Why I Attend GDC

Hello, my long neglected readers! I have been a terrible blogger as of late. I have been extremely busy with my current contract work, so I haven’t had a lot that I can talk about here on the ‘ol blog. The game I’m working on is nearing completion, at which point I’ll be returning to my own projects and I should have more to talk about.

The good news is that my turn rolled around for #iDevBlogADay and it has pushed me into writing this post. Hooray! This is precisely the purpose of iDBaD, but I digress…

I’m long overdue for a post-GDC blog entry. Last year was my first time attending the Game Developers Conference and I wrote up a post about how much I enjoyed it. This year was even more exiting for me, and I had intended to come home and write up a post about how great it was, and then life and work got in the way. However, it is time. Let’s talk GDC!

I will say this right now: GDC is expensive. It’s not a cheap conference. Most people attending are there because their large company is paying for them to be there, so cost isn’t really an issue. For us indies, plunking down $1400 for a full-access pass is like taking a swift blow to the stomach. Add the cost of a flight from Toronto, and 5 nights of staying in a hotel, and you’ve got quite a bill. So the question everyone wants to know is: is it worth it? I’ve heard some devs say “why should I go to GDC when I can get a new computer instead for the same price?” Is it worth it? My answer: an emphatic YES.

GDC has three parts to the show: the 2-day summits and tutorials, the 3-day main conference, and the 3-day expo that runs at the same time as the main conference. You can buy a pass for the summits, the main conference, or both. I like to do both. The reason is this: the summits have a big indie emphasis, so you get to meet a lot of amazing people and get inspired by the top indies in the world; the main conference has some amazingly inspirational talks from some of the top minds in the industry. I wouldn’t miss either. Together they form a near-perfect conference for me.

This year for the 2-day summits & tutorials I decided to gamble on taking part in the 2-day game design workshop. I was nervous about doing this because it meant I couldn’t attend any of the indie sessions. However, I think I made the right choice for me. The workshop was an intense 2-day crash course in game design, and it was absolutely invaluable. I learned an incredible amount about game design process, which is one of the areas of game development where I feel I have the most to learn. This workshop gave me a language to use to talk about game design; it let me interact with other designs and solve design problems together; and I came away with some invaluable tools for solving game design problems. If you’re attending GDC and considering the game design workshop, I can’t recommend it highly enough. After those first two days, I felt I had already gotten my money’s worth for the conference, but there were still 3 days of awesomeness remaining!

Last year at GDC, I didn’t really know what to expect from the main conference, so I went to a lot of different sessions in a lot of different fields: programming, art, game design, business, etc. This year I focused on design sessions and this really worked for me. I saw some mind-blowing talks on game design and design process from some of the game designers I most look up to. (Check out the GDC Vault and you can watch some of the classic game post-mortems for free.) By the end of the conference my mind was bursting with ideas, and my heart was filled with hope for games as a medium and inspiration for my own games.

That feeling right there, that’s why I go to GDC. Nowhere else have I ever felt so excited to be a game designer and developer. Nowhere else have I become so inspired to create new and innovative games. Nowhere else have I met so many amazing game developers who are all striving to make the best games the world has ever experienced. Nowhere else have I had so many amazing conversations with other developers and designers about games and their importance.

By the end of February, I was feeling pretty burnt out about making games. I hadn’t worked on my own projects in quite some time. I was starting to wonder why I do what I do. By the time I left GDC, I was alight with creativity, a renewal of excitement about having the best job in the world, and a hunger to create something new and important. GDC was a reminder that there are amazing people making incredible games all around the world; a reminder that there are people trying to make games that matter to themselves and to others; a reminder that making games is extremely difficult, but also profoundly rewarding. This is why I will choose GDC over a new computer, any day.