Indie Biz

Indie Biz: Your GDC Survival Guide

Your GDC Survival Guide - Indie Biz |

Your GDC Survival Guide - Indie Biz |
Last year I got the chance to attend GDC for the very first time. For those not familiar, GDC is an annual Game Developers Conference held every year in San Francisco. Developers, publishers, journalists and everyone in between involved in video games gathers once a year to make deals, network and learn. It’s one of the few truly global video game industry events I’ve ever attended, and your presence there can make or break some careers.

It can be a pretty overwhelming if you’ve never attended before, so being prepared could be difficult if you’re not sure what to expect. Although I’m not attending GDC myself this year, I thought it could be useful for me to share some tips for GDC survival that served me well in 2015.

I have to give credit for a lot of these tips to the amazing Astrid Rosemarin, who I got to work with during my time in Execution Labs with Cardboard Utopia.

Don’t Leave Home Without:

1. Business cards. Business cards are currency at GDC. You will be expected to whip yours out as soon as you engage with someone else, so make sure you bring lots. Like, more than lots. Basically, if you think that you’ve brought enough business cards, add another 50% and don’t plan on bringing any of them back with you. You won’t.

2. Demos or photos of your game. Everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words, so make sure you have some game art, or a demo video loaded onto your smartphone or tablet. Don’t include a 20 minute trailer, or expect people at a party to play through your game, but having a visual representation of your game will go a long way towards making you and your game memorable.

3. Comfy shoes & a water bottle. Yes, you’re at a professional conference and want to look as business-y as possible, but chances are you will be running around like mad between meetings, sessions, dinner, and parties. These suggestions are really just the minimum necessary to keep you healthy and happy, but you’ll be super glad you did.

Remember To:

1. Be nice. To everyone. Especially strangers. You don’t want to accidentally insult the president of the publishing company you’re hoping to court, and being that everyone at GDC is on the same level, they could be in the line behind you for coffee. Courtesy and respect go a long, long way.

2. Pace yourself. It can be really tempting to go to every single session during the day and then try to hit three parties in a row at night. Yes, there are lots of parties at GDC. Yes, you could make a great contact there. Or, you could flub your meeting the next morning because you stayed out too late networking. Know your limits and don’t feel bad about sticking to them.

3. Plan ahead. Apps like the GDC Session Scheduler and the Fellowship of Game Developer Parties are a godsend for creating your day and night schedules. They’ll even send you timed reminders to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time.

4. Have fun. Yes, GDC can be super stressful and intimidating, but it can also be crazy fun. Be open to meeting new people and having interesting discussions and playing innovative games. Definitely keep tip #2 in mind, but also don’t be so focused on business that you forget to open up.

Have you ever been to GDC? What’s your GDC survival advice?

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  • Reply
    Ari Carr
    March 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I’ve been to events like this, but aimed at film bursary giver-awayers and I definitely second all of your advice. I really wish I’d been given business cards for the company I was repping as it would have made it much easier.

    • Reply
      March 9, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Yeah, no kidding. I think I had three different kinds of business cards on me when I was at GDC, one for Cardboard Utopia, one for my blog and one for my indie consulting business.

  • Reply
    Dina Farmer
    March 10, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    I think all your advice is simply great it sounds very similar advice I was given at a photography conference. I think it is highly important to present yourself well, because you never know what can happen you know?

    • Reply
      March 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks! And yeah, even if you aren’t directly slagging someone off, you might be talking to someone they know and word travels fast in a small community.

  • Reply
    Erin Radler (@eradscantina)
    March 10, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    This is a great list! Jeff has been to GDC and many of our friends go every year. It’s such an awesome conference for those in the industry, especially for networking, so noooo jookkkeeee on your tip about being nice to EVERYONE. You really never know!

    • Reply
      March 11, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks! I’m very sad I’m not going this year, just because EVERYONE else I know seems to be going and I’d love another chance to see them all in person. But yeah, you really never know who you’ll run into at these things.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2016 at 6:32 am

    I’ve never been to GDC but I feel like these tips hold true at ANY convention. Especially the “be nice” tip – it’s amazing how much more fun a convention is when you’re not dealing with rude people. Also, one time I forgot business cards at a networking event and ended up leaving early because I was so embarrassed, haha.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Oh no! I’ve been at events where I ran out of cards and just started writing my email down on scraps of paper for people. I never seem to have enough business cards.

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