GDC FAQ

Here are the questions we typically get from students concerning the GDC. Please read all of these carefully if you are going to the conference. We will organize an online meeting with all students that are going to the GDC before the conference, so you will get the contact information for the students that are going with you.

Do I have to be over 21 to go to the GDC?

The conference itself does not have an age requirement, but a lot of the networking events require you to be 21 or older. If you are younger, expect that you will miss out on a lot of networking opportunities. You are much better off watching the talks online for free. Visit the GDC YouTube channel to get an idea of what is available.

Do I have to be a senior to go to the GDC?

Not really, but there is no point in going if you have not made many games yet and you do not have a portfolio to show for it. This is a conference for video game professionals, and you will have a hard time connecting to people if you have no experience making commercial quality games.

How do the course and its assignments work?

You will receive an email with more information about the assignments you have to do before the conference. The assignments will never interfere with the GDC schedule, but prepare to take notes during the conference.

Registration for the course is done through Dr. De Schutter, who will force add you. You will sign a few legal documents when registering for the course, but during the conference you get to pick the events you will attend.

We will have one mandatory meeting in San Francisco at the very beginning of the conference, but all meetings after that are optional.

Do I have to be at the GDC for the entire week to get the credit hours for it?

If you are registered for IMS285 and you complete the writing assignment and all its other criteria, you will get the credit. We recommend that you are at the conference for at least three days so you have enough material to finish the writing assignment. You do not have to be at the GDC for the entire week if your budget does not allow you to.

Does the GDC trip excuse me from other classes?

It does not. We will provide you with a letter that proves you will attend the conference, and that kindly asks your professors to accommodate you. Professors are not required to do so, and their course will always have priority. You should therefore expect having to make up for going to the GDC.

What pass should I get?

You have several options, as shown on the GDC Passes page.

The conference is split in half, with two days of summits and three days of main conference and expo. If you want to attend the conference during the full five days, consider these three passes:

  • All-Access includes the main conference, all summits and the VR conference. We recommend this only if you want to spend Day 1 and 2 at the VR conference.
  • Conference + Summits does not include the VR conference, but will give you plenty of sessions to attend throughout the entire week and allows you to access everything except the VR conference sessions.
  • Summits is a pass you can use to go to any of the summits on Monday or Tuesday, as well as the expo, sponsored sessions and game career seminar.
      • The expo will not keep you occupied longer than a full day.
      • Sponsored sessions vary, but they are typically a little sub-par and they come with advertising.
      • The game career seminar on Friday is essential for you as a student.

    All three of these are included in the other two passes listed above. A Summits pass is a good idea, but your Wednesday and Thursday will not present many interesting things to do.

If the options above are out of your price range, the GDC has other activities going on almost every day. For example, you could get only the Conference pass and go to the game accessibility on Monday (a separate event with its own passes). Check Eventbrite to find opportunities like these.

Similarly, you could get the indie specialty pass and simply do other GDC-related activities on Wednesday through Friday. You can always meet game developers on the public spaces of the conference.

Passes that do not include a full week's worth of content:

  • Expo/Expo Plus is mostly a pass to go to the expo. You're at the GDC and you get to go to the Game Career Seminar on Friday, but this is not that much content. There is very little to do on Monday and Tuesday with this pass, and it will be hard to get a full schedule on it on both Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Speciality Passes admit you to specific summits, in particular the Independent Games Summit, Audio Conference and the Educators Summit. The Indie pass is a lot of fun on Monday and Tuesday and offers great content. The Educators pass is good for students wanting to get into gaming academia, and the Audio pass is good for students wanting to get into audio.
    • There is also a Student Specialty pass that only gives you access to the games career seminar on Friday. If your budget is tight, the career seminar is good but provides a very limited look at GDC.

The GDC has a conference associate program and several scholarships. We highly recommend all of these programs as they come with additional perks and networking opportunities.

