The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the world’s largest professional game industry event, attracting nearly 30,000 attendees each year. The massive conference is comprised of 750 lecturers, panels, tutorials, and roundtable discussions, all gathered to distribute information and exchange groundbreaking ideas related to the game industry. What began as an informal gathering of 25 game developers has turned into a national event, drawing the attention of gamers all over the country. Occurring from March 18-22 in San Francisco, this will be the 33rd edition of the conference – and Northeastern will be strongly represented at this year’s event, with six CAMD Games students in attendance as Conference Associates (CA). These students include Rachel Ellis, Lexie Zarow, Julia Smead, Marri Kang, Kieran Sheldon, and Ryan Maloney.
For Ryan Maloney, a Game Design student, this is his second trip to the GDC as a Conference Associate. We were able to sit down with him to hear more about the conference and the role of a CA. Read more in the Q+A below.
What is the GDC really about?
GDC is the biggest and most central hub of what’s going on in the game industry every year. Tens of thousands of developers go there to give and listen to talks about the newest techniques, technology, and innovations in the game industry, so it’s an invaluable educational experience. On top of that, given that it’s packed full of experienced developers, it’s one of the best places to meet experienced developers and make friends with them, establishing meaningful relationships along with learning new skills.
Tell us about the responsibilities of a Conference Associate!
The main responsibility of a CA is to do whatever you can to make sure the attendees and speakers at GDC have the best experience possible. Much of it is staffing the hundreds of talks happening, either by scanning in attendees, organizing the room to effectively pack seats, assisting speakers to make sure they feel prepared and comfortable, or other duties that will ensure everyone has a great time.
What does it take to become a Conference Associate?
The application to be a CA is very selective. The most crucial part of the application is an essay detailing why you believe you would be a great Conference Associate, and the maximum length for that essay is 1500 characters. Characters, not words. You have to communicate a lot of information in a very small amount of space. But that’s part of the fun of it; it challenges you to think about your experiences and motivations in a way that you can boil down into what is essentially a personal elevator pitch. Every year, the process gets more selective as more people apply, and being a veteran CA does not guarantee you’ll be accepted in subsequent years. They always want to make sure the people who are accepted are passionate, dedicated, and overall good, caring people who want to make sure everyone has a good experience at GDC.
What are some of the key takeaways that attendees can get from this conference?
One of the most valuable things I think this conference does for attendees who are just getting into the industry is that it reminds us that the people who make the games we love, who have the jobs we’d like to have one day, and who do the things we’ve been learning to do, are all just regular folks getting by in their own ways. I got to listen to, talk with, and just run into some developers that I’ve known about and respected ever since I knew I wanted to make games. In every one of those experiences, I was reminded that they were all just regular people who started out not too differently from me, and that we really shouldn’t idolize these developers, but instead, respect them as experienced individuals to learn from and approach as people before anything else.