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GDX ’09 Wrap-up Report

April 26, 2009

GDX Coverage provided by Nate Berna for Applied Game Design

Hey readers, my  name is Nate Berna and  I guess you could call me a “special guest blogger” here with some coverage of  the very recent GDX. I’ll be giving you guys my perspective on the event as a whole as well as some thoughts on all the presentations I attended. So to kick things off here is my GDX 09 wrap up:

Now that I’ve had a couple days to mull over the events of GDX, with all the information and insight gained, and all the networking I accomplished with fellow students and industry professionals alike, I can safely say that 40 dollars was a f**king steal.

Whatever my expectations may have been before the conference (GDC Lite), I quickly learned that this was a weekend for the students. It was a weekend for the students to bond a little bit, a weekend for the students to get practice networking, and it was a weekend for some fantastic minds from the industry to pass on some valuable wisdom and advice, most of which was heavily geared to the hopeful students in the audience.

The event did not start off with a bang as I had imagined, no crowd of attendees crowding around the doors waiting to get in, no explosive “welcome to GDC” speech, no flashy booths and thankfully no cos-players. What it was instead was a huddle of nervous and excited students, with teachers and event workers bustling around getting things set up. For many of us it was our first time at an event like this, and for the most part, we all knew each other as peers if not already friends. I was so pleased that it was like this, rather than the grander event I had imagined. The reason being, It was a comfortable environment to finally get my feet wet in the realm of networking that I had until then been avoiding due to the fact that I’m shy and introverted to a fault.

The first day was a mixed bag, as several presenters definitely seemed inexperienced or somewhat unprepared and others, while great talks, were not well suited to the audience at hand. Despite that, the quality of the presentations ramped up considerably throughout the day concluding with a great and hilarious speech by the Fat Man, George Sanger. While I missed the after-party, I hear that it went well and was a lot of fun, and it must have been, because rarely have I seen so many game designers awake at 8AM in the morning, much less with smiles on their faces, as I did the following day. In other words, at the outset of the second day, energy was high.

The second day began with an excellent glimpse into the mind of Jason Rohrer, and concluded with a great presentation by Andrew Bains on Epic Games’ approach to level design. In between the two were a number of similarly strong presentations, geared perfectly for the students in the audience. A personal highlight for me was hearing Mark Nelson’s speech on Open World RPG design, being the most purely design focused of all the presentations.

Throughout both days I had tons of opportunities to get to know my peers better as well as finally meet some real-live industry professionals from Ian Schreiber to the aforementioned Nelson. This was the true heart of the conference to me, I was able to bounce creative ideas and discuss the lectures with my friends, and get to know others much better than I had before. By the end of the conference everyone was so hyped up to get to work on their portfolios, start saving for GDC, and otherwise start getting their shit together. I was no exception.

While GDX wasn’t what I had expected, it was much more than I had hoped for. I’ve made some invaluable connections that I didn’t have before, and I got to peek into the thought process some of the designers I respect the most.

If I have any hopes for next year’s GDX, it’s that it’s even bigger. I hope the success of this year’s conference will attract more people to our creative coast of the industry, and I hope that even more students will attend, as I noticed a distinct lack of sophomores and especially freshmen at the event. I also think the event was perhaps over too soon, as everyone was still hyped up and ready to keep networking and attending presentations. Even if it’s just another after-party, it was a shame to see everyone just filter out onto Broughton St. after the keynote and go their separate ways.

But as it stands, GDX 09 was nothing short of a success. I gained invaluable insight from people I respect, I formed new personal connections that I didn’t have before, had a lot of fun, and most importantly, got inspired to get my shit in gear and so maybe someday soon I can be a part of this industry too.

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