You think you’re attending GDC to get professional enlightenment from sessions? No, you’re going to get it from people. People giving the talks, and then continuing that discussion over a couple of drinks at a late night party with that same speaker or many, many other people interested in that same topic.
I find it very rewarding to say that I exchanged just as many hugs as handshakes this year.
The Crazy Week of Crazy
GDC is a whirlwind of activity. These days I am charged with managing the team of writers we have out each year, making sure that they are able to get coverage up without issue on the website and helping them out should they have any troubles with getting around the conference. I remember last year one of our writers actually was told to leave a talk and I marched right down there with both the GDC conference director and principal press coordinator and got it all sorted out (it was just a small misunderstanding, thankfully).
I’m usually also tied up in a number of meetings with companies who advertise with us and frequently use our site for press releases and content submissions. This is a great chance to sit with the principals of each company and get caught up on what they are doing so GameDev.net can properly accommodate their needs moving forward. It’s actually part business, part “hey how are you doing?” as I have come to personally know many of them. Again, it’s people you’re talking to here at GDC not just big companies.
I still have time to attend sessions here and there, and I take what notes I can so I am still able to contribute coverage articles after the show is over. It is quite the departure these days from my first few years of attending GDC, when I would hole up in the press lounge and write up a 500-1,000 word summary right after a session concluded, or late into the night each night. I was known as a “robot” by the rest of the GDNet crew. Nowadays I’m only in the press lounge briefly to check up on email, RSS and social feeds to make sure there haven’t been any changes in my appointments or to see where some of my fellow GDC attendees are meandering about. This year it was also to keep up with pushing external conference coverage out to out own coverage page, which turned out to be very helpful to many people.
Between meetings and sessions and press lounge breaks I’m usually wandering around the Expo floor and stopping off at booths where I don’t have meetings but know the people there to say hello. Then there’s running into many friends along the way – I almost have to book extra travel time between meetings/sessions so I can stop to talk to everyone I see (sometimes that’s the only chance I get to see them!). And then at night it’s now mainly spent attending the many, many, many parties being thrown around the area. Despite the fact that it is usually too loud to speak without losing your voice, you can still make tons of valuable connection in a laid-back anything-goes setting.
All this (and more) combines to create 5 days of continual awesomeness. While GDC does a great job of draining your physical batteries, you end the week with your creative batteries overcharged. It’s like a professional high.
As with past GDCs, there are times during the week that stick out in my mind for various reasons. They are:
- Getting to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution - The Eidos Montreal team did an amazing job recreating the original Deus Ex experience in all regards. I cannot wait for this game.
- Getting to watch Warren Spector play Deus Ex: HR - I had been tipped off by the studio head that Warren would be stopping by to try out the game for the first time, and I was fortunate enough to be around when he did. Warren is the designer of the original Deus Ex game and someone I had only met 3 times before at past GDCs so it was a pleasure to see him again, especially as he enjoyed his first-ever hands on experience with the game
- Meeting IGDA member #1 – David Walker was sitting at my table during the IGDA VIP luncheon and we had a nice discussion about schooling and its usefulness. He’s program dean for DeVry’s game development course and I admitted to never completing college.
- Best IGDA party evar – the IGDA has been notorious for throwing member parties that have gotten way out of hand, with packed venues and lines around the block to get in. The first few years I attended GDC I usually didn’t even bother trying to get in. This year they nailed an awesome venue, had the music turned down, and were running table-top games on the lower floor. Most excellent.
- Losing to Dustin Clingman…. again – It started back around 2004, when I would take pictures of random crowds at GDC and lo and behold I would happen to capture Full Sail instructor (recently retired) and ZeeGeeGames CEO Dustin Clingman in at least one of them. Soon I would be taking pictures of Dustin without him noticing and posting them on our GDC coverage gallery. So then in 2007 he challenged me to see who could take a picture of the other first after arriving in San Fran. For the following three years he won, then retired in 2010 and this year the game was afoot once more. He caught me point-blank at the W lobby bar Sunday night. I turned around and a camera phone was in my face. BOOM! Headshot.
- Winding down the night in style – the end of each day found me at the Westin, occupying a couch/chair at either The Game Attorney’s or Push Button Labs’ suites. It can get pretty loud at times when more people are there but for the most part it is a nice, quiet way to casually wind down from a night of loud partying. The liquor cabinets are always stocked and those in attendance are always people worth meeting and having conversations with.
- Met the God of War composer – he loved when I air-guitared The End Begins (to Rock) and he was totally cool with the fact that I knew the song so well because I play it all the time in Guitar Hero.
- Reconnected with an old NJ developer – a member of the NJ IGDA chapter (which I co-founded back in 2001) recognized me and we chatted about what he had been up to since leaving NJ and what that included was buying a tractor-trailer RV and driving around the country while he made games. How awesome is that??
- Playing Monaco - I met up with Andy Schatz one morning for a play through of some of the levels in Monaco. Wow, what a great game, we had a lot of fun working together to trick the guards and make it through the levels. It was so polished I could only offer feedback on the stuff he was still working on, and only very little at that.
- Steak dinner – went out for dinner at John’s Grill with the FMOD crew and had a ribeye steak… MMMMMM so good!! Great talking with those guys as well. I used FMOD back in 2003 and it’s only gotten better since
- FMOD dress shirt – Marty from FMOD brought me a present this year, and it was one of the blue dress shirts they all wear when at shows and stuff. I always wear a plain back dress shirt over whatever t-shirt I have on at conferences so this made for a great replacement! Plus, when I wore my Unity shirt under it people started geeking out. One guy full-on hugged me.
Post-GDC is always a bit of a downer since you’re leaving all your friends behind – many for an entire year – but at the same time it places you back into your daily life inspired and reinvigorated to go out and “conquer the world” as one of my friends has said this past week.
I’m on a plane all day today and then it’s back to the daily grind, but at least at the end of a year it’ll be time for another week of awesome. That’s something worth working forwards to.