Brittney does GDC

The Anticipation

When I had first been offered an all-access pass by my friends at DMG (Dames Making Games Toronto), I was beyond ecstatic. It almost didn’t feel real. I was going to an event that I had been dreaming about for 10 years. Having the pass covered made it accessible and made my trip to GDC 2015 a reality. So, with that said, I’d like to thank my DMG friends from the bottom of my heart; thank you for making this dream come true.

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Now came the planning. What will I see. What will I do. Who will I meet. I planned it all. If you had looked at my calendar, it would be jammed up completely the week of march 1st-7th. Little did I know how much of that would end up changing. More of that later.

The GDC app was handy in that it let me figure out which talks I wanted to attend. After going through ALL the options and selecting ALL the ones I liked — I went back to the schedule, and realized that more often than not, there were 5 talks happening at the same time. This was the first time during this process that I started to panic. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Was I going to pick the right talks? What if I’m wrong and wasted that precious time slot? GDC costs a lot of $$$, and I can’t be wasting anything. At least, that was my mindset at the time.

MY GDC GOALS:

  • Immerse myself into the environment and surround myself with like-minded individuals
  • Meet other game developers (outside of the Toronto crowd)
  • Play new & upcoming games (especially alt. controller ones)
  • Learn some nuggets of wisdom that I can take back into my own work

My goals were solid and I felt confident going into the experience. A lot of that changed. I wouldn’t say for better or for worse, it just changed.

Hello San Fransisco

Upon arriving, I got my first look at San Fransisco and the excitement only grew. It felt like Toronto’s older, more experienced cousin… who is a bit unpredictable, with a wildcard side.

I jumped into the Game Design Workshop the very next day. I had such a good time making a game within the span of 3 hours with people I had just met. We reskinned an existing game called “Sissy Fight” with our own theme: “The Evillest of Disney Villains” and added new game mechanics. The iteration process was super effective and really drove the idea home of the need to constantly be testing our design before investing too much time & effort into it. After a few playthroughs, sometimes we realized a newly added mechanic slowed down the game too much — and therefore had to chuck it. But without testing right away, that mechanic could have sat there causing problems, and we wouldn’t have had anyway to pinpoint it because we would have already moved on.

Game Design Workshop

I purposefully tried to separate myself from people that I knew during the workshop in order to challenge my collaborative & leadership skills. It was a bit daunting to be in a room with over 100 people, 90% of whom were guys. I surprised myself with not caring about that aspect, and I became a leader in my group just like I would be back home.

After a long day at the game design workshop, I was looking forward to a quiet dinner with my fellow travel buddies from Toronto. I quickly found out that they had something entirely different in store for me back at the Hotel! I dashed – yes, dashed – back to Hotel, in order to catch them before they left to go to an exclusive Kiip partyAnd so my night began.

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With barely any food in my belly, a highly alcoholic drink in hand — I perused the trendy restaurant/bar with my game friends to meet other really cool devs. The night seemed to go on and on and on…moving to the Sky Lounge for more mingling & drinks, until we all crashed in our hotel beds around 3am.

I woke up surprisingly chipper the next morning, ready to seize day 2 of the Game Design Workshop. Little did I know that my midnight shenanigans were going to creep up on me in a few hours. Excited to be outside in the warm San Fransisco streets, I filled up on delicious breakfast food at The Grove and gulped down what seemed to be a 1 litre glass of orange juice. I was ready.

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Day 2 of the Game Design Workshop was all about taking popular digital games and creating an analogue paper prototype. My new team was tasked with converting Harvest Moon to analogue.

I helped a lot with maintaining scope of the assignment and making sure there was a clear way to win. Some of my teammates had very elaborate point systems they wanted to implement… and I knew that if I couldn’t understand his explanation in under a minute, then it probably wasn’t the right move for this particular task.

We completed in time, and had a pretty cool prototype that others play tested for the rest of the session. It was around this point that I started to feel woozy, and had to dip out of the workshop day early … and simply pass out for the next 2 hours. I learned a lesson that day: pace yourself at GDC. It was an amateur move, I know, but then again, it is my first time going.