Last but not least, the AIMS program offers a scholarship that helps to cover the costs of one student to attend the GDC.

This is all very expensive. Are there scholarships?

The AIMS program offers a scholarship that helps to cover the costs of one student to attend the GDC. However, aside from the AIMS GDC scholarship, students can apply for the GDC conference associate program, the IGDA scholarship, and other GDC scholarships. We highly recommend all of these programs, as they come with additional perks and networking opportunities.

How do I prepare for the conference?

  • Visit the GDC site and look for their scheduler. Figure out which sessions you want to attend and add them to your schedule. Make sure you arrive well on time for any career event as they tend to be very crowded. Make sure to search for Miami University faculty among the presenters.
  • Install these apps on your phone:
    • Eventbrite. Look at it before the conference and get tickets for some of the evening events. Registration typically closes before the event starts, and it is often possible that you will no longer be able to get in without a ticket. (Some parties require you to be 21. Bouncers will be checking IDs.)
    • Uber. We recommend them for moving around the city. Use the code "mukug" when you sign up and your first ride will be free (up to $20). If you travel a lot in groups, you could get a couple of free rides for the entire group.
    • Twitter. Find out what the hashtag is for the GDC and keep an eye on it. Follow @bobdeschutter as well as the handle of your fellow GDC-going Miami students.
    • The GDC app so you can have access to your scheduler.
    • The GroupMe app. (Check the Canvas site for it.)
  • Visit the Canvas site, read the syllabus, sign up for our GroupMe, and do the assignments (including signing the Study Abroad documents).
  • Make sure you bring everything mentioned under the "What should I bring to the conference?" topic.

What should I bring to the conference?

  • A backpack or bag is useful to have at any conference.
  • A PDF portfolio (with videos and pictures of your work) on your cell phone or tablet. You want to show your work to people very quickly.
  • Clear tape so you can secure your badge properly. If it falls out and does not get returned, then you will have to buy a new one.
  • Note-taking supplies
  • Printed business cards. Make sure you have at least 50 to hand out. We have had good experiences with us.moo.com in the past.
  • A few résumés if you are looking for a job or an internship.

What do I wear for the conference?

The dress code at the GDC is very casual. It does not hurt to dress up a little bit, but there is no reason to wear anything that is very formal, such as a suit. You will see people at the conference in all sorts of attire. Just wear clean, comfortable clothes that are not potentially offensive to someone. It is always a good idea to dress in layers so you can adjust your clothing for different temperatures.

Dr. Bob typically wears a buttoned shirt, jeans and his skater-style sneakers to the GDC. He tops of this wonderful ensemble with a light vest during the day, and a leather jacket during the nights. It is perfectly fine to cosplay as him, but we advise against wearing a fake goatee.

What should my resume look like?

You want a clean document that excels at conveying what you can bring to a company. List the games you have made, and add your specific contribution to each game. For example

Far Cry X for yBox 720, Playstation 86, and PC
Worked with the creative director to create a Paper Prototype
Modeled and UV mapped the Environment Assets
Managed a team of 8 three-headed monkeys using the SCRUM methodology

List all relevant work experience, your academic achievements, your relevant hobbies, etc. Try to indicate a measure of success wherever you can. Indicate how many downloads your game generated, or which awards it won.

Finally, add a link to a digital portfolio at the beginning of your resume, in the area where you list your contact information. Make sure the digital portfolio is easy to navigate, that it emphasizes your best work, and that it will make an impact in a short amount of time.

What should my business card look like?

We have had good experiences with us.moo.com in the past for business cards, and they have some nice templates you could use.

Make sure that the business card allows someone to contact you. If it would help them remember you, that is even better. A picture or cool graphic could help. We recommend cards that fit a regular wallet well. Avoid anything with folds or pop-outs.

How do I meet people at the conference?

Finding game developers is very easy. As soon as you are at the conference or one of its evening events, you will literally be surrounded by hundreds of them.

