A lot of people have downloaded this list from the School of Video Game Audio’s website when I first posted it for GDC 2015, so I've made some updates for this coming GDC 2023. Hopefully this will help make your time attending GDC in-person or virtually as effective and rewarding as possible. I’ve spoken at GDC events several times since 2003 and have had fun picking up a few things along the way. Besides this list, I'd encourage you to look for other lists & tips online that'll help you find ways to make GDC work best for you.
Due to cost, location and other factors, it is difficult for many game developers to consider even attending GDC, so the GDC Vault Digital Pass could be an option. It's also great to see that recently organizations such as the Game Audio Diversity Alliance have been able to help with GDC scholarships. Events like GameSoundCon are also a great option for folks in game audio.
If you have any questions about this list, feel free to contact me through the school’s email on our site, SoVGA.com. Our Discord is also a great spot to connect with around 900 folks part of the SoVGA community: Discord.com/invite/K36rCekacM
- If you're planning to go to GDC talks, a good way to get ready for them is by watching free GDC vault videos from previous GDCs: GDCVault.com/free. It'll give you a good idea of what type of presentations you're looking for and which ones you might want to skip.
- I'd book meetings with folks before GDC if possible. There's a link to doing virtual and in-person meetings using their app: GDConf.com/event-details
- If you're focused on the Expo, then the Game Career Sessions on Friday could be a good way to learn about entering the industry. Plus, there’s a GDC $87 Friday Only Expo Pass, which is a great way to have a look at GDC at a low cost: www.gdconf.com/conference/game-career-development
- If you’re a parent, there’s possibilities for childcare: www.jotform.com/KiddieCorp/gdckids
- 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 look like that you're hoping to meet up with for the first time. 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 at a conference sucks, and if you have any pandemic symptoms you’ll need to stay away from the conference. If you're coming from a distance, try to take some time to catch up to jet lag if at all possible. Keeping your energy and spirits up while at GDC will definitely help your chances of having a fun and rewarding time.
- Sometimes wi-fi is spotty, so make sure that you have all you need printed out or otherwise 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 overbook a bit, and ranking events by priority makes it easier to decide which alternate session to go to if your first choice is full or not as interesting as you expected. While at the conference, you might also get word of 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 don't arrive late.
- Overbook your evening parties and events. There may be long lines and it can be difficult to find the "coolest" party and get an invite for each evening. I usually use Google Calendar so I can sync events with my phone. Party-hopping can be fun, but it can also be tiring, so it's good to have 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, the “W” hotel is usually an ok spot to catch up and find others who know what might be 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: EventBrite.com/d/ca--san-francisco/gdc/ There may be other lists that pop up, so searching for “GDC 2023 parties” might be a good idea.
3) Contact Companies
- Here's a list of companies that'll be at GDC: Expo.gdconf.com/2022/exhibitor-list/. Prepare for each of your meetings by keeping clear notes. Have objective feedback ready to give companies that you're planning to meet with, and describe the best way that you can help them. Making a large & detailed spreadsheet and being organized is a good starting point. Most companies won't respond to your emails, but hopefully a few will, and your demo reel and résumé is a great way to show how your skills are aligned with their company and their games. Some companies will have recruiters 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 résumé 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 do your best to be mindful if it doesn't seem like the best approach.
4) Promote Using Your Website, Email, LinkedIn...
- The best bet is to have a strong set of skills shown in your demo reel, convey your personality as clearly as possible, and listen to their needs as a company.
- 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 be able to help them in the future. I try to share 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 find useful, then feel free to post it on Twitter with #GameAudioGDC. I do my best to post information online that might be of help, and if people ask further, 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. An alternate good tag is #GameAudioDev.
- I personally don't feel like I "meet" people online but I do feel that seeing someone's posts online helps frame my first meeting in person with them. If you have interesting & relevant things to say, 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, people might find it a bit tiresome.
- Business cards can be helpful, but phone contacts are good too. If you leave a side of your business card blank, this allows you or the other person to write a note on the back (e.g. a project, Twitter account, etc.)
5) Be Present & Proactive
- Make sure you're not only thinking about how people can help you. Find common points to talk about and really be in the moment.
- Don't take rejection personally, since it's just about finding matches with your skill set. If there's no 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 might be that they'll look to you in the future when there's a need for your skills. And try to genuinely help people, even if it means recommending someone else. 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 and seeing what comes up.
- Trade contact info with everyone. 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 for a gig in 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. Another idea that I haven't tried before is taking a picture of important cards with your phone once you leave a conversation. This way, you'll have the details, and your phone will arrange the photos chronologically and time stamp them. Plus, other photos you take will also jog your memory when you look back at it later. You could also look into mobile apps that scan card details.
- 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 every speaker after their presentation, as they'll be more relaxed and interested to hear reactions to their talk. As a speaker, I really like chatting after I've presented.
6) Pace Your Eating, Party & Sleepy Times
- Usually, parties are where I chat with new people the most, and talking over meals (outside is often an option) is a great way to connect.
- It's important to be respectful of others, and GDC has a great set of guidelines to help out, as well as a mandate to improve diversity: GDConf.com/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 support the community. The GDC Code of Conduct does its best to help set the tone for the conference.
- Try to stay healthy by drinking plenty of water 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. Packing snacks is good too.
- GDC is like a workout. Eat healthy when you can and stay rested. If you’re attending in person you’ll be walking around a lot, which is fun but also really tiring. Earplugs are essential. And protect your voice!
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 out 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 8am morning community meetup is a fun discussion bunch and a great way to get to know others in the game audio community. Try to book a few extra days just to enjoy San Francisco, as it's a beautiful city!
- Making a “crew” on social media, 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 the evening at GDC.
9) Talking with Indies
- GDC doesn't just attract the large studios, but also the indie community. It's a great place to meet people from a bunch of small companies, many of which might need audio. Indies might not be able to pay much up front but you then you can still talk 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 to when the game starts making money. This article from Brian Schmidt of GameSoundCon has great advice.
- 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 influence 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 personally really enjoyed working on indie titles such as Eco, Vessel, and Retro City Rampage and always 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 nice to meet them, 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 perhaps include a single link to your work if they expressed some interest. If it was more of a brief connection, I'll typically just write a one-liner saying that it was good to meet them at GDC and put my website 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 make great friends too.
Keep an eye on #GameAudioGDC for any updates and hopefully you’ll also be able to check out the 8am morning community meetup and the park behind the Carousel for lunch & maybe more.
Instead of an indoor dinner, we’re planning our informal School of Video Game Audio meetup outside on Friday 5pm at the Yerba Buena Gardens behind the Carousel, same spot as Carousel Con. It’ll be a small (belated) nod to our 10 year anniversary (!) for the school, so feel free to pick up some food at the restaurants nearby and relax after a fun, intense, and rewarding GDC. Keep track of how things progress on #GameAudioGDC, and looking forward to seeing you there :)
March 03, 2023 at 03:38 am
This was solid advice, thank you for that extensive list of tips and tricks, Leonard!