A lot of people have downloaded this list from when I first posted it for GDC 2015, but I've given it a few updates for this coming GDC 2019. I first spoke at GDC in 2003, and I have had fun picking up a few things along the way. Hopefully this list will help make your time at GDC as effective and rewarding as possible. Besides this list, I'd also have a look for other lists online to see what work best for you. Due to cost, location and other factors, it is difficult for many game developers to even consider attending GDC, so if you’re not planning to go to GDC, there’s a growing number of alternative events such as http://www.notgdc.fun/, and https://gamedev.world/en/ which may be of interest. If you have any questions, contact me at any time via the email on our School of Video Game Audio site, and I'll do my best to help out!
- If you're planning to go to GDC talks then a good way to get ready for them is by watching free GDC vault videos from last year and earlier. It'll just give a good idea of what type of presentations you like and can also give you an idea of which ones to skip.
- I'd book meetings with folks before GDC if possible. Here's a link to how you can set up 1 on 1 meetings using GDC Connect with your conference pass:
- If you're focused on the Expo then the Game Career Sessions on Friday could be a good way to get ideas on entering the industry. Plus, there’s a GDC’s $79 student expo pass for Friday which is a great way to check out GDC at a low cost.
- If you’re a parent, there’s possibilities for help with childcare.
- Connect with people before the conference on forums, email and social media. Add your name to lists of people going and try to get an idea of what people you're hoping to meet up with for the first time look like. Hello #GameAudioGDC :)
- Get sleep and rest up. Try your best not to work up until the last minute before you head to GDC. Getting sick while at a conference sucks, trust me, I've done it a few times and do my best to pace things so that it reduces the risk that I'll get sick. If you're coming from far, try to take some time to recover from jet lag if at all possible. Keeping your energy and spirits up while at GDC will definitely help your chances at having a fun and rewarding time.
- Download the GDC app. Sometimes the GDC wifi is overloaded or spotty so make sure that you have all the material you need printed out or available on your phone/tablet/computer.
2. Book Your Calendar
- Make a calendar of all the sessions you'd like to see at the conference. The site makes this fairly easy but I tend to add things to my phone's calendar as well. It's a good idea to over book a bit and rank events by priority. This makes it easier to decide which alternate session to go to if your first choice is full or not as interesting as you thought. While at the conference you might hear that there's a “must see” session that will bump your other plans which is fine.
- Most of the audio talks are pretty close to each other but if you're moving between areas (especially the Expo), make sure to give yourself enough time so that you're not late.
- Overbook your evening parties and events since there can often be long lines and sometimes it’s difficult to find the "coolest" party and get an invite for each evening. I usually use Google Calendar so I can sync with my phone. Party-hopping can be fun but it's often tiring so it's good to have a bit of a plan. This way you're more effective rather than just wandering around which is especially easy after a few drinks. If you get turned around then the “W” hotel is usually an ok spot to catch up and find others who know what's going on. There's a good unofficial list of parties here.
- Keep an eye on Eventbrite by searching for GDC parties in San Francisco and also ask around - there may be other lists that pop up so searching for “GDC 2019 parties” is a good idea.
3. Contact Companies
- Here's a list of companies at GDC . If you have a pass (except Expo) you can use GDC's business connect, which looks like it would be available up to a week before GDC. Prepare for each of your meetings by keeping clear notes. You can even prepare objective feedback ready to give companies that you're planning to meet with along with the best way that you can help them or work with them if you're interested in doing so. Also remember to listen and take note of their needs as a company. Making a large detailed spreadsheet and being organized is a good starting point. Many companies won't respond to your emails but hopefully a few will and your demo reel is a great way to show how your skills are aligned with their company and games. Some companies will have recruiters available at the Expo so this can be a way to make first contact and ask them directly about their company. Bringing a printed one page resume to the actual meeting is a good idea as well. You want to be consistent with companies you're interested in but not annoying, sadly there's no way to generalize how to do this properly except through experience. If you don't get a meeting, you could try asking someone at the booth about internships or other audio roles at their company but again, be mindful and consider your best approach.
