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No longer a poser.... Observations on GDC 2010
by Kimberly Unger on 03/11/10 07:50:00 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.


I have been in the industry for almost 20 years now, and this is the first year I have gone to GDC without feeling like a total poser. I have no clue why, in fact, I've held positions in the past that were arguably more "industry" than others.  I can only think it's the familiarity somehow.  I know where everything is, I know where the cool parties are (even if I don't always have an invite) I have the floor and building layouts memorized and know which Peets has the shortest line. You might be reading this and thinking, oh yeah, she's hit that "Jaded Pro" moment.  But thats not it so much.  

Here's the cool thing about the games industry.  It's always new, there's always another cookie, a new story, a shiny piece of code.  I'm an industry fan, I love all this stuff.  I love to see what my peers are doing, even if you're dev-ing for a different console or a different OS.

Even if you've done something in direct competition with what I've got under wraps, I'm still going to be excited to see it.  I love beautiful, well executed projects, clean code, high end and low end pixel-pushing.   I'm one of those dorks who listens to the tech demos (even if I don't *really* get the differentce between multi-threaded-bi-polar-subcutaneous processing tweeps.  

This year is showing a lot of interesting stuff on the game floor.  Now that E3 is back up, the glitz and noise from a couple of years ago seems to have calmed down.  The Big Dogs are notably absent, not in a "we fled the scene" sort of way, but rather than having companies like EA have MASSIVE booths with full-size skateboard jumps, the focus is back again on the tech, the middleware, the tools and programming that helps to streamline the dev process. 

A couple publishers here and there, a number of booths from faraway and exotic places like Bavaria and Ireland (I'm a surfer-girl at heart, Ireland is pretty exotic to me) trying to hire people to come start/bolster game dev at home.  There are a LOT of enablers there, Chase and Bank of America seems to have a THING going with regards to grabbing the online transaction business, almost every university that offers a game design program seems to have someone with a booth. 

Not as many tool demos as I would expect, the Neurosky guys are back with a cooler booth (which usually means they are doing better) but not much in the way of headsets and controllers and actual physical hardware being shown off, which was a touch curious.

If you saw something COOL, btw, put a note in the comments so I can go check it out on Friday :D

NVidia has a very cool plan for their tchotchkies, each of the "boom-sticks" has a number printed on it.  You're supposed to go find the person who has a matching number.  I've been asking around for about 5 hours now, I think I'm going to be out of luck on that one.  I've seen marketing used like this before, but with "Social Gaming" being the new buzzword-du-jour, it's an interesting tie-in, making us all go talk to one another.  More like a giant icebreaker than a giveaway.

Thing is, I am reminded, every year when I come here, just how LUCKY we are to be working in this industry.  There are bad-apples, sure, companies that make you crunch for months and months, but I'm not talking about *that* kind of lucky.  I mean lucky to work in a small industry where, 5 minutes after you hit the expo floor, someone calls your name. 

The fact that guys like Sid Meier (if you can catch him, that is) will strike up a conversation with you just 'cos you're stuck in a 20 floor elevator ride.  The fact that I'm seeing people in suits hanging at the bar with people with tie-dyed hair and that the fact that you're young and stupid (and eager) is often considered an *asset* rather than a black mark on your resume.

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Glenn Storm
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This was only my third year at GDC, but I still had a similar takeaway. Well, I can't get away from the idea that as a 'youngin' I can still be seen as a poser, but I was able to see in this year the trajectory of trends and the momentum of the industry from this microcosm.

I found that with the Big Dogs gone, the focus was also more on techniques and industry relationships (between individuals, between camps of disciplines, between suits and artists, etc); along with the tools and tech you mentioned. There was more thinking and talk on collaboration, the tricks and difficulties with team organization in development, the crossover issues between the games industry and related entertainment fields, than I had seen in previous years.

Last year's big (grossly over-simplified) take away appeared to me to be, everything is indie (experimentation is king, lean is awesome, anti-establishment is a given, starving artist/David beats Goliath). This year's big (grossly over-simplified) take away seems to be more, focused on the relationships related to development; between our industry and others, between publisher and developer, between teams within development, between designer and player, between the player the the game, between the player and the player avatar; a much more psychology-focused perspective and dialogue on everything from player experience to organizational behavior.

Yet, while those topics are of keen interest to me personally, I felt that something was missing this year. Maybe I just went to the wrong sessions, but previous year's talks struck me overall as very progressive, even risky. I'd have to review more sessions via the Vault before passing judgment, but my first impression is that we played it rather safe this year, and I personally wanted to see more Evil Kenevil jumps.

Kimberly Unger
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I think you may be right in that the overall tone was more focussed on polishing and establishing what *is* rather than pushing the envelope, but I feel that an offshoot of the fact that we seem to be at a "pause-point" with regards to new and flashy technologes. Every few years there is a new and greatest that everyone has to jump on top of.

One thing I did feel was that the indie presence, more specifically with regards to the indie competition and awards, was probably the strongest I've ever seen it.

Glenn Storm
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Very true. It was almost like the aggregate indie presence was bigger than the major publishers/developers. :) I saw that as the result of last year's momentum, and last year's economy. All this makes me wonder what's on deck for next year.