What GDC Can Do For You

The San Francisco GDC is the top conference for professionals working in the game industry. While it is not the cheapest conference in the world, it can be a very worthwhile experience for a student trying to get into the industry. The Emerging Technology in Business + Design (ETBD) GDC program can help you to slightly lower the costs of attending by providing you with housing and advice.

This document provides an overview of the experiences that some of our past students had while attending the conference. We asked them to write a reflection (as part of the credit hour assignments that come with taking the trip) and copied some of their text in the document below. While we cannot guarantee that you will have the same experiences as them, it does provide you with an idea of what you can get out of the experience.

Please note that the stories below are excerpts from the reflections of several students. To ensure the anonymity of everyone involved, we have removed some of the company, speaker and student names in the quotes.

I spent the next several hours in the career center making every connection I could with everyone I could. I was absolutely astounded with myself due to the fact that I was able to sell myself and talk more coherently and concisely then I ever had. I am not sure what came over me that day but everything just clicked as I talked to recruiters from Microsoft, Riot, 343, Warner Brothers, Insomniac, the works.

Later that night, I went to the Venus Patrol & Wild Rumpus party. Here I got to talk some big independent developers. I talked to a developer who is seeking funding for an augmented reality game on mobile devices through Kickstarter, and learnt about the ins and outs of the funding platform.

I got to know a person high up in human resources at one of the biggest game publishers in the world. We have been chatting and had an overall very positive experience. She has been contacting various people in her network for possible opportunities.

I showcased my game and asked for artists. One person directly expressed interest and another expressed interest with working with me later in the evening. I am going to review these two candidates and get back to them with a plan to work with them.

I always feel so energized and at home when I am there simply because I know I am surrounded by like minded people who are all interested in entertainment which makes starting a conversation extremely low stress.

I went to a talk by the head of the graduate program I would join next semester. Once her talk was complete, I followed her to the wrap-up room, a room where presenters and listeners can discuss questions and topics without delaying the next presentation. I quickly realized that she was a much larger player than I had thought. I hadn’t particularly gauged the gravity of the program I had just accepted until I saw how intimidated many were just by talking to her.

After fielding many questions and conversations, she had to depart from the wrap-up room for an interview, and various members of the crowd began to disperse. I quickly swooped in and introduced myself. Within my introduction, I mentioned that I had recently been admitted to the program and wanted to know if there would be any gatherings for her students that I could attend. She lent me one of her business cards and told me about a dinner, supplementing the sentence with “make sure to show up early as it will be crowded, and mention that I invited you”.

I went to the Midwest Game Developers Meet-up on Tuesday night and found it was my most productive night for making contacts. I still had a bit to learn when it comes to starting conversations, but most of that was just trying to find people who were not busy in conversation already. People were a lot friendlier there than the night before and there was not any overly loud music, which helped a lot.

Attending the speech from the director of the graduate program that I wanted to attend was a necessity during my time at GDC for the obvious reason of my interest in his program. While he was very busy after his talk and I could only briefly introduce myself, I was able to run into him again at their booth and chat with him a bit there.

I attended a talk by the creator of Antichamber. This session turned out to be quite a surprise, as it turned out to be the creator of the game telling the very personal and emotional story of him spending the last seven years creating this game. At a few times, he came to brink of tears in front of a room of five hundred people whilst recalling the low points and stress of the development. It was a very refreshing talk, filled with unconventional knowledge that is not taught in any of our classes.

After meeting with my Miami professor, I would spend the rest of the evening chatting and joking with him. It was a blessing to hear his perspective on games, business and life in general for hours on end.

I went to “Ten Tips for Successful Game Industry Interviews”, and was pulled on-stage for a mock interview in front of the crowd. I was interviewed for Nintendo, and was asked several basic interview questions. I responded as best I could on short notice, and when he asked the crowd to rate me 0-5, I received “Not all 5’s, but no 0’s either!” He said I did well, and criticized my specific answers because one of them was about club leadership on campus, and not specifically about game design, as well as one answer which was not focused on the exactly correct aspect of game design the question asked for. Very helpful, very practical experience that will definitely help me get into the industry.

GDC is an amazing experience for anyone interested in the gaming industry. With a week full of bootcamps, tutorials, sessions, an industry expo and career expo, there was much to do in little time. It would be an overwhelming week, if you did not spend time planning on what you wanted to attend and see. The bootcamp gave me the insight of where to start with a portfolio, where specific sessions that focused on certain games showed me valuable techniques and inspired me further. The career expo was extremely helpful, where I got to ask one on one questions with studio HR and team leaders. No matter where you turned at GDC, everything you saw, either inspired you or taught you valuable information about the industry.

This conference was hands down one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I learned an absolutely massive amount in so many different facets of my life: How to carry myself, how to sell myself, how to act around professionals, etc. I not only made countless connections but I was able to get involved with groups that will help me connect with people and help my career even well after GDC is over. Not to mention, I also made several friends along the way.

GDC was a powerful experience for me. I met other indie and professional developers and learned far more about game design. It was incredibly empowering to talk with actual professionals from the industry. Before I did not have vision for who the people in the industry were like, and what they did. Now I have seen people from the industry. I know I have expertise to talk to them. So I know I can be successful too. GDC has inspired me to continuing working towards a game design career.

It was a very eye-opening and refreshing experience. I got to finally see that I am not very far off in terms of knowledge and skill from an experienced and professional game programmer. At the same time, I got a chance to meet lots of other developers and see the industry from another perspective separate from that of ordinary gamers.

The past week at the GDC has been incredibly busy and I’ve gotten almost no sleep. It was awesome! I’ve met so many nice people who may be able to help me in the future, I’ve seen amazing creative games and tools, and I’ve even helped a few people. I would like to be able to go again next year and network even more.

I thought that I did amazingly well at networking. I made it a priority to talk to as many people as I could and be social with everyone around me. I had resumés, writing samples, and my IMS466 paper prototype in my bag at all times and was able to get some good use out of them. I got a lot of business cards and plenty of LinkedIn requests, Twitter follows, and followup emails afterward.

Being under 21 prevented me from going to a staggering percentage of the post-GDC parties, but the one I did go to was very helpful. I met a lot of cool people and talked about a great number of projects! I am already planning on going next year, and I’m nothing short of absolutely ecstatic for the opportunity.

Any doubts I had in my mind about having a game-based career (as a designer, academic or otherwise) were wiped from my mind after having attended. I almost did not go, and now having gone, I can say that choosing to not go would have been one of the worst decisions that I would have ever made. I would definitely recommend to any other student on the fence about going to take the plunge.