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  • The GDC Survival Guide

    [02.05.08]
    - James Portnow
  •  Are you going to GDC? You should be.

    No, really, if you are reading this, you should be -- every last one of you.

    If you're in the industry, it's a great opportunity; but if you're not yet and ever plan to make working in the video game industry something more than a pipe dream, you've got to be at GDC.

    Why? Because if you're there you can get those 30 seconds of face time you need to hand someone a resume and make sure they don't forget you. Because at GDC you can actually talk to people who make hiring decisions. Because it's a damn sight more likely that someone will remember your name if you shake her hand than if you shoot off an email to jobs@companyX.com.

    Convinced? Good, now go check your ticket because the rest of this article is about how to prepare for GDC.

    Essentials Before You Go
    Resume. Have one. Scratch that. Have a ton. Bring at least 20 resumes with you each day. You probably won't hand out that many, but you really don't want to be reaching into an empty bag when the vice president of HR for the company you are dying to get into asks you for your qualifications.

    Take some time on your resume. Look at resumes on the internet. Ask your friend in business school how yours should look. Ask somebody. My first resume was a disaster until I had friends and relatives help mill it into shape.

    Don't just focus on the words in your resume; look at how it's laid out. For designers, this is especially important, but it's pretty essential for everyone. Keep it to one page (if you haven't had a job in the industry yet, you really don't need more than one page, trust me). Keep it neat and uncluttered. Remember that most of the people you hand your resume to will have hundreds by the time they leave GDC, they're not going to spend a lot of time untangling yours.

    Business cards. Make them. You want to see my first one?

    Yes, honest to god, that was my first business card, and you know what? It served me well.

    When people hand you their cards, and they will, it makes the exchange a lot less awkward if you have something -- anything -- on hand to give in return. And you should be exchanging business cards a lot!

    Packing. Bring clothes that make you look good. That's all.

    Plenty of people look like idiots in a suit. Dress well, but not in something that's clearly reaching. This isn't a high school dance. This is a gathering of game developers. Just be comfortable in what you're wearing.

    Don't wear your Gamestop t-shirt or fanboy regalia.

    Sleep. Rest before you get there, because you'll probably get very little sleep during GDC week.

    Do your research. Research companies you're interested in. On the GDC web site, there is a list of companies who will be at the show.

    As an industry hopeful, you have an advantage when going to GDC. You can come armed with a ton of information about the people you will meet while they aren't going to know anything at all about you. The same is true for anyone whose name is currently on Mobygames and who wants to interview at the conference.

    The more you know, the easier it will be to start conversations, and the easier it will be to avoid the pitfalls that come with them.

    I once saw a student trying to convince a Sony rep why he should hire him. He was telling the man about how bad the most recent EverQuest expansion was (a poor plan in the first place) and how he, the student, could have made it much better.

    The Sony rep happened to be the lead designer for that expansion.

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