Tonight I'm just back from the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, and I'm still buzzed from the whole experience. I doubt the feeling will wear off for a couple days, so I hope I'll be able to make the most of it. I'm going to do a full, thoughtful write-up for Idle Thumbs over the weekend, through which I hope I'll be able to convey the feeling GDC gave me. For now though, with the end of the conference only hours behind me, I thought I'd drop my gut impressions into the blog.

Right up front I'll say that GDC was absolutely incredible. It was just an amazing experience in every way. I couldn't have asked for more. I got everything out of it I could have wanted.

Let me emphasize how awesome a GDC press pass is. It is everything. It gives you the clearance level of a $2000 Giga Pass, plus you get to skip the lines to the keynote addresses and award shows and have reserved seating front center when you get there. I went to any session I wanted, got to meet and greet with developers before the Choice Awards, and just generally got a huge kick of having the run of the place... all for free. Truly, the optimal way to see your first GDC. I'm really grateful to Idle Thumbs for associating with me. Though it's been difficult and the site's really flagged due to various issues, it's been great getting to meet the guys there, and getting the kind of access I got to GDC.

I just realized that this entire blog post will be filled with gushing if I just enumerate everything that I liked about the show. I'll be going into those kinds of details in my Thumb write-up, so I guess I should stay true to the blog thing and note the personal stuff that wouldn't make sense in a Thumb article.

First of all, getting to the show each morning was kind of hell, but nothing compared to, say, flying 2000 miles and paying however many hundreds of dollars like some SMU students I saw on the floor. For me it just entailed a few two-and-a-half-hour bus/CalTrain commutes, and sleeping, blanketless and mattressless, on a colleague's motel floor one night. Getting so little restful sleep made me that much more exhausted while at the show, but I was constantly stimulated throughout, so the fatigue never really caught up with me. I will be very happy going to bed tonight, though, and not having to get up before 9 tomorrow.

But why should I have had to get so little sleep the night before GDC even began? It was my own foolishness. See, I was working frenziedly up to the last moment attempting to get Residential Evil into a presentable state, with movies, screenshots, and an installer attached, and burning the whole deal onto CDs, to give prospective employers at the show. The plan was to have a tidy little package to show recruiters, gauge their interest, and hopefully hook a junior design position somewhere. I was up until 3:30 am the night before GDC burning CD's, and had to get up at 6 in the morning to catch my bus. Unfortunately, this turned out to be pointless.

For one, I didn't know how GDC works before I showed up. There aren't really recruiters there after all. Many, many companies do have vendor booths set up, but they're staffed with HR reps who are showing off product and just sort of introducing people to the company, trying to grab the interest of creators and investors. In other words, I didn't have anyone in particular to show off my stuff to. That's one problem.

The other is that I didn't feel any longer the desperate urge to switch jobs right now. I just started working in a design studio-- in a QA capacity, granted-- but I'm happy there. The job is interesting, the experience is valuable, the quality of life there is great. Walking around GDC with my tiny portfolio in tow, I realized that I'm essentially satisfied with where I am right now, and I didn't have any will to go out of my way to jump ship at this particular moment. I think that's a good thing. Rushing yourself unnecessarily isn't healthy, and it says a lot about where I'm at in my life right now that I'm happy sticking with my current situation for the time being.

At the convention, it was really strange to share breathing room with almost every Game Design Celebrity I can think of over the course of three days. At the sessions and roundtables I attended, I was within a couple of feet of Keita Takahashi, Will Wright, David Jaffe, John Romero (weird!), the Shadow of the Colossus/Ico design team, Clint Hocking, Harvey Smith, Cliffy B... only a handful of design heroes didn't attend, like John Carmack, Sid Meier, Peter Molyneux, and Warren Specter. And I finally got to meet Tim Schafer, whom I'd had some contact with over e-mail before but never run into in person. The guys from Thumb are friends with him, so I got an introduction, shook hands, got into the conversation... it was all very pleasant and natural. I introduced myself as a writer for Idle Thumbs, and the guy who made those 'zines that showed up at his office a year or so ago. He remembered the zine, asked about the titled, and mentioned that he'd clipped my History of Game Design poster out of the second issue and pinned it up on the bulletin board at Double Fine. I really can't even tell you how cool that was. I grew up on Tim's games, I've played all of them multiple times, Full Throttle probably a dozen or so, and to just have a really pleasant personal introduction, and for him to remember some of my work and have enjoyed it-- very, very cool. I guess I'm just being self-indulgent right now, but it's my blog so I might as well go for it. In any case, being in the presence of these game design heroes and sharing the event with them as peers was an incredible sensation.

I also got to meet Marek from Idle Thumbs for the first time, the editor from Amsterdam. He was a really good guy and I think we had a lot in common. We got along easily, jokes were made, laughs had, points of view shared. I could tell Marek was a good guy online, but it's always nice to meet someone in person after knowing them electronically, and for them to turn out to be as cool as you'd expected.

Anyway, I'll go into the specifics of various events in my write-up. I'm hoping to approach it simply as a good storyteller-- to give the reader my memories of the show in an informative and anecdotal style, as if I were just telling them all about it in person. I felt like GDC was fairly small and tight-nit, personal, and very real. I want to maintain that feeling with my article. I hope I'll have time to work on it this weekend. I came away with a new appreciation for a number of figures I had the pleasure of seeing speak at GDC. Thank you to everyone involved. GDC 2006 was one of the most exciting and memorable events I can remember ever having attended.

By the way, here are my finalized 'presenation shots' of Residential Evil:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

No comments: