This post is for the wonderful people who have asked me how GDC was. It's for the wonderful people who I met at GDC, and the equally wonderful people I didn't have a chance to meet. It's for me, when 6 months from now, I need a reminder at how life-changing that week really was.
But first, a primer on GDC. GDC is short for Game Developers Conference, and I've attended the past 4 years now. The conference is always nothing short of amazing, but I noticed a troubling trend from prior years. I came home every year with a stack of business cards, and maybe 2 or 3 people that I actually stayed in contact with once I was home. I needed contacts, allies, mentors, and friends. So I decided to mix it up this year; I applied to be a Conference Associate.
The Conference Associates are a group of around 400 people who run the conference, doing everything from badge scanning to info-booth manning to make sure everything runs smoothly. Apparently the program is pretty hard to get in to- and why shouldn't it be? A free pass to the conference and discounted hotels alone is worth the 25 or so hours of work I put in. But the program is so much more than that.
And now, for a primer on me. I've always been an introvert, though I've forced myself out of that shell over the course of the past 5 years or so. I've done so mainly out of necessity. I think we introverts have it kind of rough in a society where the people you know matters more than the things you know. That said, even though I can be friendly and sociable, the introverted nature never fully goes away. Sometimes we have to go find our quiet place and recharge for a bit. Sometimes we just don't want to talk anymore. And sometimes, it's really hard to inject ourselves into an environment where everyone seems to know each other. That's what I was most worried about in joining the CA program.. with so many veterans, maybe it would be hard to meet people?
Luckily, it wasn't. At all.
This isn't just a group of employees, or volunteers, or people hoping for a free pass to an expensive conference. The CA program is a family. It's a group of people who default to loving you in a world where people default to judging you. There aren't many rules, because everyone is already on the same page. The whole atmosphere is contagious; just being among CAs makes you want to be happy, encouraging, selfless, and welcoming.
Leaving the conference, I'd say I met about 100 of the 400 CAs at some point. I could probably call 20 of them close friends. I can't name a single person who I disliked. Quite a bit better than 2-3, I'd say.
And if I'm being completely honest, I did struggle at first. Monday night, after the first day of the conference, I found myself completely socially exhausted. I slipped off by myself to find a nice, quite restaurant where I could collect my thoughts and relax. A few times throughout the week, my body ached so badly and I was so tired that I didn't know how I would be able to go on. But how can you not push forward when you have 399 other people willing to lend an ear or a hand? You draw energy from that sort of crowd, and it's great to not be alone.
To my new CA friends, stay in touch! If I can help you somehow, ask! And I had better see you all next year, if not sooner.
To the CAs I didn't get to meet, I consider you family. You know, like that cousin you've never met but who can totally crash on your couch if they need to. The same offer as above applies to you- if I can help you, ask! I think it'd be really awesome to know more CAs at the beginning of GDC 2016 than I do now, so don't be afraid to introduce yourselves!
And to everyone else, surround yourself with amazing people. It makes a world of difference.