Halfway through, and so much to do!

It was on Day 3 that I decided to forgo any lectures that were going to be taped & available in the GDC vault. It was the best move I could have done. I spent a lot of my time exploring the Expo floor, playing AAA games that were going to be released, talking to really cool people… and mostly just soaking in the energy that was GDC.

There were times when I questioned if I was doing things right, if I was presenting myself correctly, if I was asking the right questions – and I’m still not sure if I did. But I do know that I had a great time.

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The alternate controller section was AMAZING. I was really looking forward to seeing what people were making all over the world, and I was not disappointed! My favourite game was “Butt Sniffin Pugs”, a super adorable game, where you play as a pug, digitally chasing around anooother pug, while putting your entire face into the butt of a pug plushie …in order to ….well, play. Every time you managed to make contact, a bonus activity appeared on screen that the pugs could interact with. There was no winning or losing, just butt sniffin fun!

The indie section was also very cool and I had such a good time playing games with my friends. A game that really stood out for me was “How do you do it?”; a girl waits for her parents to leave the house, and then begins to put her dolls in compromising positions. It’s hilarious and so on-point with my childhood that I couldn’t help but play multiple times.

Walking the various halls of GDC was inspiring, to say the least. Had me thinking about exhibiting my own creations. One day. Soon.

Evening rolled around and it was time to attend the Wild Rumpus Party. Had an o-kay time. Enjoyed the sim footage that was on the projector during one of the DJ sets. That was fun. But all in all, it just ended up being a bunch of awkward kids in an awkwardly lit room. I couldn’t really get my hands on any of the games since they were crowded 100% of the time. Having come and conquered, my friends & I decided to leave and move on to another party.

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Day 4 brings us to the XBOX Women in Games luncheon. I was SUPER pumped about this event that I managed to get invited to (thanks to my DMG friends!!!). After having spent the past few days completely surrounded by testosterone, it was hella nice to be around the fairer  sex again.

It seemed like all the women at GDC were at this event, and that was really cool. I sat at the DMG-filled table and felt really proud to be there. The food came; I ate an obscene amount of cheese, and luckily none of my friends judged me. Then it was time for the panel. It was an incredible assortment of women in the games industry, and I felt incredibly motivated by hearing them speak about their personal journeys and where they are today.

Robin Hunicke was especially inspiring to me. To hear that she was personally recruited by Will Wright (my hero) and has worked on the Sims titles (my childhood dreams), and hearing her talk so openly about her ups & downs really made my day. I made it my personal mission to approach her that day. If only to thank her for being so awesome. I accomplished that mission.

The rest of day included sushi in the park with the DMG crowd, a talk on “The Art of Monument Valley”, and the premiere screening of “Game Loading: The Rise of the Indies“. So great.

The Final Stretch

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I split day 5 into two. Spent the morning and early afternoon walking around and playing games. Particularly, checked out the staged demo that Campo Santo had put on for “Fire Watch“. It’s a game that I am really looking forward to, so I was pumped to play the demo for myself.

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My excitement was doubled after completing the demo (which is awesome), and I was exhilarated to have found a significant bug in the game that completely stopped the character from communicating with the operator. They had me fill out a bug report and everything… it was the best.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent galavanting around San Fransisco. Since it was my first time, I had to do the classics. Eat amazing ice cream, hang out with “free spirits” in the park, visit Fisherman’s Wharf, peer at Alcatraz Island, see the Golden Gate bridge (from a great distance) & eat some real good salt water taffy.

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The evening brought the final event for me at GDC. A swanky dinner with the Ontario gaming crowd. It was delicious, filled with great company, and the perfect way to end the trip. Thank you to my friends at XMG for including me. I had such an incredible time at GDC, because of my friends at DMG, XMG and others… and this memorable week in my life happened because I let myself enjoy it. Instead of over-planning and worrying about missing out, I just enjoyed it. Whatever came my way, I let it be. If I missed a rad party, it’s okay – because I was off doing something else rad. This trip has helped me come closer to just being present – and not be worried about what I “should” be doing instead.

 

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