Your next step is to talk to people. It can be scary to "network" if you are not used to doing it, so we recommend that you Google some networking tips online. If you are an introverted person, it is a good idea to add that to your search query as well.

  • Networking is very much a numbers game. You want to start conversations with as many people as you can. Some conversations will be awkward, some will be great. You have nothing to lose when you approach someone. Most people are at the GDC to network and are open to talking to strangers.
  • Your goal for networking is to build professional relationships, and this is easier with some people than with others. If you happen to meet someone who is unfriendly to you, then just go talk to someone else and do not take it personally. It happens to everyone, and it is certainly not the end of the world. Do not let it get to you. Simply move on.

Don't overthink your opening. There are hundreds of ways to start a conversation with someone. Introducing yourself is an easy way to do it. Asking someone to play a game you made is another one. Commenting on their shirt, the event, a speaker, the weather, etc. are all good ways. It honestly does not matter much what you say or how you say it. Just pretend that you have known the person that you just met for years, and start with a little bit of small talk.

As soon as you have made the introduction, ask them open questions (i.e., questions that start with 'why', 'how', 'what', 'describe', 'tell me about', or 'what do you think about' and that require people to share an opinion or a meaningful story.) For example:

  • What project are you working on right now?
  • How would you describe the atmosphere in the company you are working for?

If the person seems to be unwilling to talk with you, you can always try to follow up with a closed question before trying with an open question again. For example:

  • Q: How are you liking the conference? (Open question)
  • A: It's all right.
  • Q: Ok, well then... what was the best talk you saw so far? (Closed)
  • A: Ken Levine's talk was pretty cool.
  • Q: Oh, I loved Bioshock! What did you like about his talk? (Open)

Remember that your goal is to build up a professional relationship. You are looking to establish a sense of camaraderie, communality or kinship between you and your conversation partner. From there, you can work towards building trust and collaborations.

Once you feel that the conversation is over, exchange some form of contact information, whether it is a business card, Twitter handle, or an email address. There is no point in playing the networking game if you are not going to stay in touch.

After the conference, go through all the business cards you accumulated and send a nice, short email to the people you would like to know better. Some lines you could put in there are:

  • I had fun talking to you.
  • Let me know if I can help with X or Y.
  • I'd love to learn more about your work.

How should I conduct myself at the conference?

Professionalism is the key word.

  • Always be polite, kind and considerate.
  • Even if you are over 21, we strongly recommend against drinking alcohol in this environment. People will notice that you have been drinking long before you do and it can hurt you in a number of ways.
  • Do not make sarcastic or offensive remarks about famous game designers, their games, or anyone you see at the conference. This is a small community and word travels fast.

Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of?

San Francisco is by no means a very safe city so here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your badge can be worth a lot of money. If you lose it, you have to buy a new one. Put it somewhere safe when you are not at the conference so that it does not attract attention, and make sure that it cannot slip out of your lanyard.
  • We strongly recommend that students organize themselves to move around in groups throughout the conference. It is cheaper, safer, more fun, and helpful for networking. Exchange contact information (such as cell phones numbers) with your fellow students, and keep track of where people are. Leave no one from your group behind at an evening event. Agree beforehand about what time you want to return to the hotel, and stick with that time.
  • Take cabs or Ubers to get back to your sleeping accommodation at night. There are plenty of cabs to go around and they are not that expensive, especially if you are in a group.
  • Stay away from the Tenderloin area. You can locate the area on Google Maps. There have been stories of conference goers being assaulted in that area of San Francisco at night.
  • For those of legal drinking age, we recommend avoiding alcoholic beverages. A clear head makes better decisions.
The conference itself is quite safe, and the same can be said of the evening events we have gone to in the past. For example, the Venus Patrol and Wild Rumpus party have a safe spaces policy. The parties do tend to be crowded, but there are often places where you can sit down or hang out as a group, too.

Can I get a second opinion about all of this?

Yes, you can: GDC Survival Guide for First Timers