I've never been to the Game Developers Conference before. As a current student of game design it's a sort of intellectual mecca that leaves the attendees enlightened, filled with the milk of knowledge from the lips of the masters and so on. After reading that Satoru Iwata will be giving the keynote, it dawned on me that I would finally be able to see what it's like behind the doors of a proper conference...so what should I expect? I interview my roommate, game designer John Gosling, and mix in some other explorations.
I attend about four conventions a year: GenCon, Otakon, Anime Boston, ACEN, and I've been to a few "summit" style conventions for sound design, but GDC will be the first industry specific major event I've attended as an "exhibitor". I'll be writing for GayGamer while I'm there, but also tending the booth for my game design school.
Why attend an event like GDC? For junior and senior designers alike GDC is the knowledge mecca of the game industry. Everything from talks to speeches to workshops are available to the attendees over a week. However, compared to the conventions I normally go to, the prices are a little steep.
John Gosling, a Chicago area game designer, attended GDC last year as a student. As a first time attendee and as a designer I figured he would have something interesting to say, and I was right.
Henshin A Go Joe: Tell me about your first experience with GDC.
John Gosling: GDC was a fantastic time. The sheer amount of resource and information and new ideas at that place made it fantastic for any designer to go to...Honestly, the networking is an important part of GDC...but the lectures, the tutorials and discussions...
He went on to explains a smattering of examples from the lectures he saw: New ideas in prototyping, game design.
HAGJ: What is the worst thing about GDC?
JG: Besides the price?
HAGJ: Besides the price, yes.
JG: It's sort of cheap to say, but there's only so much time. There were often times I would see multiple lectures I wanted to go to in the same time slot...so I had to make decisions over "Is this something I need to learn?" or "Is this something I want to know?" I'd say there was a pretty fair spread of content, so no matter what you're interested in there's something for you to do.
HAGJ: Do you have a specific memory from it? One that said "This is it, this is why I'm here."
JG: Three different things. One would be the final lecture by Will Wright, who was listed as [Phaedra]...his lecture was this constant fire of information...a barrage of new ideas every four seconds. It seemed like this long rambling thing but it was cohesive and all the ideas made sense after each other. Huge information dump. Second would be the [Awards Show], simply because of people going up and showing all sort of prototypes.
He went on to discuss the work of Spore designer Chaim Gingold, and his prototype for "Pocket Kingdoms." After the speech, he was able to spend some time discussing the project with Gingold himself.
HAGJ: So who should go? Who should spend the time and the money and get out there?
JG: Anyone looking for a job, that's for sure. They have all the tables set up to take resumes and do interviews and so on. If you go the the lectures, it's a great chance to talk to people (such as Chaim). Any designer, if you have the resources to go, it's a very recharging experience. Having that wealth of information just filling your head is something that can charge you with new ideas, re-motivate you towards what you're doing now...even beyond that seeing everyone there, and the energy everyone has...the good emotions and vibes reinforce that this is a great industry to work in.
John had nothing but great things to say about his first experience there, and that helped me frame my state of mind. I would have to schedule my days carefully, no dallying about looking for things to do. With my time carefully split between working the show floor and seeing who my Press Badge will buy me some time with, I'm sure I'll have lots to do.
I look forward to it more every day. Has anyone else been? Any stories/thoughts?