I didn’t go to GDC with a particular goal. I rarely go to conferences and conventions with an objective, unless I’m showing something. That said, I have always managed to get something good out of the experience. This being my third year of attending GDC, I had a rough idea of what I would encounter throughout the week: cool people making cool things, interesting talks, and some rad parties. However, I generally try to make it a point to do something new each year as well. This year’s big new thing was going on the Train Jam.
I have done quite a few game jams in the past (Global Game Jam, Ludum Dare, etc.), but Train Jam was a wholly new experience for me. Spending 52 hours on a train created a challenging environment for making a game, as the swaying of the cars and the lack of internet worked against all attempts at productivity, but simultaneously pushed everyone to think creatively and work around these obstacles. Amanda Hudgins and I worked with two people we had never met before, Andrada Tudor and Jeremiah Watts, to make Techno Dad: Hot Tub Party, a game about fitting a bunch of dads into a hot tub that is too small to keep them warm in an arctic climate, which would be on display with the 61 other games at the Train Jam booth at GDC.
After the jam was over and we had settled into San Francisco, I began to plan which talks and parties I would attend throughout the week. Focusing on design talks surrounding the nature of level design, I built a schedule that seemed to fit in the most interesting talks, such as the level design workshop of “Building Firewatch in Unity” by Jake Rodkin of Campo Santo and “You Don’t Need an F-ing Publisher” by Nigel Lowrie of Devolver Digital, which were both entertaining and informative.
The list of possible parties that could be attended was overwhelmingly long, but I eventually settled on attending POWx5 (hosted by 8bitSF and Monobomb Records), That Party (hosted by Venus Patrol and Juegos Rancheros), and the IGF/Game Developer’s Choice Awards.
Overall, the entire week was a wonderful experience, although a bit costly. I learned quite a bit, met some awesome new friends (while revisiting old friends), and tried several new games that will be coming out later this year. In parting, my advice to new folks wanting to go to GDC would be: have a plan and then plan to break that plan when something cool comes up.