What To Expect During Your First GDC

March 6, 2015

As the annual Game Developers Conference comes to an end, it’s never too early to start looking ahead  and planning for the next one. Attending the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is something any game developer should do. As we discussed in an earlier article, it’s one of the few chances you get to be surrounded by thousands of professional developers for almost a week. The price of admission may be taunting, but it’s worth it considering that you’re not only learning from the best but also meeting them as well, resulting in a prime networking opportunity.

Of course, it can also be quite an intimidating experience if it will be your first time attending. Should I try to check out everything I can as fast as possible, or take things slow? Should I hand every person I run into a business card, or instead try to join a group of developers for lunch or dinner? Hopefully the following tips will help answer some of those questions and make your first GDC an enjoyable time, and not a nerve-wrecking one.

Expect To Be Confounded

There’s a reason why GDC is spread across five entire days. From valuable talks and networking at the Career Center events, to checking out the Indie Game Summit and everything on the expo floor, there are tons of things to see and do. That’s not to mention all the social events that are happening throughout the week as well, including night parties, group meals with developers, and more. Suffice to say, you may become overwhelmed by how much there is to do in what feels like such little time.

The fact is, you may not get to do everything you wanted to. If you’re planning on sticking around for the full five days and have the best pass, then certainly you’ll have a better chance. But even if you’ll only be there a day or three, slow down and take things one at a time. If you spend the entire time worrying that you’ll miss X talk if you attend Y event, you won’t get the most out of an event you probably paid a lot of hard-earned cash to attend.

Expect To Feel Left Out

Going to your first GDC is much like being a teenager whose family just moved, and now he or she is attending a brand new high school. All the other kids will be in groups and talking away, while the new kid walks alone simply because they don’t know anyone yet, which will probably change as they make friends and find a group where they fit in.

Keep in mind that most of the people attending GDC have been doing so for years. To them, this event is akin to a family reunion, as they enjoy their time with friends who they don’t get to see very often. If you anticipate feeling left out, it will be easier to accept when you sit at a table and everyone already knows each other. The good news is that 5 days is plenty of time to get to know people who may become that person you look forward to running into during future GDC events.

Expect To Meet People You Didn’t Plan On Meeting

What’s great about our industry is that, deep down inside, we’re all still kids that grow excited at the thought of shaking our favorite dev’s hand. Chances are, you’re headed to GDC with the hope that you’ll casually meet Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, or some big name developer while waiting in line for food. Even if you actually attend their session, most of the time you’d be lucky just get a handshake.

Instead, enjoy the time you spend with other less-established developers. The person you have lunch with may not be a name behind a popular franchise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great conversation with them. GDC is filled with developers working on all kinds of different projects. Do your best to make friends and talk about games with all of them, even if you never get to meet the developer you admire the most.

Expect To Be Physically Exhausted

No matter how much fun you’re having at Disneyland, sooner or later you start feeling the aches and pains that come from standing in line for hours and walking everywhere. It may be hard to believe, but this will probably happen to you, especially if you’re in it for the long haul by attending the entire 5 days.

When you start feeling tired, avoid skipping a much-needed rest or nap just because you’re worried about missing a session. If you’re sleepy and exhausted, listening in won’t do you much good anyways. Instead, take time to relax and regain your energy so you feel refreshed during the important events you want to check out.

So Is GDC Even Worth It, Then?

Definitely. Yes, you may become exhausted from all the walking and talking, and you also may become overwhelmed by trying to check out everything, but at the end of the event you’ll feel like a part of the community and come away with valuable knowledge. Even if your first time at GDC isn’t the best, rest assured that every year after you’ll be looking forward to it more than any other event.

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