.

I'm reminded of a scene from the movie Coach Carter. To paraphrase: my playing small doesn't serve the world. As I let my own light shine, I unconsciously allow others to do the same. I wanted to inspire when I wrote this article. ...and increase my chances at getting work.

Again, I wasn't aware of what was stated on the Game Developers Conference website, so I certainly wasn't consciously showing a disrespect for the rules of GDC. Of course, that doesn't mean that, if it's true that I broke the rules, what I did was right. So, if it ever comes to judging my character - I was behaving in good faith.

Kimberly Unger
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Every year there are a couple dozen people out front begging for a pass. Sometimes they get one, sometimes not. This is the first time I have seen someone do something better than just asking random passersby if they have an extra pass.

Bradley took it a step further. He turned it into one big job interview. The guy is looking for a gig that REQUIRES this kind of self promotion, both for himself and for the company he will be working for. He wasn't just looking for a Pass, he was showing off the fact that he understands how things like social media work in a very real-life sense of the word.

Bradley Rose
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I absolutely love your comment, Kimberly. And thank you for all the support you've given me thus far!

Steven Christian
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Seems to me like a positive story of going out and getting what you want.
No one was hurt, and two people didn't take up the space of one at the conference, they simply exchanged places.

Kudos to the guy for getting out and doing something memorable, instead of sitting on the internet complaining about it..

Eric McConnell
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I can't believe the backlash this guy is getting. It shows initiative and he's getting comments on his Gamasutra blogpost. Keep hustlin' man!

Brandon Sheffield
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I think it's amusing that you're saying you "didn't know" that getting a pass from someone else was frowned upon, when you already stated you couldn't spend $250 to get it. This establishes you already know the pass is worth $250, and you are taking one. Sort of like if you waited outside a theater to see if someone was leaving partway through a movie, to see if you could get their ticket stub and get back in to see a movie for free. Some people do it! I wouldn't hire someone who thinks that's the way to go about things, but the way this industry is going, I think there are a lot of people who would.

I mean, more power to you if you're into getting free things from people that paid for them. Compound that with the extremely public and personally debasing way of getting it, and I'd say you could definitely get a starter job in marketing or PR, I'm sure they'd love to have you.

Jacek Wesolowski
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I didn't pay for my pass, either.

Christian Nutt
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Yeah the more I think about this and read the comments the more annoying this is. I thought it was kind of funny at first, but then I realized it's just shameless self promotion in lieu of actually accomplishing something. He even referred to it as a "mini social media campaign":

From a comment above: "Yes, I agree that I was begging for a pass! Of course, I was also turning it into a mini social media campaign. A campaign that got people talking about whatever it was I wanted them to talk about. In this case, talking about me. And it looks like I've at least somewhat succeeded, Frank!"


Bradley Rose
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I also see how it can seem funky that I know some information about Game Developers Conference, like the pass being $250, but not everything there is to know about GDC. I have been to the website, but I pretty much followed this user flow:

1. Go to
2. Hover cursor over "Attend: Registration & Travel"
3. Click on "Passes & Prices"
4. See that it costs $250

I did look around for a little bit more, but I didn't scour the website for all the information. If I had, according to some folks, it seems like I would have seen some rulings about how passes should be handled.

Here's how I imagined a Pass item worked:

Pass (Magical Artifact)
Duration: In effect during Three-Day Event
While Pass is equipped, the user has admittance to the event. No more than one user may equip this Pass at a time. However, you may drop this item and let someone else equip this Pass. Pass still is in effect while Event still lasts.

So, your movie ticket analogy "sort of" works here. However, for movies, when you go in to see a movie halfway through - it's like you read half of a book. You get to see the ending, and you can kinda extrapolate how the beginning was. And you're set.

Think of this analogy, which I find more fitting: You rent a batting cage for three hours. There's only one bat and home plate. During the first hour, you bat. Then you figure you're pretty much done. There's still two hours left, so you decide to let your friend use the bat and step up to the plate for the remaining two hours.

Both the movie analogy and the batting cage analogy make sense but imply different things. Which one's actually indicative toward the etiquette/rules of handling passes? Well, what are the actual rules? I don't know!

But it certainly wasn't my intention to be manipulative. Was I ignorant to certain information such as those having an attitude of frowning upon handing off passes or even whether there is a rule against it? Yes. Do I deserve the consequences of my actions? Yes. Besides possibly getting in trouble with GDC, I suppose that might involve the frowning upon by my game industry peers, if they see me fit for being frowned upon.

What I did was public, yes. It had to be, as part of a showing of my social media skills. Debasing? I wouldn't consider it to be so, but if it would be debasing for you, then that's fine. It's how you feel about it. For me, I didn't look at it as a shameful activity. Perhaps that depends on your previous understanding of my position. If you still think, after what I said in this comment, that what I did was shameful - then so be your opinion. My perspective does not align with such a view.

Personally, my goal is to be a game designer and not to be in marketing or PR. I just happen to have professional experience in community management, social media, and customer service.

Thanks, Brandon!

Michael Gribbin
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You can't knock the hustle.