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Where are all the good parties at GDC?

February 15, 2010

The Love Letter, by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta

The question was asked of me this year earlier than it was last year, and let me confess something – I don’t always know. Every year at GDC, I seem to miss some amazing party that I clearly should have been at, because I was doing something epically geeky like playing Family Business with a group of fellow game developers. Sometimes, a party that I thought would be awesome is really quite meh, and othertimes, the best groups are those that emerge randomly like a giant game dev Katamari (one year, nearly 30 of us had an unplanned dinner in the Hyatt).

So, to answer the question in a general way, here you go:

  • The Member Only Parties: I am going to three of these parties, because I am a member of these respective groups. They’re not groups that you can join, per sae, but you get invited to them. If you don’t already know about these, then you need to wait until next year.
  • The Sponsored Parties: There are TONS of these events. Typically, they are designed to introduce you to a product or a company, particularly if that company is interested in recruiting you. The higher your personal level, the more likely you are to get invited to some of the really hip and exclusive recruiting parties.
  • The Gatherings: There are tons of people who, like you, wonder where the parties are. In general, people come out or back from dinner around 10. The Marriott and the W seem to be perennial favorites of developers, but since we still haven’t recovered from our lack of The Fairmont, it’s hard to say where a given group will be year to year.
  • The Non-Party Gatherings: There are lots of people who gather at GDC early in the morning just to hang out, have coffee and play board games. We used to meet by the escalators on the third floor, but a building change means we’re moving. I don’t know where yet.

So, what’s your best bet? Hard to say. I’ll recommend some things that I think might help:

  • Don’t spend  $2-3K to come to GDC only to get trashed, hung over and embarrassed in front of your gaming icon.
  • Bring business cards (250-500).
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I don’t, but I have practice.
  • Be respectful of developers who are already engaged in conversations if you just want to introduce yourself.

See you there, and if you know of any parties, feel free to add them.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Pioli permalink
    February 15, 2010 1:26 am

    It’s going to be another crazy GDC this year. it’s been offset by a day into Tuesday – Saturday, so does that change things? Are there going to be lots of Saturday parties, you think?

    Either way, I might be too exhausted to attend any.

    • February 15, 2010 2:06 am

      I don’t think it has ever been on a Saturday before, so I guess we will have to see. My intuition says no… in past years, Friday night was I’m-Exhausted-About-To-Die-Just-Want-Sleep night, not Party night, and presumably people will be equally tired after 5 days no matter what those days are :)

      For parties, I would also add the… not sure what to call them… viral parties? Where in theory it’s supposed to be exclusive (say, a party held by a studio for employees and close friends), but the employees can invite anyone, so if you happen to know anyone who works there you can get an invite if they like you. Last year I saw an ultra-viral party where once you got invited, you could actually invite other people too, ad infinitum. That one was pretty crowded, as I recall.

      That said, some of the best nights I’ve had at GDC weren’t at parties, but hanging out with friends (old or new). Parties tend to be noisy, with loud music and lots of developers trying to talk over it. But a group of ten people going to a nice quiet restaurant and chatting about games? Priceless.

  2. February 15, 2010 9:05 am

    Yeah absolutel best GDC moments for me were hanging out with people that I’d worked with in a virtual office environment and being able to meet them live. Chasing invites seems kind of venal in retrospect, although free food is worth its weight in… food.

  3. February 15, 2010 10:17 am

    The funny thing is, some of the bigger parties are the least enjoyable. I have to agree that the smaller, organized ones (e.g. speaker’s party) are often better. Of course, as mentioned, the random get-togethers are cool too… but we AI folks travel in packs all week anyway.

  4. February 15, 2010 11:25 am

    Of course “3rd floor by the escalators” means nothing anymore since we don’t have Moscone West (the nice building) this year.

  5. February 16, 2010 2:00 am

    As someone who’s been actively trying to get better at the networking angle(I’ve foolishly let it slide in the past), the tips raise a question I think a lot of people in my situation don’t even know they have:

    When we say to be respectful of conversations, what (in general) is the acceptable approach? Obviously, this will vary from person to person, but I suspect (particularly given your reaction to me calling John “Mr. Romero”), that my default level-of-respect may be more conservative than is entirely healthy (not to mention sometimes “hovering” in hopes of getting a polite turn irritates people you’d rather not).

    I’ve been discovering, among it’s other peculiarities and often because of them, that etiquette in the gamedev arena is… let’s say “frequently unexpected”.

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