GDC is on the horizon. For many aspiring devs, this year is their first time. And event as big as GDC, with so many experienced pros, can be intimidating. What do you need to know so you don’t end up looking like a clueless noob?
You’re here to network, right? Get business cards! Order them online ahead of time. Also, ask people before handing them out. You’re not here to make it rain bizcards. Think about the last time someone tried to hand you a flyer on the sidewalk, and then think about how fast that flyer ends up in the garbage.
Also: Make your design simple – your name, your email, and your portfolio / artstation / github / geocities link or whatever. (Don’t try to get too creative, artists! Function first!)
Walking is hard
Our Audio Engineer has been to GDC about 6 times, so he cannot stress this enough- wear comfortable shoes. GDC is a giant event, so you will be on your feet for hours every day, either walking or standing. You don’t want to be hobbling around with blisters starting midway through day one.
Also bring snacks, or even pack a lunch – food in and around the convention center is either expensive, greasy, or both. And remember this is San Francisco – the restaurants aren’t cheap!
Make a schedule! Check out GDC’s site and choose which talks you want to attend. Plan when you’ll break for food or sleep, plan for when you can wander around to take in the sights. If you go in without a plan, it’ll make the whole con experience so much more difficult and painful.
Don’t freak out
This might be a challenge, as game makers and fans alike are a bunch of excitable nerds, but please avoid freaking out at someone whose work you admire. It’s ok to be excited and to tell someone you’re a fan, but don’t go overboard.
Get to know people. You shouldn’t view the folks in your field as your competition, they’re your peers! Games are a surprisingly small industry, so be friendly. This can mean going to big industry parties or finding a buddy or two to have dinner with.
Our Lead Game Designer here mentioned becoming acquainted with a dev from Naughty Dog when they were still working Jak and Daxter, which opened up networks down the line. You never know what cool projects people might end up working on in the future! If you spend the whole con bragging or one-upping people, you’ll just be remembered as annoying.
Talk less, listen more
Our CTO mentioned this one annoying thing that tends to happen at conventions – a person starts talking, and then never lets him get in a word edgewise. Don’t introduce yourself and then launch into your gaming history, beginning with you childhood SNES and transitioning into your illustrious career of modding anime characters into Skyrim.
I’m relaying this message to you to you as someone who, when they are nervous or excited, feel compelled to fill any dead air with whatever comes to mind. It happens. But if you know you get chatty when you’re amped up, try and keep it in mind. Let other people talk, and don’t just wait for them to stop talking for you to start again.
But do ask questions!
If you’re watching someone give a talk, don’t be afraid to ask questions during the Q&A! Even if public speaking doesn’t freak you out, asking “does anyone have any questions?” at the end is nerve wracking. There’s a sense that if you give a talk and no one wants to follow up on it, you did a bad job! So take that opportunity to learn what you can from them. Or bask in the awkward silence. Up to you!
DON’T ASK FOR A JOB
This is a big one. You should shy away from asking for work for a few reasons, chief of which being the person you’re talking to probably has no control over hiring at their studio. And even if they do have hiring power, flat out asking for a job is just annoying.
Our Art Director shared a story: He had just given a lecture and was approached afterward by some guy. He barely introduced himself before asking “can I have a job!” This is pretty bold, as if he’d hire someone without seeing a portfolio or evidence of work experience! But worse, it made him feel like he’s not a person – that all he cared about is what he wanted, which is a surefire way to get people to ignore you fast.
The point of events like GDC is to swap stories and ideas, to forge relationships with your would-be colleges. You don’t want to come off as someone so laser focused on getting a gig that you don’t try to befriend someone unless it’s for a job. People like to be treated like people, not like a human job boards.