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GDC 2010: Things outside of the convention, and the mark of shame

So, as you may already know, or may have pieced together from my URL-ridden introduction, I am what the kids like to call a "game developer". You might also call me "unemployed". If I had to choose one of these, I'd choose the latter. As anyone will tell you, QA is an entry-level job, but that's a topic for another time.

When I entered the realm of eating on Uncle Sam's dime, I got advice from various people that GDC was the place to go to help me reach the next step of my career. Having never visited the west coast, I assumed it was a fake land that exists only for famous types. And this so-called "good Mexican food" that I've heard so much about. Hell, even the public transportation is clean. Honestly, everything is better out west. Or so I had been told.

So, after a month-long stint of pneumonia (GREAT weight-loss program, by the way), I was on my way to San Francisco to attend GDC 2010 (pronounced "twenty ten"). Due to my misunderstanding of the whole "tutorial and summit" portion of GDC, I ended up arriving several days before I ever stepped foot in the Moscone Center. (By the way, it's pronounced "Moss-cone-eh". If you leave off that "eh", cabbies will be very confused.)

Quickly, I learned just how much more there was to going to GDC than just attending the conference itself. The day I arrived, I was already being introduced to tons of new people (and learning the merits of an arcade cabinet in the same area where people are eating), as well as running into an old friend or two. It was a nice introduction to what my week was going to be like. Oh, and the Mexican food really is good. Imagine that.

From there, I was going to event after event, meeting people from various companies who do this or that. I never really was able to wrap my mind around it, but the industry really is pretty small. You can do that whole "seven degrees of Footloose" thing or whatever pretty easily in this industry. Except, instead of Kevin Bacon, you will probably end up at Darius Kazemi. And honestly, it'll probably only take you one or two people to get to him.

Now then, I had been meeting new people all week long, and was wearing myself out pretty fast. I had been in San Francisco for four days at this point, and I still hadn't been to the Moscone Center for more than a few seconds. Honestly, I was very excited to actually attend GDC. Everything I had been doing to this point was pretty awesome, but I grew up reading about events like GDC or E3, or any of the other events out there. This was my first event as an industry guy. I was excited, to say the least.

So, I get there, full of business cards and excitement, ready to find the next step in this strange life I've chosen for myself. Don't get me wrong, I've already handed out plenty of cards and played the whole "networking" game a ton at this point, but now I was going to the fabled CAREER PAVILION to really try and seal the deal.

However, things were quickly becoming clear. I was wearing a mark of shame. I was wearing the EXPO PASS. The main conference pass and all-access pass are carried around in white badge holders. The EXPO PASS is carried around in a black one. Those amazing white passes let you do whatever you please while you are attending GDC. The EXPO PASS lets you attend the expo floor, in all of its middleware-selling glory and the career pavilion. There are also a handful of speeches they give you access to, but it was nothing that was interesting to me.

My thought going into this event was that the career pavilion was going to take up enough of my time that I wouldn't be upset about missing all of the speeches and panels and roundtables that the EXPO PASS wouldn't let me see, but boy was I wrong. Of course, the EXPO PASS is significantly cheaper than the main conference pass, and my thought process going into GDC was that I was only there to find a job, and I had to stay on task at all times. Well, I had quickly exhausted all of my options for job hunting on the actual career pavilion (and, quite frankly, most of my promising job leads were found well outside the walls of Moscone South), and suddenly I realized that I had holed myself into a corner of not actually being able to enjoy GDC.

I'll be perfectly honest - I swapped badges with a friend so I could get into a speech about a game I worked on. That was literally the only way I could get into this speech due to my unfortunate EXPO PASS. And for the speech about the project I had a rather heavy involvement in? (Rock Band Network, for those who care) I couldn't get in at all, because I had no one to swap badges with (and honestly, it's a dubious thing to do anyway). Those cool speeches by Rob Pardo and Sid Meier I would've attended if I wasn't dumb? Yeah, no dice.

And just so we're clear - I blame this stupidity entirely on myself. If I sound bitter, it's because I am. However, I don't throw that bitterness onto anyone other than myself, for not understanding just how long three days can be, and just how much of GDC is those speeches. Take this more as a cautionary tale if you plan on attending GDC for the first time - don't go there with the EXPO PASS; there's not enough to do there with just that. The way I see it, I could've accomplished everything I wanted to with that pass in one (very busy) day.

However, now that I've gotten the bitterness out of the way, let me say that I had a fantastic time during GDC week. Most of it happened for various reasons (that Dtoid party was seriously pretty awesome, maybe the second best party I've ever attended?), and I do feel that I accomplished my goal (time will tell if I join the workforce again soon enough), but I wish I had done some better fact-gathering before I booked the trip. I know plenty of people who have been going to GDC for years, and I never really thought to ask, "Hey, is this EXPO PASS worth it?" Oh well, my loss.

Just remember: if you're going to GDC for the first time, don't go with the EXPO PASS. You want to go to those speeches. The speeches are awesome. There are a lot of smart people in this industry. Also, you will have an awesome time.
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About Alakaiserone of us since 1:32 PM on 03.15.2010

The name's Tom. I used to work as an industry guy, and am currently on the hunt for my next paying gig. In the meantime, I'm working on a bunch of different projects that don't help me pay my bills. I write a lot. I'm a musician, although certainly not of the professional variety. I like trying new things and meeting new people. I'm still somewhat new around Destructoid, so sorry in advance if I don't know something I probably should.

About my blog:

I update daily (not really, but I like to pretend). Generally, my updates get pretty long-winded, but hopefully not to the point where they're unreadable. I'll wax poetic about whatever's on my mind, like current events in my life, things that are happening in the video games I like, or whatever happens to pop in my head that day. With a few exceptions, I write my entries the same day I publish them, so they're pretty fresh content-wise. It also might help explain the occasional typos. I do my best to avoid any errors, though.

About my work:

I worked at Harmonix Music Systems as a tester on a year's worth of DLC, The Beatles: Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, and Rock Band Network. Feel free to ask me questions about it, but remember: I'm still under NDA. Also, if you know of a job opening, please tell me about it. I'm flexible.

About my contact info:

Want to collaborate with me on something, big or small, related to the site or not? I'd love to. I like working on any project that I'm even remotely capable of working on, and would love to help you in whatever way I can. Feel free to PM me here, or otherwise send me an email at alakaiser(at)gmail(period)com. Even if you don't want to work with me on something, I'd love to just chat. I'm a pretty friendly guy!

What happened to that thing you did? You know, that one thing?:

I wrote an article that ended up getting promoted to the front page of the site, which is pretty damn cool. It removes it from my cblog archive, though, so I'm throwing a link in this here sidebar for the sake of an archive (and in case I lose the link myself).

The Great Escape: One Foot in Reality