Reactions to a GDC Survival Guide

by Darius Kazemi on February 5, 2008

in breakingin,conferences,gdc,networking,students

James Portnow just posted an article on GameCareerGuide about what to do at GDC if you’re a student. The advice is mostly great, although I disagree strongly on a few points.

He says not to attend any lectures. And he predicts that he will be flamed for it. I’m about to flame him, but for a totally different reason than he was probably expecting. As I’ve said before, lectures are not a terribly good networking opportunity. I don’t think you should really be attending for the content so much as the rhetoric. What do I mean by this? When you attend a talk about, I dunno, real-time lighting or agile development or whatever, you should not just about those topics: you should learn how to talk about those topics! You learn the language, the lingo, the attitudes. For example, at that agile development talk, it’s less important to learn how they do agile at Studio X and more important to learn that at a lot of game companies, people play fast and loose with the agile rules and tend to view big-A Agile people as stuffy. This will help you blend in with professional game developers. It’s one of the reasons that pro devs had a hard time believing I was a student back in my student days. I would literally take notes on prevalent attitudes and trends.

He says to spend a day at the Career Pavilion. I agree, but only if you’re looking for a job. If you’re smart, you’re attending GDC not 4 months before graduation, but a number of years before graduation. Starting early is key. If you’re not looking for a job immediately, spend an hour or three browsing the Career Pavilion and picking up handouts with job descriptions, chatting with reps, but don’t waste your whole damn day there. The interesting people are probably out in the halls.

He also says to avoid talking to other students. This I think is a hugely bad piece of advice. Many of my closest game industry friends are people I befriended at GDC when we were both students. My lead programmer is someone I met at GDC when we were both students. What people don’t realize is that students who attend GDC are generally of a higher caliber than students in general, and that those students are probably going to be in the industry soon, even if you aren’t. As I’ve said before: your fellow n00bs are important. Especially at GDC. Obviously if you have a choice of having lunch with a student and lunch with a developer, you should go with the latter. Your student friend will understand. On the other hand, that’s often a false dichotomy: why not invite the student friend along for lunch? Now you spend time with a developer and there’s another student out there who thinks you are awesome.


Ian Schreiber February 6, 2008 at 4:18 am

I had pretty much the same reaction reading the article.

I was also shocked when the first piece of advice involved bringing a stack of resumes. Yes, if you’re spending all your time in the career pavillion this makes sense; and yes, if you hand out your resume at a party then assume it’ll be lost. But shouldn’t it be said that you should never bring out your resume unless asked, because otherwise it makes you look presumptuous and rude at best?

Lastly, the author says not to attend the sessions, and you counter by saying that you SHOULD so that you can talk the talk. I found it strange that neither of you mentioned roundtables, which do still count as sessions last I checked, and which are prime networking opportunities.

Darius Kazemi February 6, 2008 at 3:23 pm

I do mention roundtables in the article I linked in my post.

Elle Munster February 11, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Hey I just wanted to thank you so much for spending so much time giving great networking tips. This is going to be my first year at GDC and I’ve been having quite a bit of anxiety about it, but these tips certainly do help. The thing I’m most worried about is how to introduce myself. I just started learning all about game design (programming, modeling, actual designing of the game idea, etc) this year and I’m still not 100% sure what I really want to focus on. I enjoyed the little bit of programming I have learned and have been really enjoying alot of the Maya things I’ve learned. So I’m not sure how to introduce myself besides saying, “Hi, I’m Elle. I’m currently a student of game design….” and then I draw a blank. I’d like to me somewhat memorable, but I’m not sure what to say besides, “yeah and I’m not really sure which aspect of game design I enjoy most, but as of right now, everything I’ve learned has been VERY enjoyable…” haha. Any tips?

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