How To See It All At The Game Developers Conference (GDC)

15th March, 2019 by

If you are planning on attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, CA, running from March 18th to the 22nd, then this post is for you.

If gaming is your industry, why not join 28,000 other like-minded attendees at the biggest game development conference in the world? Located in the Moscone Convention Center, GDC will cover 750 lecture panels, 550 technology companies, tutorials, round tables, products, and much more.

San Francisco is stuffed to the brim with game players, designers, developers, and consultants looking to meet, learn, play, promote, and sometimes even land a job. However, it is impossible to see everything the GDC has to offer in its five days’ running time. So, how do you make the most of it in the time you have?

Well, with a little foresight and planning, you can maximize your GDC experience. From being able to review new gaming technologies to attending insightful sessions to sneak peaks on major game launches, the important thing is to have a strategy before you set foot into the Moscone Center.

Below are 5 recommendations on how to get the most out of the Game Developers Conference and see the areas that interest you:

1. Do your homework.

GDC makes it easy to create and print your schedule. Given that you have around twenty options for each time frame, you will have to be very selective about what you choose. There are helpful tags along the left-hand side of the web page to help you focus on specific topics. If you are unsure of what a session title is referring to, simply click the link associated with that host. You can learn more about who is presenting to act as a tie-breaker.

Your preparation work should also include finding out about your accommodation and travel routes. Look into purchasing a Metro pass for the week, and allow yourself to become familiar with the Moscone Convention Center and the easiest ways to get around. Locate restaurants close to the convention center that interest you to avoid eating sandwiches and street food the entire week.

2. Set goals.

As you look through the conference schedule, it can be very tempting to choose all the sessions that sound awesome. For example, who doesn’t want to sit in on the Romance and Sex Roundtable? However, be sure to choose sessions that align with your overall goals. This is especially important if you have been sent to GDC by your employer.

To align your schedule with your goals, simply identify what your goals are and match them against the schedule. If you are looking to train in a specific skill, then your Monday and Tuesday should be quite busy, then the rest of the week is up to you and your personal preferences. However, if you are looking at ways to boost marketability you will want to try to pick at least 3-4 sessions per day to meet that goal.

3. Prioritize

Choose the sessions you MUST see, and then make the rest of your day optional. By leaving a little wiggle room, you leave yourself open to new opportunities. It’s important not to overwhelm or exhaust yourself in the first few days.

4. Follow GDC hashtags on Twitter.

Twitter is a lifeline at large conventions. You can stay plugged into the most exciting reveals, instantly connect with people you meet, and keep up with any last-minute changes. Before you head to San Francisco, be sure to follow these important accounts and hashtags: @Official GDC, #GDC19, #GDC, #gamedev, and all of your favorite brands that have booths at this year’s GDC.

5. Travel in a small group.

It’s always harder to coordinate large groups. Getting more than, say, five people to agree to any one specific task can be close to impossible. To see more of GDC, travel in groups of no more than three. Be sure that everyone has coordinated schedules and pick a location to meet should you be separated. It’s easy to rely on your phone for communication, however, have a Plan B in place should your phone run out of battery throughout the day. If possible, pack your spare battery and don’t travel alone at night.

Bonus tips: Wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers, bring a marker, and carry water.

Anyone who has been to multiple large conferences knows that you cannot control certain aspects of the week, for example:

  • The first is where sessions are located. You may have quite a long walk in the twenty-minute break, so comfortable shoes are a must.
  • The second is the temperature. One room might be steaming hot while another is freezing. Dressing in layers allows you to make quick adjustments when necessary.
  • The third is how much information your brain can hold. It’s easy to reach mass brain capacity in only a few hours at GDC Bring a marker to take quick notes whenever possible. Write down helpful information on business cards as you meet people. This way you don’t end the week with a stack of business cards and no idea who gave them to you.
  • The final point is the location and price of refreshments. Carry water to save money and time, and drink regularly to avoid dehydration. 

Most importantly of all, make sure to take advantage of this awesome event. Be yourself and meet as many new people as possible. You never know where your new connections could take you!

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