Luckily, Meredith Hall, a multi-disciplined Producer, Marketer and Business Developer, took this question to Twitter, and she received dozens of responses from GDC veterans about what they have learned and how they make the most of each conference. We compiled them here, with the permission of the contributors, so take a moment and read what you should know before your first visit to Moscone Center.
Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019 takes place March 18-22 in Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco, CA, US. Tweets have been edited for spelling, grammar, and brevity.
Here’s the tweet that started it all
What are your TOP tips for @Official_GDC first timers? 💗 To pack, to do, to see, to attend, to meet, to plan for, to avoid?
Make your business cards as close to standard size as possible. Yes, your coaster-sized oval cards are cool and stuff, but if they’re impossible to put away they’ll end up in some pocket, never to be seen again.
Bring a permanent marker with a fine tip to take notes on business cards. You’ll have 50 in your pocket at EOD and won’t remember who was who.
Don’t throw your business card at someone without saying anything to them and then just…leave. Sure, I remember that person’s name now, but for all the wrong reasons!
Never ever ever give away the last business card you’re carrying. If it really comes to that, hold onto it so people can snap a picture of it instead. Better than nothing.
Don’t be afraid to approach people!
Value people. People are the most important thing you can invest in during GDC – talks come pretty low on the list as you can watch them online later. Make opportunities to meet people you want to meet, reach out, organise coffees and meals. Be proactively social.
There are many different types of parties.
Networking parties – Connecting people
Vendor parties – Chat with product/service vendors and other using them
Publisher parties – Bring different devs together, celebrate
Dance parties – Music/dance based
Country parties – Recruitment/jobs
Industry group parties – Networking but everyone there has a common interest, think Women in Gaming, or Latinx in Gaming
There are other non-party based events.
Things like meetups to have ice cream or go running
Make friends and don’t be afraid to chat with people. Everyone at GDC shares the same passions you do. I’ve made tons of great friends in the industry from around the world because of GDC.
Don’t rush, have fun. With that being said, if you’re not early enough for big talks, you will miss out. Know which ones you don’t want to miss. The rest are optional.
Alex Moreno @FuzzyIndie
Round tables are great and a good way to meet people and make an impression.
When you go to the microphone to ask a question after a talk, if the question wouldn’t fit in a tweet and doesn’t end with a question mark, it’s not a question, it’s a speech.
Don’t do speeches.
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Know why you are going, and don’t be afraid to let less important stuff fall by the wayside – it is your trip.
In your planning, schedule one thing you *absolutely* want to do each day, and go with the flow with everything else. You won’t overwhelm yourself, and you’ll make time for what’s important to you.
+ Have goals of what you want to achieve while over there.
+ Use it as an opportunity to reflect on your past year, how you’ve grown and what your next goals are.
The real GDC action doesn’t even take place at the convention center – it’s all about the meetings and conversations you should be setting up NOW.
If you’re searching for a career, see what companies are going to be on ‘show floor’, then reach out on LinkedIn for their HR/recruiters – They may be able to help set up interviews or meet with specific persons at a scheduled time.
If you’re looking to network at after-hour parties, try to find more niche events to go to. You’ll be able to actually meet and talk to people, rather than be drowned out my massive crowds, rowdy partiers, or people that, while nice, don’t help your networking goal.
1. The audio podcast at Sightglass Cafe is great.
2. Don’t eat lunch alone — Go up to the Carousel and learn more audio! Make friends!
3. Take a break and go to the Musee Mechanique by the pier — it’s a hidden jewel.
4. Eat shawarma across Moscone!
5. Don’t look like a tourist.
Scott Benson said to learn how to dismount from conversations “thanks for your time, it was great meeting you.” Something like that. When the conversation lulls, stick the landing, don’t end it on a soggy walk away.
Take Care of Yourself
Plan for breaks.
Seriously, drink water.
Buy a lacrosse ball and toss it in your bag. Sit down for 10-20 minutes mid-day and at night and roll the bottom of your feet over it. It’ll hurt a ton, but it’s loosening up the tightness in your feet. When you stand up, they’ll feel great!
Also, drink about 3x as much water as normal.
– Don’t book out your entire days back to back
– Make a Twitter list of people you meet
– Parties are parties have fun but don’t do them every night.