4. Promote Using Twitter, Website, Cards, Email, LinkedIn...
- Your best bet is to have a strong set of skills shown in your demo reel. Convey your personality and skills as clearly as possible.
- I don't recommend sending the default "add me" message in LinkedIn. Give a small bit of background to help the other person remember when they met you, who you are and how you might help them in the future. I try to keep my LinkedIn with people I'd be interested in sitting down and having a chat with about business or otherwise.
- Social media can be like a big party where conversations can be frozen in mid-air. It's good to be careful with what you choose to share. If you've got something that other people would be interested in and could really help people then feel free to post it on Twitter with #GameAudioGDC. Unfortunately an increasing trend is people posting their songs, sound effects or otherwise filling up the #GameAudio hashtag with commercial audio products. I now use a customized search that uses a minus to remove tags and other words I don’t want to see that are typically associated with ads (-song, -track etc.). I do my best to post information online that might be of help and if people ask further then see if they're interested in the services that I have to offer. You can harm your future relationships in game audio by frequent public posts that don't add value to the game audio community.
- I personally don't feel like I "meet" people online but I do feel that seeing someone's posts online help frame my first in-person meeting with them. If you have interesting things to say then people will hopefully be drawn to you but if you're just shouting about all the amazing stuff you're always doing and that you're amazing and having amazing times in your amazing life then people might find it a bit tiresome.
- Business cards are helpful. I often use stickers these days since I think they're a bit more fun and I'm not promoting myself as much anymore but cards are still a staple while networking at GDC. Your card (as well as your attire) reflects who you are and you don't want to be continually apologizing when giving out your card. If you leave a side blank then this allows you or the other person to write a bit on the back like a project, Twitter account or other helpful notes.
5. Be Present & Proactive
- Make sure that you're not just thinking about how people can help you. Be invested in the time that you spend with people. Find common points to talk about and really be in the moment.
- Don't take rejection personally since it's just about finding matches for your skill set. If there isn't a match there's no need to force things. You may find out that someone is interested in skills that you don't have, but you might be able to recommend a peer that could help them out. It shows that you're trying to genuinely help them even if it means recommending someone else and perhaps they'll look to you in the future when there's a need for your skills. I've had this happen to me a few times in the past. Game audio is a highly competitive field and it may take a long time to find the gigs you want. At GDC, you're planting seeds for the future.
- Trade contact info with everyone. I have a poor memory plus I'm terrible with names so I typically write a bit about the person on the back of their card or in a small notepad and sometimes include the place and day that I met them just to be able to jog my memory later. If there's a possible connection on a gig for the future then it's good to write down these details as well. You'll likely leave GDC with a lot of potential contacts and things can become a bit of a blur so having a method of remembering who you talked with is a good idea. I haven't done this before but one idea you could try is taking a picture of important cards with your phone once you leave the conversation. This way you'll have the details, your phone will arrange the photos chronologically and time stamp it plus other photos you take will also jog your memory when you look at them later. You can also use a phone app that can scan the card details as well.
- Hang out in the hallway next to the audio sessions and get a good feel for your community. It's a great way to get into some really interesting discussions with some of the top people in the field. Also feel free to talk to speakers after their talk since they'll be more relaxed and interested to hear reactions to their presentation. As a speaker, I really like chatting after a talk.
- I highly suggest going to the Audio Bootcamp on Tuesday if you have an Audio Pass. It's a great way to meet both the speakers and your peers as things get rolling at GDC.
6. Pace Your Eating, Party & Sleepy Times
- Usually parties is where I chat with new people the most and talking over meals is a great way to connect with people whenever you can.
- It's important to be respectful of others and the GDC has a great set of guidelines to help out as well as a mandate to improve diversity. Everyone wants to have a fun time at GDC and it's good to do what you can to support this great community.
