I’ve put together a fairly lengthy write-up, so feel free to use this table of contents:
Firstly, I love the International Game Developers Association (IGDA.) I’ve been a student member for two years now and if you’re a game development student, you should be, too! To quickly summarize, the IGDA’s mission is to bring developers together, help them grow, and to stand up for their rights. As a student, getting involved with your local IGDA chapter is both rewarding and valuable to your budding career. I highly recommend it.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly referred to as E3, is regarded as one of the largest annual trade shows in the game development industry. Attendance is generally limited to press and industry only. Game development companies spend vast amounts of time and money producing the highest quality demos to promote their new products and compete for awards.
Previously, IGDA had been offering student scholarships to GDC, and this year, they expanded the scholarship program to cover more events, including E3, Casual Connect, and the IGDA Leadership Forum. These scholarships give students VIP treatment: a high level pass to the event, access to veteran developers, exclusive tours, exciting meetings, and special presentations.
It was awesome to arrive the Sunday before E3! I met up with a couple of my fellow scholars and we went to pick up our E3 badges and press passes early. Best of all, BAFTA was holding an event, A Life In Pixels with Will Wright, nearby in Hollywood. Three of us split a cab and arrived early enough to score front row seats. A Q&A followed the wonderful interview and I was pleased to be the last question of the night. Basically, I asked Will his thoughts on games for education. Needless to say, it really made my day to have a thoughtful dialog with such a talented and accomplished developer!
While enjoying refreshments after the event, we were introduced to even more amazing developers, including Dylan Cuthbert. It was a great way to kick off an incredible week!
We all assembled bright and early for breakfast with Gordon and Jack, followed by a whirlwind of press conferences: Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony. Sony’s press conference was by far the largest production. Outdoors, it resembled a sort of carnival, with DJs, tents, and plenty of people having a great time. Indoors, it momentarily took the form of a press conference, and then promptly morphed into a party complete with arcades, generous buffets, open bars, dancers, and a performance by Jane’s Addiction.
Another early rise to check in to Nintendo’s press conference, and arriving early meant nice seats. Nintendo had an orchestra, which played some nostalgic melodies from Zelda. Then, we all assembled for lunch with various representatives from EA, including recruiters and interns. I had some great conversations about game development, team dynamics, design, and interning. After quickly scoping out the E3 show floor, we met at the Sony booth for a surprise: SCEA had special envelopes prepared for us! Immediately after, we were taken to the second floor, an area of private meeting rooms, and stopped into the SCEE room, which was full of wonderful people and private demos. I was really excited to check out Journey and PixelJunk SideScroller, just to name a couple.
Last but not least, I connected with the friendly charter bus staff and we were off to a special Kinect Innovation event at USC where Kudo Tsunoda gave an inspiring presentation on how Kinect Fun Labs would allow everyone to express their creativity. The event then opened up into a special room where we could interact with various student, professional, and hobbist projects. It was an honor to attend!
Rebecca and I got to E3 a bit early, but it didn’t seem like much was going on before 10am. We met up with Luke and watched a dense crowd swarming around the entrance to the South Hall, which proceeded to surge inward when the doors opened. After the initial rush, we quietly slipped in and split up to explore more. I was really excited to see 8 Bit Weapon at the Video Game History Museum booth. They had given my husband and me some fantastic music for our wedding back in October and it was wonderful to finally thank them in person and watch them perform!
Around lunch time, we were treated to a Q&A with a developer from Sledgehammer games, as well as a private screening of the Modern Warfare 3 demo. Soon after, we met with Jim from Jerry Bruckheimer Games, who shared some amazing tales about his career. He had so much to tell us, and we absorbed what we could before hurrying on to our next appointment. At the Sega booth, I made some nice new friends, and after our tour, I checked out an edgy Kinect horror game called Rise of Nightmares, before speeding off to get ready for the WIGI/BIG party, which I was volunteering for.