– Hand sanitize
– It’s ok to look at badges for names
– Have a cup of tea and sit down
Don’t Forget to Eat
Eat at least one meal a day that requires a fork.
* Stay hydrated, have snacks on hand, avoid getting hangry!
* Try to get away from the conference at some point for good food (maybe eat a Mission burrito?)
* When you’re feeling overwhelmed (and you will!)/wiped/anxious/etc, lounge at the Mild Rumpus, my favorite part of GDC <3
– Don’t buy food at the venue. There’s better options around Moscone. If you’re in tight budget mode there’s a Target opposite of the West building where you can buy food.
– If you want to taste the world famous Moscone Crepes you better get there early. Line gets insanely long.
If you’re staying close to Moscone, head to Trader Joe’s and stock up on nuts and other healthy snack foods. These are an easy breakfast or light lunch. Take an afternoon off to explore the city (Disney Family Museum, Palace of Fine Arts, Musee Mecanique). Drink water.
San Francisco and the USA
The SF sun will be blazing hot, the shade so cold even vikings freeze to death. Night time is brutal if you’re unprepared.
Tipping the quick way: move the decimal over one step and double it. This is a 20% tip. Adjust accordingly from there. In general cocktails or other complex drinks you just tip 1 dollar per drink regardless of cost.
Regarding mobile sims, if you want to step off the plane and have data, try out http://www.simcorner.com. Order your sim now, it gets delivered before you depart, then you pop it in when the plane lands.
Arrive 1 or 2 days early to enjoy the city, it’s wonderful. Don’t overbook yourself, do what you really like to do instead of trying to do what you think is expected of you. Eat and drink well. Parties are overrated, don’t drink too much and sleep enough or you’ll get sick.
If you can, stay a bit longer after the convention. I once did a roadtrip afterwards and it was gorgeous. In networking mixers just be really interested in the people. The most enjoyable talks are postmortems imo.
– Overbudget. Everything is expensive.
– There’s a tunnel that runs from Moscone South and Moscone North. Yay avoiding cars!
DON’T TRY TO SAVE MONEY BY BOOKING A FAR AWAY HOSTEL. You will end up paying the difference in Lyft/Uber/BART rides.
Use the buddy system walking around in the evening.
Have comfy shoes.
Make. Time. To. Sit.
Get a week long metro pass. So worth it and tons of good food a short ride away.
Treat people like people, not as just an extension of their company.
Travel Advil & chapstick.
Keep your phone charged, use it for the public transit, BART and MUNI both have apps. Study a map ahead of time and keep one handy. Use the buddy system and make sure someone knows where you are going and with whom, if you go solo at any point.
If you are going to be a pedestrian at any point, be aware that some streets are angled very steeply. Not all sidewalks are great for folks in wheelchairs, but a good many are. SF is the city that inspired “Crazy Taxy,” so don’t trust drivers or pedestrians to be reasonable.
You’ll think “I don’t need my spare battery”, but you will.
It WILL be colder at night.
Pack proper shoes. You will be walking a lot.
Be careful! San Francisco is not a safe city : (
Don’t have your badge visible outside of the con, ever. Hide it in your shirt, under a sweatshirt, put it in your pocket, etc. Don’t flash a bunch of swag that says GDC on it, travel in groups, call an Uber if you are out late and need to get back to your hotel.
Check with your hotel or locals about what the safety is like at night around where you’re staying. I wasn’t confident about mine last year so after a couple of conversations for late night returns, I either walked with a friend or went door to door with Uber/Lyft.
The tenderloin area is dangerous at night, I would avoid it completely. I would advocate staying in a group in the day.
People get mugged there every year.
Final Thoughts & Resources
Have at least a few moments in the park above the conference
@stephanschutze has a great blog post on exactly this that I found helpful last time I went: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/StephanSchutze/20160203/265023/Travel_Tips_for_Developers.php
I made up a comprehensive presentation of my notes from last year: https://www.dropbox.com/s/lwq4x3x9pycf3js/I%20Went%20To%20GDC%20And%20All%20I%20Got.pdf?dl=0
As with every conference you’ll ever go to, in the games industry, or elsewhere, never go and come back thinking you wasted your time. Turn up with a hit list of people and outcomes.
A big thanks to everyone for letting us share their tips! Have a great GDC!
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