- It's good to take a chance, dive in and just talk with people. You'll never know what the future holds if you're not willing to take some risks. Note that networking isn’t an even playing field so it’s good to be mindful to help build community, the #saferGDC has some helpful advice.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you happen to go out drinking and book in your sleep. Although morning coffee is fine, I'd recommend getting up later and getting more sleep if you're just going to be a zombie all day. Basically you have limited time, focus and energy so you'll need to know where your balance is.
- GDC is like a workout. Eat healthy when you can and stay rested. You'll be walkin', talkin', drinkin' and shoutin' a lot, which is fun but also really tiring. Earplugs are essential, plus protecting your voice too!
7. Talk with Everyone
- I feel it's often best to just make connections first and see if people are interested in helping you out later. Trade business contact information with everyone and you might find that the person you've been chatting to for fun is a lead at a company you're interested in or knows of someone that is looking for audio help. I think it's just good to be friendly and have fun. This can be difficult if you're really needing work since people can smell desperation so being calm and focused is the best approach. I'm not an expert on the perfect approach and I've definitely made a lot of mistakes at GDC (and other conferences) but it hasn't destroyed my career yet.
- GDC is not the end of things but really just the middle. You're bringing skills to show and trying to find people that have good projects that you can help out with.
8. Stay Connected
- Follow #GameAudioGDC since Twitter is a great way to stay connected and find out where the audio "crowd" is heading each day for lunch and whatnot. The morning coffee crew (see event details at the end of this post) is a fun bunch, this event is a great way to get to know others in the game audio community over game audio discussions. Try to book a few extra days just to enjoy San Francisco as it's a beautiful city!
- Making a “crew” on social media using WhatsApp or other methods is good. Not only can this help with knowing where contacts are for just hanging out but also if you need any type of help as well.
- Check out the companies on the Expo floor that are having parties and talk with your peers about getting into parties as well. The more you network with people, the better you'll have an idea of the best places to spend your time during GDC evenings.
9. Talk with Indies
- GDC doesn't just have the “big players” but also the growing indie community as well. It's a great place to meet people from a bunch of small companies, many of which might need audio. A lot of smaller companies might not be able to pay much up front, but you can always discuss the details. Maybe you can split your regular fee so that it is 25% up front before the game is released and another 75% paid up when the game starts making money.
- I believe that working entirely for free is a bit dangerous since it makes it difficult for you to gain respect with the same company later and can negatively affect your peers as well. I think it's fine that companies might need a bit of an “audio kick-start” at the beginning but once the game starts making money, it seem fair that they would share their success with their contributors.
- I've really enjoyed working on indie titles such as Vessel, Retro City Rampage and Shakedown Hawaii and look forward to hearing more great work come out of the indie game audio scene!
10. Follow Up
- Email people back using their contact information. Just write a line or two about how it was good to meet them and then a short note about how you could help them out in the future in a way that follows up on your connection with them and include a single link to your work if they expressed some interest. If it was more of a brief connection then I'll just write a one line that it was good to meet them at GDC and put my website and twitter in my signature so that they can "look me up" if they're interested.
- I don't put people on my mailing list unless they specifically ask me. If I had a good connection with someone then I might try to connect with them on LinkedIn as well.
- People working in games are often quite busy so don't be too discouraged if you don't hear back or it takes a while for them to get back to you. It's difficult to say in general but if there's a lead that you really want to follow up on, then emailing back in a month might be the way to go.
#GameAudioGDC Good Times!
GDC is a truly inspiring experience as you're around thousands of people that share a similar passion for working with games. If you're open, it's possible to not only make connections with peers but also make great friends too. Thanks to Emily Meo for the fun photo and leading our GDC meetup last year!
Check #GameAudioGDC for updates + hopefully you’ll be able to check out the (early!) morning GameAudioGDC meetup 7-9am Monday 18th though Saturday 23rd at Sennheiser (previously at Sightglass), and the park behind the Carousel Cafe for lunch & for Carousel Con!
Hope to see you at our 6th Annual School of Video Game Audio GDC Meetup that we’ll be posting about on @SchoolGameAudio soon, stay posted :) !