GDC Quest 2013 Quest: A Post-Show Recap

So last week was the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference all the time, except when I was hanging out with family, eating delicious food I normally don’t have access too, and simply being surrounded by good company (the family, not the conference attendee’s, though the latter was perfectly fine as well).  The point being, I was far too swamped to blog about anything.  Move onto this week, where I definitely had time, and I find myself recovering from illness. Yes, I return to Connecticut from San Francisco, and I immediately get sick.  It’s basically taken me all week to recover; I’m still not at 100%, but at this point I’ll take whatever I can get.  I don’t get sick often, so when I do, it’s frustrates me to no end.  Case in point, Sunday night I couldn’t comprehend why I was so cold and why turning up the temperature was not helping in that endeavor.  I honestly though the temperature controls were busted, and actually kept moving around the house to find a warm place to try and sleep.  It didn’t help that the vomiting was keeping me awake and miserable.  It didn’t dawn on me until the following morning that I had a fever, which is why I felt so cold. Why?  Because it’s been such a long time since I’ve had a fever that I forgot what one felt like.

Anyways, I thought I’d recap my experience with GDC this year, speak briefly about the things I attended, etc.

Sunday, March 24, 2013: Flew into San Francisco.  The flight was mostly uneventful, with a layover in Chicago.  My ears were popping like crazy once I arrived in San Francisco; interestingly enough, chewing gum did not alleviate the pain, but blowing my nose did.  Bizarre.  Also, one could register early at the conference today if he/she wanted to, but instead, family picked me up and we ended up eating ramen.  No, not the 50 cent supermarket packages, but ramen made at a Japanese restaurant.  Delicious, delicious ramen.

Monday, March 25, 2013 and Tuesday, March 26, 2013: The conference officially begins.  After figuring out how Caltrain works (considering how directionally challenged I am, this was surprisingly easier than I expected), I registered and went to the all-day Game Design Workshop which was held from 10-6 (with a lunch break) Monday and Tuesday.  The first two days of the conference are dedicated to all-day sessions, though there are also shorter sessions to choose from.  Still, I like the all-day sessions not only for the education, but they’re honestly a great place to meet people and network.  I can’t speak of all the all-day workshops offered, but the one’s I attended last year and this year had quite a bit of group activities, which means instant interaction i.e. networking and meeting new people.  Though speaking of networking, it almost feels like a game where we’re all trying to compete to see who can collect the most business cards…to put in a shoebox somewhere and label ‘GDC 2013’.  Then you try and break your record the following year.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 through Friday, March 29, 2013: In an earlier blog post, I mentioned that I had school work during last year’s conference, which split my attention.  Conversely, I thought that this year’s conference would be more fun, as I could sit back and enjoy what GDC had to offer.  As it turns, that isn’t quite accurate.  I was speaking with a former classmate about this, and it dawned on me as we talked; if one has a full-time job, then one can sit back and enjoy the conference.  But when one has either no job or a part-time job (which is where I am) and is seeking full-time employment, the stress and emotion drainage begins Wednesday when the career pavilion opens and continues on until the conference ends.  Sadly, I can say that while I’m sure there were a couple of lucky people that left GDC with a full-time job, I was not one of those people.  C’est la vie, I suppose, and saddening as well.

Anyways, when I wasn’t at the career pavilion, I was attending the various talks that GDC has to offer.  Here are a few that I enjoyed immensely:

The 3 Most Important Ingredients to Making Great Games: Motivation, Motivation, Motivation, and Motivation!: This was in essence a roundtable discussion with some of the most experienced producers in the industry, including in no particular order: Ben Cousins (Scattered Entertainment), Rod Fergusson (Irrational Games), Laura Fryer (Epic Games Seattle), Dave Ranyard (Sony Computer Entertainment), Siobhan Reddy (Media Molecule), Greg Rice (Double Fine Productions), Dominic Robilliard (Lucas Arts).  Phew!  I attended a similar talk, with most of the same personnel last year, and it’s always fun.  The combined experience of the panel makes it one of my favorite talks.  I feel like a Padawan in the audience, and wish I could work at any of their companies to continue my Padawn-ing as they mentor me through my journey.  But I digress; the point is that it was a very good talk about managing people which when you have teams of people creating art / making games, is an underappreciated skill for producers to cultivate.

Sex in Video Games: Presented by David Gaider (BioWare), a writer at BioWare for primarily the Dragon Age franchise, it was more of a synopsis of what BioWare has done historically for writing female and male characters, some of the positive / negative response that has been received, and the mature discussion that should be had about the topic to move things forward.  Basically, throwing…not a gauntlet, but certainly a mitten on the subject.  A very soft, cuddly, warm mitten.   Perhaps this talk will spark more discussion, if not in public forums, then at least in private ones during pre-production of a game when characters are being established.  Well done, in my opinion and kudos to David Gaider for approaching the topic in a mature, professional manner.

There is no Escape: Designing Games for Maximum Real-Life Impact: Presented by Jane McGonigal (Social Chocolate), and quite possibly the only PhD working in the industry (that I’m aware of, at any rate), she spoke of escapism from a historical context (Houdini and being an escape artist; personally, I was thinking Batman) and ultimately led it down the timey-whimey path towards different types of escapism in our entertainment, some of which is more positive in our lives than others.  Really cool stuff.  She also did an amusing social game experiment (I’m calling it that, not she) where before the talk began she asked people to tweet her for a prize.  Embarrassingly, since I never tweet, I have no idea what my twitter password is.  C’est la vie.  Still, about 2/3’s through her talk, she picked two people that tweeted and gave them these European (I think) keys; their mission was to find a lock that these keys can open.  If they do so, they’ll be given a new mission.  Clearly, a game was being played here, so I’m curious how this will turn out.  Getting back to the talk, anyone interested in her talk can find more information here.  And no, I don’t work at/for Social Chocolate or Jane McGonigal (though that would be kinda neat).

There are others that I enjoyed (and a few that I didn’t).  This blog post would be immense if I spoke to every talk I attended, so I’ll refrain from such activity.  In any event, I’m coughing up a lung as I write this and have already broken my New Year’s resolution of a weekly blog post, so I’ll need two next week to catch up.  Thankfully, there have been some emerging topics lately regarding the next XBox, an inability to use twitter intelligently, and the end of an internal development studio.  Anyways, good luck to the holder of the keys.  For now, my bed is calling me…along with a box of tissue.  D’OH!

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