Coming back home after GDC is generally quite liberating, in a way. Lack of sleep, your vocal chords tired out, not to mention the overwhelming amount of possible events you had to try to find a way to attend - at least as many of them as possible. Once you get on that plane on your way home, you feel this high of energy. You feel renewed and ready to take on anything. After that comes a short period of withdrawal, in my opinion. You come to terms that you have to wait… wait until you get to meet more game developers you have not yet met, wait until you get to meet in person the people who write all these blogs, articles and books you love reading, wait until you have a chance to actually meet more makers of some of the coolest games you grew up playing.
This year marked my second GDC, and I can see why this is a must-attend conference for game developers. A couple of years ago, a friend had told me to find a way to make it to GDC, with or without a pass, because it’s more about what goes on “during” GDC, and not just about the conferences, talks, roundtables and what’s happening on the expo floor. When I attended my first GDC, I thought the audio community would be hard to find, and that if I found it, it would be very hard to get in, and that if I got in, it would be hard to be able to talk to people in, what I thought would be, a tightly knit community. Well, it could not have been further from the truth. I discovered a truly inspiring, and very open and welcoming community. Very quickly, I was meeting amazing, down-to-earth audio people who were happy to meet me, engage in conversations, and get to know more about who I am and what I do and am passionate about. Some were high level audio leads, composers, or directors. Others were seasoned veterans freelancing in game audio, and some were just as new to GDC as I was.
One of the main events for audio people attending GDC is Sightglass Game Audio Podcast meet-ups. Every morning during the week of GDC, the game audio community meets up at Sightglass coffee at 7am. The only barrier for entry is knowing about it, and showing up! Moderated by Damian Kastbauer, the group is invited to share their thoughts on what went on the day before and what they were looking forward to on that same day. The event is recorded for the Game Audio Podcast, and everyone is welcome to share. From there, everyone is off on their way, fully energized to take on their day. Later during lunch hours, everyone meets up at the Carousel. This is where a lot of the game audio crew takes a breather from GDC, to enjoy a nice lunch over more casual conversations (and, if the weather is kind, in the sun). This is a great place to meet more audio people. This event has evolved to now having its own micro-conference called CarouselCon. The format is three short talks, presented in open-air for everyone who’s there, and amongst which one of the talks is an open slot for anyone wishing to share anything on the spot. Just like Sightglass, this event let’s anyone be able to share their thoughts, regardless of title and seniority.
The Carousel and Sightglass coffee meet-ups are not the only events for the audio community. You also have the IASIG meet-up, the designing sound meet-up, the California pizza kitchen game audio dinner, the SoVGA meet-up, and there’s even a game audio karaoke now. All of these events are amazing to meet new people and network.
Once again, GDC this year had amazing talks. One of the talks I found quite interesting: “Rising Tides: Stories in audio mentorship and community (a micro-talk)”. With speakers from every corner of interactive audio, they shared some stories from their past as to how it all started for them, and how they got their foot in the door. I was able to relate to many of the stories through my own experiences, as well as get a glimpse of what it was like for others. Speakers presented their stories via graceful and aspirational texts which in some cases flowed like poetry or felt as though they came straight out of a novel.
That same warm feeling of wanting to give something back to the community was triggered during the audio mentorship program. The Audio Mentorship Project, an initiative launched a little before GDC by a distinguished group of game audio creation industry veterans aims to facilitate opportunities for mentors who wish to give something back and for mentees seeking to learn. They are reaching out to the community offering to share their knowledge with anyone willing to learn!
GDC is a lot to take in, and what you think you will do during GDC is usually not what you end up doing because of all the spontaneous situations and events you did not know about prior to getting there. Most people go with the flow and have amazing moments because of that. And, while it can be overwhelming, it certainly prepares you for an amazing year and gets you excited to do it all over again the next year. In conclusion, my main takeaway for this year’s GDC is “community”. Through all the events around game audio, the mixers and meet-ups, I felt these moments showed it to be one of the best sides of the game industry. And, while it might also be the case for other disciplines within game development, for audio, it’s definitely the community.