(There are two update posts for Week 13. One of them is me rambling about GDC, and the other is me rambling about Ludexor. This is the GDC version.)
So, last week was my trip to GDC. Fun times! If you’re looking for a short and sweet description, I have no idea why you’d expect something like that from me, but since I’m feeling nice, here’s one anyway: Entertaining, educational, and inspirational… but to be honest, not the kind of trip I’d recommend making every year without good reason and plenty of cash. I was lucky enough to have my trip paid for me—to those that funded me, thank you—but assuming future trips would be funded out of my own pocket, I can’t say there’s much of a reason to go again all that soon. There is, however, a huge benefit to those who have yet to get a “serious” glimpse into the industry… which would likely cover most of the people trying to break in.
But that said, while there will be some advice peppered throughout this post—which I will make sure to bold for those wanting to skim—I mostly plan on just rambling about how the trip went. Because rambling’s fun.
Day 1 - The Flight Out
The flight out wasn’t to terribly exciting. In fact, minus the free pretzels being handed out at the Auntie Anne’s—delicious—it was actually incredibly boring. This was in large part because I expected to have my phone to entertain me during the six hour trip, forgetting that it consumes power about as quickly as a Sega Game Gear. By the time I got on the plane, I was close to 35% battery life, which is the point where I tend to shut my phone off to save power. Most of the flight was spent… sitting.
Just sitting there.
Lesson learned: Always bring something non-electronic for long flights, such as a book.
When I finally arrived, I ended up eating at a diner, and ordered mozzarella sticks. They came with ranch. I found this strange, but surprisingly delicious.
Day 2 - Getting Used To The City
I had a full day before GDC actually started to give me a chance to get used to the city. And I don’t just mean the city of San Francisco, I mean cities in general.
I grew up in South Jersey. I still live here to this day even. And unlike North Jersey—what most people seem to think all of Jesery is like—there is a whole lot of nothing, covered by a blanket of trees and farmland. And simply put, I like it that way.
Cities are the exact opposite. If you find a tree in the city, you know you’ve located the city park—one of the few islands of nature left in an ocean of concrete and steel. I feel… very out of place in cities. Sunday was the day I had to get used to it.
I spent most of the day huddling in the corner of the hotel room crying softly and cuddling a single, lonely leaf I picked up at the airport.
Day 3 - GDC At Last
The third day of the trip was when GDC finally opened its doors. I got absurdly early, even opting to order an overpriced room service breakfast so that I could be sure I wouldn’t be late. I honestly didn’t know if “being late” was something frowned upon, or even really possible for that matter, but I didn’t want to find out the hard way.
I end up arriving a half hour early, so I decide to just look around a bit. I immediately notice Notch, Jeb, and a few other people who I would probably recognize as Mojang employees if I were a proper Minecraft fanboy. After a combination of both chickening out and deciding that I didn’t want to bother then when they’ve only just made it to the conference—I noticed them as they were signing in and getting their badges, after all—I decided the best course of action would be to just stand at the distance and try to covertly take pictures of them with my phone like some sort of creepy stalker.
I then go to a few talks, listening to what the speakers have to say, making mental notes here and there, while every now and then making a physical note for extra important things. About what I had expected, and not much to say on the matter.
There were also a few tables strewn about for various different companies. A few of them had contests; just drop your business card in a bowl, and either they’ll email you, or in some cases, you might have to show up back at the table. Another lesson learned from that one: Bring two sets of business cards on trips: a set of crappy cards for dropping in large collections, and a set of nice ones for handing to people personally. Or, if you want, just one set of crappy ones. Personal preference, really.
Surprisingly, I actually one of the draws. I was actually the second card drawn; the owner of the first card wasn’t there, and the rules were that you had to be present for the drawing to actually win. I won an AT&T Ericsson Sony Xperia Play 4G. I was thrilled—and to be fair, I still am. Though… I’m a Verizon customer. There’s very little I can do with an AT&T phone.
I’m still undecided as to what to do with it.
Day 4 - The Second Day
The second day at GDC was mostly filled with more talks. Lots of useful information, but nothing I would say that stands out above all the rest. In short, mobile, freemium, social, web… those words kept coming up a lot, and it’s because they’re all new areas that still offer plenty of growth. Keeping your eye on them would be a good idea.
