How to Survive the Game Developers Conference

The 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) kicks off today at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and will run through March 21 with a range of panel discussions, exhibits, tutorials, and more. It’s one of the gaming industry’s biggest annual events, drawing top developers from around the world, but navigating the convention can be a little overwhelming on your first trip.

Game Development course director Justin Gallo has seen a number of his students make the trek to GDC, and recently offered his advice on how to get the most from the experience. Outside of all the software demos and lectures, Justin sees the conference as one of the best networking opportunities for aspiring programmers, artists, and designers looking to make connections that may eventually help them after graduation.

  • It’s not the best idea to go out there looking for a job and be completely focused on getting hired the entire time. You need to be prepared if you're asked for your information, but at the same time you don’t want to be shoving resumes in people’s faces. You're there to learn and make connections, not hassle anyone.
  • Be an interesting person and not a student. Your biggest weapon is going to be your personality and the way you approach conversations. You’re interested in the same things the other people there are interested in, and you should go into social situations like that. People are much more inclined to get into a conversation if you’re talking about something universal.
  • Your projects should be ready to be shown in an easy way. Have your resume and samples of work that you’ve done, even just on your smart phone or tablet. Also, never put “student” on your business card, it should be whatever you’re focusing on. If you’re a game artist, put “game artist."
  • Think about what your apparel says to people. If you look like you’re dressed for an interview people may think you’re only going to be asking them for a job, but if you look too casual you’re going to turn people off. If you want to play it safe wear jeans, a collared shirt, and closed-toed shoes.
  • Seek out panels you’re interested in because that information will be fantastic. Also, if you’re going to something you're passionate about, you can hold onto that information and use it to fuel good conversations afterwards. The panels are a good ice breaker for talking to people because you automatically have something in common.
  • The parties are also very important for connecting socially. In my experience that’s where I got the most traction. Get out of your shell and make sure you’re out every night looking for opportunities to meet people. There could be somebody that’s not as good as you academically and doesn’t have the portfolio you have, but employers met them at a party, liked them as a person, and will give them opportunities based on that.
  • Even if you don’t meet your fanboy dream designers, just meeting students who are in the same boat as you and making connections is important. Those people will be graduating and getting jobs in the future, and that networking is fantastic.

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