March 6, 2011 12:30 AM | jeriaska
As the 2011 Game Developers Conference draws to a close, we hear from game designers and event attendees to hear their impressions. To people who made the trip from a neighboring city or a town halfway across the world, we're asking,"GDC: What Brings You Here?" (Images from GDC, as well as the Nidhogg and Kill Screen / Scandinavia parties, can be found on flickr in our photoset and on the official GDC photostream.)
This is only my first full day here and my first GDC. I was influenced to come out by fellow game music composer Danny Baranowsky, who's done Super Meat Boy and a lot of other great projects. We met on the Bandcamp charts, so to speak, and hit each other up on twitter. We were both charting at the time. He came out to one of my shows and had a good time. Since then he's been kind of a mentor to me in the videogame aspect of my career.
He said, "You have got to come out to GDC." And I said, "Why? I'm not a game developer." And he said, "Trust me. It will be so worth it!" So I did, and here I am.
So far it's been great. You get to meet people with great visions and ideas. Danny has introduced me to Adam Atomic, who did Canabalt. We talked for almost an hour and I got so much great feedback. Meeting with like-minded individuals, picking their brains and working on creating the next great thing is what GDC is about for me.
Random and DN3 of Mega Ran 9 at the Scandinavian indie game GDC party
GDC is a place to cross-pollinate ideas for business and design, and to (re-)connect with other devs I haven't seen in a year (or have only met virtually.) The best conversations take place among small handfuls of people over food. "What am I missing in the design of my upcoming game 1... 2... 3... KICK IT (Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby)?" "Where's my marketing strategy weak?" "How are we going to outshine those AAA studios whose lunchtime budgets exceed those of our entire games?"
When you get three bright minds looking at each others' studios, problems just seem to melt away, and you gain this almost spiritual clarity. Plus, there are pancakes.
As things go, this is probably one of the most important events this year for videogame developing. It's really wonderful to meet people who aren't local, if you're interested in independent games as a consumer or if you're involved in a dev group or a social network of people who are curating games. For myself, I'm involved in the Babycastles contingent in Brooklyn and with Pixeljam, where I make music for their games. Monday night, when I came here, within ten minutes I was able to meet five or six developers for iPhone that I really, really admire. Specifically, the ones that I was really excited about were the Superbrothers making Sword & Sworcery, Kairosoft's Game Dev games and Galactic Keep by Gilded Skull Games.
As a musician, I'm also looking to develop new contacts and meet people. So, developers, if you like my music, please reach out to me. With Pixeljam, Rich, Miles and I have not seen each other very much in the past couple years because we all live in different cities. We work together and we make these great games, and I think it's a miracle that we're able to do what we do. Hopefully this is the start of seeing each other a little bit more this year.
When I first came to GDC it was to go to the talks, to figure out what was going on and to be in the middle of it. That was really useful, at first. I've been here a few years now and I've found that going to the talks can be exhausting and not even that worthwhile because it's kind of hit-and-miss. You can actually download all the talks for a small fee or get them on DVD. That's actually a great way to get all the GDC's knowledge and go through it, while opening you up to meet up with people you know, make new friends and have a good time.
There's always standout talks. Clint Hocking is a great speaker. The GDC microtalks are a great use of time because Richard Lamarchand gets the right people together. But to me one of the most significant ones I came across while going through the GDC talks was one by Jon Blow.
Within games, there's a lot of talk about the craft, about how to make something better, or more appealing, or more addictive, but nobody actually zooms out and says, "Hey, maybe some of the stuff we're doing is not so good." That discussion almost never happens, and I was really feeling the lack of it at one point. Going through the GDC talks I was led to a talk called "Design Reboot" from the Montreal International Games Summit, which was a head-on analytical discussion of that topic in a very fearless way. Of all the talks I've heard, that is probably the main one, mostly because of how clear-sighted it was.
It makes everyone very uncomfortable to question the worth of what we're doing, or to feel shame for the things we're doing, and he did say that if you aren't making something that is adding to people's lives and you are doing that knowingly then you should feel bad about that. He has a passion and a vision for videogames and realizes there are trends that are problematic, so if we don't face those clearly we're being dishonest with ourselves.
For more information on the Game Developers Conference, see the official website. Photos by Jeriaska.