Every year over 26,000 nerds converge upon San Francisco for GDC to attend lectures, try out new technology, meet other game developers, and see who takes home the prize at the Game Developers Choice Awards. It’s is essentially game mecca, and this year was my first year attending.
In October I was hired by a close friend of mine to community manage and market a game he created called CHKN. Only two weeks from launch, I found myself on a plane to the sunshine state for a week full of firsts; first conference, first time on the west coast, and first time at GDC!
I fortunately was able to bring Dave along with me which made the trip even more amazing. We landed around noon and I immediately had to go to the conference. I had meetings, seminars, plus all the amazing things I wanted to see in the two and a half days left of the conference.
It was overwhelming. The Moscone Center is enormous, and every square inch was jammed with booths, big and small. Unity, Amazon, Google, Facebook, HTC, Playstation, Intel, Oculus, XBOX. You name it, they were there. I did a quick once around (and by quick, I mean it took around two hours to briefly see everything), and then we had a few meet and greets with some people from Valve.
After that I had a good two hours to spare, so I signed up to try the HTC Vive, one of the most anticipated Virtual Reality rigs set to hit the consumer market this year. Right when I was about to go in, I ran into my creative director Roman and I got him in with me. We both were able to try five “experiences” with the Vive, each one more extraordinary than the next.
We stood on the bow of a sunken ship and watched whales pass us by. We built contraptions, played Job Simulator (where you can eat doughnuts, throw paper airplanes, and make photo copies). There was a shooting game and finally, 3D painting. Roman and I left completely inspired and awestruck.
Later than night, exhausted, jetlagged and in need of a good shower, we went to the Game Developer Awards which was the largest gathering of excited game devs I have ever laid eyes on.
I can’t honestly say what I expected, but I really did not expect this many people and this big of a deal. It was streamed on Twitch and lasted hours! I don’t know how, but I finally found a seat all the way in the back. I found myself smiling the whole time because I imagined the day that I would be here again, but as a nominee. After being up for over 24 hours, I completely crashed when I got back the room. The next day was going to be a big one.
Team CHKN breakfast time! We all stayed in the same hotel and had breakfast together to prep for some meetings. It was our last full day and it was jammed with stuff. The meeting went well, needless to say, and we celebrated with a Team selfie on the steps of the Moscone Center:
We went our separate ways for the day. I had a mission, and that mission was to make as many contacts as possible and learn as much as possible.
I started with a seminar by Armin Ibrisagic, the creator of Goat Simulator. Our game is pretty weird, and definitely has it’s own sense of humor, so I wanted to hear what Armin had to say about marketing a ridiculous game in the right way. I learned a ton, and we spoke and exchanged cards at the end as well.
On to the next seminar, this one by Thomas Reisenegger “Video Game PR Expect”, where I learned the pillars and pitfalls of marketing an indie game. Such interesting knowledge. I was juggling tweeting and taking notes, because I was trying to find someone from the game Creativerse to meet. Low and behold…one was in the same seminar as me!
David did the same thing I did, and we chatted for a long time about the different approaches we both took to marketing two different games that had a few things in common.
Then my day was made when I got to meet the three brothers that made up Butterscotch Shenanigans, the masterminds behind Crashlands. They were as hilarious as I expected them to be, and equally as helpful. They gave me a lot of constructive criticism as well as some compliments on the game. Sam knew that we had a great game, now it was in my hands to market it honestly and find the voice of the game.
Immediately after my meeting with BScotch, I rushed back to the hotel to freshen up and wake up a little bit because we had a VIP Party for Unity. I, as usual, arrived awkwardly early (ALTHOUGH I WAS ON TIME) and putzed around in the nearly empty terrace, not wanting to stuff my face with the delicious looking appetizers that were being handed out. Finally, our artist Kevin arrived and we got drinks and dug into some mini sliders and meatballs.
The rest of the team came and we excited discussed everything we learned and everything we planned to do now. Two or three drinks in, we started mingling with other developers, making friends, sharing experiences, and wrapping up our GDC experience.
Friday was the last day of the conference and the rest of the crew left in the early afternoon. Roman was nice enough to give me his badge so Dave can check out the conference with me. We went early and got to try out most of the VR experiences since half of the attendees had left already. The Igloo was both fascinating and also too early to tell, at the same time. There were 360 degrees of 3D projections, and your gun and head were mapped in the space so you can move around, and the 360 screen moved accordingly. It was a simple shooter game, and didn’t have that “wow” factor yet, but as they develop it, I’m sure it will come together. It’s obviously not a consumer-focused product since the rig costs thousands and the set up takes hours, but I can see this in amusement parks, museums, etc.
Dave and I also tried the Oculus Rift, both for the first time. But for Dave, this was his first VR experience ever. We played a rock climbing game that was so real, I seriously almost fell over. This was the first time I saw Dave enjoying a video game, and actually, he had a really great time at the conference. He wanted to try everything, and he scored me a ton of swag. We went home with two bags of pens, t-shirts, stuffed animals, and other trinkets.
GDC was incredibly inspiring and fulfilling. It felt great to be a part of an industry for the first time. Normally I am not an aggressive socializer but this time I was. I met a ton of great people that I am still in contact with, some that have really helped by giving advice and criticisms. I slept maybe ten hours in three days, inhaled all my meals in between seminars or before I passed out in my room service, and almost fell asleep standing in line to try haptic controllers, but I loved every minute of it.
The rest of the weekend Dave and I explored San Francisco and the country side. Those stories are coming up soon.
Thanks for reading!