GDC @ SF 2012

It was a sunny, but cool, recovery weekend here in Southern Oregon after GDC in San Francisco. I believe it was my 13th GDC (it’s hard to recall for sure, but I can remember when it was called CGDC instead of GDC — yikes, that makes me feel a bit old).

We went down for the whole week this year and had a slew of meetings. Only one of them was somewhat weird/pointless, and a handful were downright impressive.

It’s interesting when doing a meet-and-greet for the first time, usually with a BizDev or DevRel person — you very quickly get a sense of how much they know about actual development and the creative process vs. the business side of things. Some are all business and it’s pretty obvious that they are more-or-less industry agnostic (do they even play games?), while others (often but not always from the PD side of the house) are real gamers and invest themselves in the design/tech/creative.

Not surprisingly, gamer types are more fun and the meetings are upbeat. The downside is that it’s more difficult to stay focused on the meeting. The more-strictly-business types can be just as fun, although if they’re representing a big company that’s growing fast they tend to be somewhat vague and boilerplate — they’re just stretched too thin. Or they’re searching for one specific thing/idea/capability and that’s all they can see (or have time to see).

We had a couple of meetings where the folks with whom we were meeting immediately noticed the coolest bits about what were showing. It’s the difference between hearing “looks beautiful” vs. “love the multiple layers of parallax and depth-of-field combined with a simple mechanic”. While rote positive feedback is a nice ego-stroke, specific feedback is awesome and energizing.

Conferences take a lot of energy due to the volume of encounters, and the “energy exchange” during meetings can be radically different depending on the people. Being a vert (sort of 50/50 intro/extrovert), meetings are a bit of a roller coaster for me — the amount of mana in my mana bar goes up and down a lot. While this happens to some extent with everyone, most people I know tend to be more DOT (Damage Over Time) or maybe AOE (Area of Effect) — e.g. energy is lost or gained at a more-or-less linear rate over the course of the conversation. I’ve noticed that in my case I can just as easily end a meeting with a full bar of mana as I can an empty bar.

In any case GDC has changed a lot over the years. Many of the sessions are down to a clean 45 minutes, and it seems as if every year presenters get better and better at staying with their slides. This is way less fun than years ago when sessions tended to run over and speakers had more off-the-Powerpoint verbal nuggets to deliver. I presented a few years ago with a colleague — we did a post-mortem on a mobile game — and we had a full hour but that was not nearly enough time to cover all the stuff we wanted to cover. I hope that GDC swings back toward longer/deeper sessions in the future — would add more to the value proposition. And as much as I like San Francisco, I find myself yearning for the somewhat less polished, geekier San Jose GDC days (and the SJ Fairmont!). Given the remote probability of either one of those things happening, maybe I should just check out GDC Austin this year instead.