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.
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.
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.