Me , not going previously, and why I went this year :
I am a new grad from one of the Devry university campuses located in southern California , over the past 3 and a half years one professor in particular has lobbied, rallied, and done everything short of thrown a protest outside of our school to get our game programming/ game development students to consider going to the Game developers conference. For most of us including myself the excuses were the typical “can’t afford it” , “ might force me to miss a class that week “ , “ not sure that I’m ready yet “ . What I learned though was that as far as being a game fan and an aspiring developer the sooner you attend the GDC , make connections, and just truly “breathe in “ what your hopeful future peers do and that the y are human too the better. Thankfully this year the excuses became meaningless as my school offered to allow my team to demonstrate our senior project in the exhibit hall and pay for our expo passes . So really all we had to do was get to san franscisco and unlike everyone else who had to travel across states or even countries to attend we just had to drive north a few hours
Day 1 ( March 6th) : The date of arrival, a 6 hour ride to san franscisco and after we check in at our hotel ( after having gone the wrong way several times, I learned I am not the best navigator) we learn that the moscone center is roughly a mile and a half away or so which ends up a 20 minute journey . it was very cool seeing all the game company adds in the buzzing main hall, and definitely for us 3 students an intimidating atmosphere more from us not knowing what to expect. We saw several people warmly embrace each other , clearly the GDC is where lots of old friends meet up as well as seeing several individuals marching towards their destination without missing a beat. We looked around a bit, browsed the GDC store ( where I saw an awesome oddworld inhabitants art book I had to have ) . Then we managed to run across the mobile developer mixer where our networking began as we asked a few kind developers from brazil about what they do and how they felt about the conference. It was a good introduction to the general welcoming atmosphere of the rest of the conference.
later that evening we attended a party hosted by the IGDA where I got to observe a neat electronic platform which I can only describe as having been “electrified scrabble “ where you could arrange words and score with small electronic cubes. I also managed to network with a few other young developers . in general the first day was the best and really the best lesson I learned was that being shy at the GDC is pointless this is probably the one venue where you can discuss game development according to your discipline or development in general and have others understand you . I will say seeing people playing risk in the basement of the bar was the highlight of the night haha.
Day 2( March 7th) : The first day of the conference , my group was slated to present our project around 12 so we all got there a little early ( around 10 ) so we could peruse the career pavilion and get some of our desire to observe any and everything out of the way . I was intrigued by a path of large purple footsteps and began to follow them to Wooga’s booth where I had a enjoyable discussion a very energetic young woman . For the rest of the day I attended several other booths to retrieve information , possibly pass out a few resumes, and if possible exchange a few business cards. We also had the first day of our presentation a fun but clumsy presentation ensued . I also attended a mixer and a party this evening where I continued to network with a few students from other schools, a few composers , artists , and networked with a co-founder of an Australian indie startup. I think this night demonstrated the beauty of the GDC because the only way to learn what all these other awesome people contributed to the industry was to talk to them and I personally feel it was a blast to be able to talk across disciplines about gaming as a gamer and developer. Even more so when the others who were from the east cost talked about how different California was . it was a blast .
Day 3( March 8th) : Today was possibly even more exciting than the first because I knew what to expect and our presentation was scheduled for the final hours of the conference for that day , I ran off for an early breakfast, got to the career pavilion continued passing out my resume, business cards, and chatting with many of the people who ran the booths . there was a reason for this, I wanted to attend two presentations presented by Seth cooper on optimizing games through data mining , telemetry , and large scale experimentation and yet another presented by Ms. Zoya Street as she gave us a brief glimpse of her paper on the shift of the Japanese economy and the worth of materials in final fantasy games and how they correlate. Prior to my presentation I asked where the “ history of games “ exhibit was where I was informed there were two entire separate halls I had yet to explore . too bad I only had about an hour to observe moscone north before I had to present because that hall was impressive it was the closest thing I had ever experienced to E3 however instead of the focus being on the games themselves the focus was on a multitude of development tools . This night me and a friend went to a small gathering located at a bar and I had a chance to talk to a programmer who worked at ebay , a game programmer , and a game producer . Just more proof that it’s an awesome setting to talk to people with like-minded interests .
Day 4 ( March 9th) : The last day was great I had already passed out most of my resumes , we had no presentations , and now I knew about the other two sections of the moscone center. We briefly stayed in the career pavilion then went to moscone north and observed several of the IBM presentations, played a few of the games being demonstrated, I asked a producer a few questions about how he viewed the producer-developer relationship. And took a lot at the IGF section where I talked to one of the artist behind the Art institute phoenix’s dust which was an incredibly pretty game they developed in unity . As a student / former student I think it’s definitely cool to see someone else who is still very much young to the industry but has had a reasonable level of success. of our original team of three only two of us headed home our third buddy decided to stay with family in the area for a while but as we all had lunch before leaving the city we agreed this was possibly one of the coolest trips any of us had ever been on . we all had managed to talk to some CEO of some sort at one point , I talked to a voice actor from bioshcok 2, another friend received an on the spot job interview . In all honesty the experience itself was insane and incredible . I mean as gamers to be around so many people who have developed and designed our favorite games was awesome but even more so being able to talk to them on a personal level receive advice on insight and just make connections that were more than just business but also people interested in our personal growth was fantastic .
So what was the point of this post ?: Ultimately I just wrote this because I want to express to anyone else who is a student and looking for the most successful way to get their foot in the door and get an incredible level of insight…GO TO THE GDC. I promise you there is no cost you can put on the knowledge, connections, and yes even the swag you get from such a cool event . I detailed a lot of the trip but I didn’t mention even a 10th of all the cool things I experience , interesting things I chatted about and while I managed to network with some pretty big industry personalities one of my friends who is a far better networker than I am managed to get himself invited to a VIP party where he received a tremendous level of insight from leaders of divisions and such . So if you are reading this and weren’t planning on attending the GDC I say save up your pennies for the next year , try to purchase at least an expo pass during the priority registration period to save yourself some money , and make sure your schedule is clear to go . Going to this years GDC was fantastic, quite literally a dream come true and honestly I think I decided during this years GDC I HAVE TO attend next years as well . It was a one of a kind experience and I can’t tell you how many professional programmers I got to talk with and ask advice from , how many of them told me what the trend is and what I should study , how many cards I exchanged and how many people were willing to answer any questions I had in the future . So awesome……in closing I say PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Do yourself a favor my fellow young devs and attend the GDC at least once . I don’t care what your discipline is I saw artists, composers, programmers, community managers, producers, designers, heck even marketers . There are a multitude of professionals congregated in one place willing to chat it up and give you the knowledge only a person who has been there can and I know for myself returning from the conference I figured out exactly what I need to do when I get back home thanks to all the kind voices I encountered.