Guest Post: GDC Networking Stories from Jeff Edward Ball

by Darius Kazemi on November 30, 2010

in gdc,networking,networking tips

I just got this success story from Jeff Edward Ball explaining to me some of the stuff he experienced at GDC after reading my networking guide. I think Jeff really took the right lessons from my articles. I particularly love his “don’t talk about video games unless someone brings them up” rule and the phrase “sweaty guy,” with which I was previously unfamiliar and will absolutely use in the future. From Jeff:

A short background on me is that I’m a pretty quiet, easily forgettable, analytical type who has a hard time initiating conversation, and I’m horrible at remembering names. I’m awesome at one-on-one conversation, but I suck at groups.

My first GDC was actually 2006 and I was still in college. That GDC was pretty much a total failure. I wasn’t prepared, and didn’t make any connections at all. I only had an expo pass, so I basically ran around the expo floor filling my bag with all the t-shirts I could find. I got a total of 19 that year, including 3 man-purses, and other various things, so at least I came out with my money’s worth. I remember being kinda shocked about the expo floor booth people, after finding the guts to talk to them, that they were actually stand-offish and bitter at my questions about hiring composers. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

My friend Will, who’s a composer at Lucasarts now, eventually recommended your blog. A lot of what you wrote was good general preparation for things, like social etiquette, how to think of people, how to REMEMBER people, how to present yourself, stuff like that. All of that was excellent and I learned a ton.

What affected me the most about the blog was a sort of pervasive attitude that I got from it as a whole, and I decided to make it an experiment. When I went to GDC that year, I prepared myself properly with good clothes, business cards, demo CDs, Resumes, and a rule that I made for myself: “don’t talk about anything video game related, unless someone asks me.” I went in and came out with 50 business cards by the end of the week, and most of these people are still pretty strong connections. I appealed to the composers I met with my violin skills, and that lead to working with some relatively big-name composers providing them live session stuff. That really helped me stand out, as well as telling stories of commercial fishing in Alaska, since I do that too. The rule I set up also helped me avoid something that I’ve heard called being a “sweaty guy.” Sweaty guys are the guys who are at GDC trying to get work, but they’re super star-struck and intimidated. So they walk up to talk to people who are chatting in groups, but they just stand there and get nervous and sweaty instead.

It’s so hard to point out any one situation where I took your advice, because it was kinda like everything I did was somehow influenced by the blog. I remember being at a party and randomly joining a conversation just because everyone in the group was named Jeff. By the end of it, I had made an impression at the very least, and I had all of their business cards. I remember DRAGGING myself out of bed to get breakfast at 7:30am, because there was a group of guys meeting for breakfast burritos. I remember showing a French CEO to Office Depot because he needed to make copies. Showed my friends how to get to a party using Google maps since nobody knew where to go. I made friends with people, and didn’t view anyone like a business connection. I didn’t change my persona to appeal to people I probably wouldn’t like in the first place. It didn’t matter who they were, I gave people the respect I would give myself, and I feel like I’m starting to become more integrated and part of the industry because of it.

And hey, if you need a composer, arranger, or violinist, you should check out Jeff’s professional work as well as his demo reel of original compositions. I like the arranging he did for Monkey Island 2: Special Edition.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nazer November 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

Really great story, it’d be cool to see more stuff like this. I’m sure a lot of people have great stories after reading your networking advice.

And Jeff is the man, always puts up awesome work.

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LostChocolateLab December 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

As someone who met Jeff that year, I can attest to his methodology…he rocked it! (and still does)

“What affected me the most about the blog was a sort of pervasive attitude that I got from it as a whole”

Having taken the sage advice of TinySubversions in the past, I wholeheartedly agree!
http://www.wildfiregames.com/0ad/page.php?p=9851

Thanks Darius!

Everybody needs some sweaty sometimes,
-damian

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Aaron Melcher December 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

So when can I pick up a sweaty guy T-Shirt?

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Max Nichols December 3, 2010 at 12:03 am

I first read your blog four years ago, as a freshman in college, when my networking crusade began in earnest. I certainly couldn’t pinpoint specific examples where the blog made a difference, but your attitude towards networking was a huge influence on me, and, in turn, my school – which I preached to constantly about networking that most students weren’t doing, or at least doing well.

The single biggest thing I’ve taken away was the crystalization of an attitude that I think I would have developed anyways, just… not as fast or with as much clarity: that the reason the game industry is the best in the world is the people in it, and the conversations and interactions you can have with those people. I’m surrounded by amazing people every day, and “networking” events like GDC and Post Mortem are just an excuse to surround myself with a different, and equally amazing, group.

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Patrick December 3, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I remember that GDC, most notably I remember passing out while you were counting business cards, and then later lamented you lost the memory signature on about 50 of them. Meanwhile I became known as the “pizza terrorist” to a modding team for eating some pizza someone left out for dinner one night. Despite my eccentricities, I would have ever been able to start a studio without some of the networking principles I learned from you.

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