We started with a tour of the Konami booth, after which I excitedly tried Silent Hill: Downpour in 3D. Soon, we popped over to the THQ booth, welcomed by fast access to screenings of some of the top titles being demonstrated. Then, Bethesda honored us with an appointment to see Skyrim, which I quickly learned was very hard to get into. To even further enhance our experience, the presenters took a moment to announce that the IGDA Scholars were in the audience and we all waved! I also met some fantastic people in and around this particular screening, including Ted Price and Markus Persson. After stopping by to see Prey 2, we quickly hurried off to our next tour at Warner Bros., where we were granted instant access to Arkham City, as well as a special Q&A afterward. Then, we stopped over to see Bastion and talk to the sole artist behind all of the lovely visuals in the game! Before we knew it, it was time to rush over to 2K for our final presentations: The Darkness II and XCOM. We took a brief moment to take a group photo in front of 2K, bathed in the warm glow of their signage.
Gordon introduced us to some nice gentlemen from Blizzard and we all followed them over to the Digital LA gathering for a moment. It was wonderful to meet them, but I was soon rushing off to get ready for dinner with a group of developers. Luke and I had both been planning to attend, but unfortunately, we instead learned valuable lessons about how hectic E3 can be and how brutal LA traffic is. After returning to the rest of the scholars, I continued to make new friends!
Jack and Gordon had some great post-E3 activities planned for us. First, they bused us over to the CAA, where we were given a very special presentation about representation in games. Then, we had lunch at EA Los Angeles and a studio tour in which we received tips on everything from resumes to interview questions. After this, we all said our official farewells. Some of us turned up at the Joystiq party in the evening, which was teeming with indie joy and wonderful games. It was fantastic to see Chris Hecker again! Rebecca, Luke, and I then met with Mike Acton for dinner and talked about Alt Dev Blog a Day. To conclude the evening, a bunch of us had a wonderful time hanging out at Andy’s place!
We all got rest! Rebecca, Noah, and I met for afternoon breakfast on Saturday and proceeded to have a great time checking out the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the wax museum. It was great to spend more time with my fellow scholars!
To say that I’m honored to have been chosen as a recipient of the first ever IGDA E3 Scholarship would be a huge understatement. Essentially, I’m informed that hundreds of students applied and out of all of them, fifteen of us were selected as future influential figures in the game development community.
I’m deeply appreciative of Jack and Gordon having selected me. From a very personal perspective, this has allowed me to experience things I’ve otherwise missed out on. As a non-traditional student, I never went away to college, had a roommate, etc., but I was able to room up with another scholar for this trip (thanks, Rebecca!) and make a great selection of new friends from around the world. It was so fantastic that I’ll probably never be able to articulate exactly how amazing it was!
However, something I can do is share the things I learned during the experience.
1.) Shoes + Water
Some of the best advice I received before attending E3 was wear comfortable shoes and carry a bottle of water. As E3 wore on, the importance of these two simple tips became quite apparent!
One of the other scholars also suggested taking notes throughout the experience, which I wish I had done more of. Everything is happening so fast that it’s nice to have something to go back over later.
3.) Make Friends, Take Pictures!
The best takeaway, at least for me, had to be the friends I made. Not only my fellow scholars, who are obviously awesome buddies, but all of the developers I befriended. Developers are all over the place at these events, so there are amazing opportunities to make new friends everywhere you go.
Similarly, be sure to take plenty of pictures with your new friends. Sincere memories of fellowship are the best pictures ever!
4.) Get Around and Hang Out Together
There were plenty of places to be and only a couple of people with cars. Special thanks to Andy and Gordon for the rides! Otherwise, sharing cabs with other scholars was really handy for getting around. I’d overall encourage hanging out with your fellow scholars in general, as they tend to be awesome!
5.) Avoid Lines
If you’d like to learn from my mistakes, don’t stand in long lines for silly things. It was hard to say whether we’d get to check out the PS Vita, so I spent an embarrassing amount of time at the Sony party waiting to check it out. Once I was actually in line, I got caught in the vicious cycle of “but I’ve already been waiting this long…” and despite my better judgment, stayed there. The very next day, we were shown that IGDA had truly hooked us up and we could try the demos without waiting at all! On the bright side, I still networked while actually in the line, made a couple of new friends, and also learned a valuable lesson about waiting.