1. Remember to take care of yourself
This conference can be a bit overwhelming. An enormous convention center, TONS of walking, record-breaking attendance (which means literally thousands of people) . . . Yeah. It’s a lot to take in at first. You will be able to enjoy the conference a lot more if you’re mentally, physically and emotionally at your best. So make sure to take a break if you need to. Don’t over-work yourself. It is also essential to have hand sanitizer and tons of Vitamin C (you shake a lot of hands; avoid the GDC plague; trust me).
Some people try to go to every event they can possibly think of and some people don’t because they think the parties aren’t as cool as they sound. I say it’s worth checking out if you’re interested, but you don’t have to stay if it’s not your scene. There’s definitely nothing wrong with opting out, there are other social opportunities. However, people make connections in the weirdest ways, so you never know who you’d meet or what could happen if you go!
3. Don’t expect to walk away with a job
But if you do, congratulations! That’s awesome! Interviews do happen during the week, but I highly recommend investing your time in building relationships with the people you meet. Get to know company recruiters and keep in touch throughout the year. They will remember you when a new opening appears. Treat this like a marathon, not a sprint.
4. Networking works better if you just try to make friends.
Don’t shove your business card in their face before you even say hello. Don’t be like the mall kiosk salesmen who are only nice because they want your money. Just make friends and focus less on the outcome. Be genuine. Ask yourself, “who do I know who can help this person?” Less pressure, more fun, better connections, better life. There is incredible value in making true friends. “It’s like compound interest: it grows over time, so take proper care of it.” Most of us will get gigs from referrals. Where do you think these referrals will come from? You guessed it. They’ll come from the friends in your network who know you. It’s all about who you know.
5. Ditch the comfort zone
Force yourself to talk to people, even if you’re uncomfortable. Hanging out with people you know is fine, but don’t let that prevent you from meeting new people and making connections! If you’re like me and escape to your phone in an awkward situation, then definitely take this advice. I enjoyed GDC so much more when I spent it with the new friends I made. Put the phone away and talk to someone. Be the first one to say hi. All you have to do is smile. Remember, there’s no growth in the comfort zone.
6. You’re not an imposter
Everyone has imposter syndrome (I love Neil Gaiman’s blog entry on the subject). Something I’ve repeatedly heard is that, if you’re at GDC, you’ve made it! You’re not a student, you’re not aspiring . . . you are in the industry! So, congratulations! We’re all trying to figure stuff out; it’s one of the things that brings us together.
7. Ask more questions
Come prepared with questions and have them ready. It might help you get more out of the conference if you are actively searching for an answer to a predetermined question. On the other hand, keep your mind open for answers to questions you might not have thought to ask. There are infinite learning opportunities here!
8. Be active in your field and get involved in the community
Everyone loves Shigeru Miyamoto, Notch and other household names. Learn to appreciate the devs and industry vets in your field that do amazing work without much name recognition. Give them respect and they’ll help you out. Research guilds and organizations in your field. Become a member, get involved, volunteer for things! For example, I’m a proud member of the Game Audio Network Guild and highly recommend joining.
9. Go to the Roundtables
Go. To. The. Roundtables. You’re missing out if you don’t. That is all.
10. You can never prepare too much for GDC
Demos, resumes, healthy snacks, hydration, taxis, business cards, insoles for your shoes! Everything is necessary!
This conference is a must if you have any interest in breaking into the video game industry. If money is tight, look for scholarship opportunities with the guilds and/or organizations I mentioned. You can also apply to work GDC as a Conference Associate, which is what I did and absolutely loved it!!!
Hopefully, these takeaways will help you if you’re planning on attending next year!