If I say ‘it was exactly like I expected it to be’, that sounds underwhelming – but I’d spoken to enough people about GDC beforhand that I knew what to expect from my first time attending, and it was really good. It was nice not being one of the people reading about it all happen on Twitter for a change.
I tried to go to a variety of talks, ones that would be better seeing in person than watching on the vault, though I didn’t spend too much time in these since I can watch them later and wanted to do a variety of things with my time. There were several good ones on math for games programming, although calculus at 10am on a Monday is pushing my concentration limits! Liam‘s panel on networking was really good, as were some of the talks on diversity, such as Rami and Farah‘s panel on Muslim representation in games. I loved Nina Freeman’s talk on her game Cibele, which I’ll have to try properly sometime soon.
The timetabling was a bit confusing – the way the sessions were organised seemed to be different each day with stuff happening all over the place, and it was a bit tricky to work out my schedule sometimes. There were just so many talks happening at once all the time that it was almost overwhelming, and it seems like it might be tough to decide and schedule if one were attending without vault access!
I met so many really cool people over the week of the conference (if you’re one of these people, hello!). I get socially burnt out quite easily, and had to pace myself with the socialising and networking, so I would have liked to spend more time with a few people but probably did the best job I could have. The parties were probably the best avenue for meeting people, but there were a few gatherings and brunches/lunches that were good for that too. Kamina and I had a meeting with a duo doing similar things to Tin Man, and it was great to hear so many people aware of what our company is doing and excited about the whole gamebook thing. I wasn’t there to get a job or to make things happen for Tin Man, so I was able to focus more on just chatting, making friends and getting to know people than on targeting specific groups or handing out all my business cards. Tried to make the most of not having to be tied up in meetings. It’s also crazy how many Aussies and Kiwis I met at GDC, given that there are theoretically many more opportunities to meet them at home. I met Christine Love, someone I admire a lot, on the first day – after that everything else seemed easier.
One thing that was really cool to see was the gender-diverse crowd. It’s a community that I want to be more active in and it just seemed so natural and accepted at GDC that I didn’t feel weird about myself at all, with a couple of exceptions with people who (I believe) weren’t conference-goers. There were gender-neutral bathrooms provided, which is something I want to see more of everywhere. And while there is still an enormous gender imbalance in this industry, I met so many amazing ladies that it gives me hope for the future.
The parties I went to were tons of fun. It was easy to get stressed about which thing to go to or not being able to go to semi-secret invite-only stuff, but there were enough cool people everywhere that it didn’t really matter in the end. Some people seemed to want to party-hop all night and focus on ones that had free drinks, whereas I pretty much just picked one good one and stuck to it each night. I met more Aussie game devs at the GDAA mixer than I ever have at anything here, managed to accidentally pitch a game idea to people who count and caught up with old acquaintances. The chiptunes party on the Tuesday was a lot of fun; among others I met some of the guys behind Miegakure, which I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. ‘That Party’ on the Wednesday (formerly/usually known as Wild Rumpus) was the highlight – I’ve never been to a dance party with such great vibes before. Met yet more lovely people, bought a book, danced like an idiot, and reveled in being surrounded by more colourful nerds than I ever have been before. The rest of the week was a bit more easygoing – dinners and smaller gatherings – which suited me just fine since I was starting to feel seriously drained, despite managing not to drink too much throughout the week (the mixed drinks over there don’t mess around).
There was a sour note by the end of the week with the awful crap at the NVidia and Microsoft parties. I wasn’t at either of those, but it was good to see some of the women I know taking no bullshit and making people aware across the Internet. You are awesome, and you have to deal with so much crap, it’s horrifying.
So, that about covers my GDC. It was bittersweet to see it end; I had an amazing time, but was so tired and ready to go back to my own bed by the end of it. I’m happy with the way I managed my energy levels, anxieties and so on, but do get a little envious sometimes of people who thrive on meeting others 24/7. Next time I’ll try to be a bit more adventurous with striking up conversations and maybe making some more professional connections with different organisations, depending on what my goals/situation are. But for this time around, I’m satisfied. I’m also incredibly grateful to the GDAA for making it possible for me to go.