This year was my third GDC (Game Developer’s Conference), and my first as an industry professional, all developers from amateurs to veterans are welcome to attend, but it can be a rather daunting space to navigate early on in one’s career. Who do I talk to? How do I network? How do I get a job? How do I reach out after making a connection? Which conferences do I attend, the ones that seem fun to me as a gamer to learn about, or the ones that will help me discover my career path? The list of questions goes on and on and truth be told there isn’t any one perfect path, in the end the best indicator of success at the conference can be measured by how comfortable you felt with expressing what you are passionate about to others, and what your learned about other people’s passions.
In a panel discussion titled “Acquire friends, disregard cards:practical networking tools” one speaker stated “enthusiasm is contagious,” and that was one of the most insightful observations I had ever heard on what makes networking successful. The people you are trying to connect with will respond to your message, but only if you show them why you are so excited about it. It’s not just about perfectly delivering a practiced pitch with every ounce of charm you have, but rather about your conversations being a genuine and comfortable expression of who you are. It is in finding comfort that you express your message clearly, when you aren’t in your head about picking the right words to say, and only focusing on making sure that what’s most important gets said.
To that end I’ve also learned to be judicious with the conference talks I attend so that I enjoy the learning experiences the conference provides while also having ample time to walk the floor and meet people. It can be hard to fight the excitement of being able to learn about the craft of making games directly from some of the top developers in the world.
Yet, my girlfriend, hearing my plan to spend all my time in the conferences reminded me of an important point: if it was a general concept I could research on my own, like monetization strategies in the mobile market, then I should use that time to connect with the people instead. However, if it was a unique presentation containing knowledge that would otherwise remain within the conference, such as the talk given by Nintendo’s Takuhiro Dohta, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, and Satoru Takizawa, about the evolution of the Legend of Zelda franchise and its latest iteration, then I should attend it.
Here we see the difference between passions vs information, people who are talking to discuss information, “how to’s,” “check out my portfolio,” “hi my name is,” quickly blend into the white noise of the conference. Yet, those who are passionate and have a message that cuts through and pierces the hearts of their audience: an aspiring game writing student I met in line for a talk, who is driven to learn about the craft in the workshops he’s attending, a critical discussion of the challenges of working on mobile projects and the nature of the market, with a game designer who sat down at my table for lunch, a presentation by a development team who had a franchise, which would have been successful without changing it, but still had the courage to break conventions and rediscover its essence.
The ebb and flow of opinions and experiences from the initiate hoping for luck, to the veteran who wants to challenge the industry, to the sages who show us that our careers are ones of perpetual risk and reward, but that the risks we take help to push the medium forward, show us the value of this conference.
Each presenter and conference goer aches with the desire to express themselves and appreciate their peers and that is one of the most impactful realizations I made during my time at GDC this year. The idea that we are an ever-changing community, going through growing pains, and combining our most ambitious dreams with our battle forged wisdom, to help our industry grow together.
My time at GDC has taught me to have empathy for others and express my passions with vigor and joy, in the hopes that my peers will feel comfortable to do the same, and it’s been a humbling and inspiring experience in the process.
Prior to this article had you heard of GDC? If so, what did you know about it, have you attended? If you are not a developer or gamer, did you realize that the industry had progressed to the point of having professional conferences such as this? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please respond to the thread for this article, or talk to me through my email or any of my social media: email@example.com, Facebook, Twitter.
Play Professor is the blog of ludologist and video game journalist Andrew Mantilla. You can check out more of his content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.