So another GDC has come and gone - my fourth, personally - and it seems that the same old patterns held true yet again this year that have dominated the GDC experience so many times before:
- Count down the weeks, then days, then hours before GDC
- I fail to sleep properly the night before flying out
- Something goes wrong with the flight out (this time, one of my connections was cancelled; no big deal, thankfully)
- Arrive in San Francisco a day or so early, relax, prepare for the chaos of the coming week
- Kick off the partying right on Sunday night
- Stay up way too late and feel terrible on Monday morning, but full of adrenaline anyways
- Repeat this process 4-5 times until it is time to depart San Francisco
- Something goes wrong with the flight home (this year, we tried to collide with another plane while landing in Houston)
- Eventually get home at some unholy hour, drive the long trek back from the airport, proceed to become unconscious for several days
- Wake up with some kind of hobovirus from the conference and feel like crap for the next week
- Start counting down the weeks until we can do it all over again
As so many others have rightly pointed out, GDC isn't really about the conference itself all that much. Sure, the sessions can be educational, inspiring, and entertaining; the parties are unquestionably worth a week trip in and of themselves; and the swag (although it seems to get lighter every year) is always fun. But the real win of attending GDC is the other people.
In my personal situation, I contract for a German company while living in Atlanta, GA in the USA. I literally know no one else in the area in the games industry, partly because the industry barely exists around here in the first place. I get precisely one week a year to talk shop with fellow industry professionals, and that is at GDC. So to me, the conference is a tremendously exciting outlet for all the technological, motivational, and personal gibberish that clogs up my brain tubes from the preceding year.
It's also pretty much the only way to recharge my batteries for the following year.
GDC 2011 was no exception to this rule, just as it was no exception to the many other patterns that have always held true of GDC for me. And I've come away with not just the customary three-inch stack of business cards, but with some genuinely fascinating contacts and opportunities that will no doubt heavily shape the year to come.
I've talked to people about how to further my career; how to improve my working process within that career; how to do more interesting and entertaining things during the course of performing my job; how to further my own personal interests both in and outside of computing; and as always there were a handful of folks that are just great friends to have around.
GDC is like a massive family reunion, except with less drama about that One Really Weird Uncle and substantially less crappy picnic potato salad. The games industry is truly a microcosm of humanity as a whole; there are people from all aspects of life, perspectives, beliefs, opinions, and feelings represented. What makes that slice of the species so powerful to me is that we're all there under a common banner - to make and enjoy great games. Nowhere else in the world have I found such a diverse crowd of folks all willing to set aside differences for something singular and common; nowhere else have I found so many people all willing to learn from each other instead of simply disagreeing vehemently (or violently).
It may seem melodramatic - especially if you've never had the privilege of immersing yourself in that sea of nearly 20,000 souls - but GDC is magic.
As is customary I'll be providing some coverage of the whole shebang here on GameDev.Net over the next few days, primarily focusing on the AI summit. Stay tuned for more sentimentality and drivel about the Event You Shouldn't Have Missed.