Later that night there was a party being hosted by the user analytics company Kontagent. For some reason I thought it would be fun, completely forgetting that I am not one for bars or clubs. To be fair, if that is your thing, then they did a good job, but I spent about five minutes awkwardly doing nothing before I decided to head back to my hotel room after once again visiting the diner.
I swear, I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I ever live somewhere without a good diner.
Day 5 - Cool Tech Galore
Wednesday—day three of GDC, and day five of my trip—was when the expo first opened its doors. The expo is more or less where companies show off anything and everything that you’d want to buy from them. Translation: a whole lot of cool stuff on display.
I’m not going to sit here and describe every last thing that I came across that I thought was awesome, as this post is already becoming rather long winded. In fact, I bet if I asked anyone who’s made it this far to respond on facebook or twitter with a breakfast food item, I’d get… two, maybe three foods named. But that said, some fun things on display: Sony’s SimulView technology, a glassesless 3D overlay screen by… some company who’s card I can’t seem to find right now (I’ll fix that if/when I find it), and a live, real-time demonstration of motion capture software with a pretty good dancer… from a company I ALSO forget. More advice: If you suck with remembering something—such as names—make use of a notebook.
Wednesday of course ended with another trip to the diner. I believe a total of five root beer floats were had from that diner throughout the course of the trip.
Day 6 - Oh, Just Apply Online
The fourth day of GDC was when I planned to visit the Career Pavilion. I figured it would be a great chance to maybe, just maybe get my foot in the door.
While plenty of companies were willing to talk about what they were looking for—both in the sense of a job and in the sense of what they look for in a potential employee—there seemed to be this overall feeling of that no one was all that interested in students or recent graduates. And they aren’t exactly at fault or anything; companies want someone who is valuable to them, and they want proof of it, which most students and graduates don’t have.
It pretty much leaves you with one option: if you want to get in to the industry, you need a solid portfolio. And not just school projects either… working demos that you have worked on that people can actually play. School projects don’t hold much weight. They want to see something made to be played, not to be graded.
In the end, I was happy to have the knowledge, but disappointed that I felt no closer to any “real” opportunities than when the day started. But at least I know where to go from here.
Day 7 - Closing Day
The last day of GDC was largely uneventful. I spent most of it walking around the expo to try to catch anything I missed, as well as made sure I was around for the drawings that were taking place, just in case. It was honestly rather comical how many winners were called that simply weren’t there, and thus missed out on their prizes. The Unity booth—which was giving away an “artist’s dream package” including a high-end Wacom tablet and a whole bundle of expensive software—drew about seven or so names before they picked out someone who was actually there to claim the prize. The lesson there? If you enter a contest that requires you to be present for the drawing, make sure to be present. You never know.
Aside from that, I went to two 25 minute talks before calling it a day, and even then I only went because those two weren’t going to be recorded. It had been a long and tiring event… and I just wanted to relax. I spent the rest of the day lazing around the hotel room, minus one last trip out to the diner for my final root beer float of the trip.
Day 8 - The Flight Back
I’m going to say it right now: Always, when possible, pick non-stop flights. Always.
After the long week I had at GDC, I couldn’t wait to get back home to my own bed. I knew it was going to be a long plane ride, but that didn’t bother me. I was heading home.
Except for the part where I almost wasn’t heading home.
My trip home was scheduled to make a stop in Chicago. There was supposed to be an hour and a half between when my first flight landed and my second flight took off, which would be plenty of time for me to get off the plane, look for my gate, get lost, find my gate, find the plane isn’t at that gate, get lost again, and finally find my plane. However, delay after delay after delay with my first flight meant that I had landed in Chicago at about the time my second flight was scheduled to take off.
As soon as I stepped off the plane, I took off running.
I ran as fast as I could. I ran on the moving walkways, I ran up and down the escalator, I ran as fast I could manage, not willing to stop for a second until I found my gate.
Thankfully my first flight wasn’t my only delayed plane; the second plane was delayed as well by a half hour. Had it not been, I might have been staying a night in Chicago. I threw my arms up in victory, not caring about the strange looks I received, and then promptly plopped down on the grown, completely out of breath. I was heading home.
That’s all I’ve got for you. Well, for this post, anyway. There’s a post talking about Ludexor as well, and what I plan to do with it. If you feel you have not been adequately wall-of-texted by poorly spelled pointless ramblings, go read that too.
Or if you’re just curious, I suppose.