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  • 8 For GDC 08

    - Jill Duffy
  •  The first time I attended the Game Developers Conference, it was as a journalist and editor. I spent two weeks before the show putting together a master schedule to get my through my days.

    My calendar quickly became packed from 8:30 every morning until around 9 or 10 at night with sessions to attend and report on, press conferences, meetings with game developers and tool vendors, dinner invitations, after parties, booth visits on the expo floor, the Choice Awards, the IGF Awards, networking socials, and the odd 30-minute break for a proper lunch. It was too much.

    The lesson I learned was to mark out two or three major things I absolutely have to do each day, and leave the rest of my schedule subject to change. That way, I'm not weighed down with guilt when something unexpected crops up and I ditch another appointment to do the thing that seems genuinely more interesting.

    To help you get a grip if this is your first year at the show, some friends of mine at the GDC and I put together this list of suggested things to do at the show. This list isn't meant to be your golden program, but rather it highlights a few things that are particularly useful or pertinent to students or first-time attendees. These are the things that I would reserve as my must-dos during the week if I were a first-time attendee.

    1. International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
    Members-Only Party and Education Summit
    IGDA Members-Only Party. You need to be an IGDA member, and you will probably want to RSVP, but once you're inside the IGDA Members-Only Party, it feels completely unlike a members-only party. Last year the IGDA party was the once place where I ran into all the people I genuinely wanted to see, and the atmosphere was such that I actually had more than two minutes to talk to them all. As the week wanes, you'll find there are a few token parties that everyone and their grandmother is trying to get into. My advice is to go to those only if you happen to stumble across an invitation, but otherwise mark Tuesday on your calendar as your late-night out and just have a good time with the IGDA peeps.

    IGDA Education Summit. The Education Summit is a two-day affair all about game development education, a topic near and dear to my own heart. To register, you need to hold an All Access Pass or Summits and Tutorials Pass. I would recommend going for the first two hours on Monday and play it by ear thereafter. It's more for educators than anyone else, but it's also geared toward developers and students who are vested in what happens in the academy.
    IGDA Members-Only Party
    Tuesday, Feb. 19, 8:00 p.m.
    The Westin on Market (also known as The Argent), 50 Third Street, San Francisco

    IGDA Education Summit
    Monday and Tuesday, February 18 and 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    For more other IGDA-related events at GDC 2008, visit

    2. Social and Suite Night is hosting a get-together at the XYZ Bar in the W Hotel, just across the street from the Moscone Center. All are welcome to attend, and many of us will be heading up into the hotel for Suite Night as the evening progresses. Suite Night is one of the few open parties at GDC. It's sponsored by a few game companies -- this year it's Garage Games, Eidos, Vivendi Games, and 2K Games -- and it's a social event that's designed to give developers more face time with game companies, tools vendors, and so forth.
    The XYZ Bar and designated suites (see signs on site) at the W Hotel, 181 Third Street, San Francisco
    Thursday, Feb. 21, 6:30 p.m.

    3. Workshop: Learn Better Game Writing in a Day, Evan Skolnick
    If you have a pass that allows you to take a workshop on Monday or Tuesday, this is the one I'd pick. Evan Skolnick's daylong seminar is the one to attend if you're interested in writing stories for video games. Skolnick is a former journalist and Marvel Comics editor, who has written for Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and other properties. As editorial director for Vicarious Visions, he has written (or rewritten) storylines for games, including Crash Bandicoot, Spider-Man 2 and 3, Ultimate Spider-Man, and X-Men Legends 2. The workshop is virtually the same one as was presented last year, which was a huge hit. Skolnick promises that you'll learn the basics of good story structure, character development, and dialogue.
    Monday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    Room 2002, West Hall

    4. Three Session Talks
    As a former editor of Game Developer magazine, one of my annual duties before GDC was to add my two cents to a GDC Preview article that we published before the show. I'm now a senior contributing editor on the magazine, so this year as in years past, I selected my top five. But I felt pulled toward a few sessions that seemed absolutely perfect for aspiring game developers and students. So I tucked them away in my back pocket and am sharing them with you now:

    A Portal Postmortem: Integrating Writing and Design. Something went terribly, terribly right with the student-made game Narbacular Drop. It gave a few DigiPen students their big break when they were hired by Valve and the game was re-released by the company as Portal. Here, a writer and a level designer for the game consider how the iterative process of integrating story and gameplay contributed to the project's success. Best for game designers and writers.
    Friday, Feb. 22, 2008, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Room 2014/2016, West Hall

    Brainstorming in Public: 52 Game Ideas in 52 Weeks. Patrick Curry decided to create a new game idea every week for a year, in a pitch to say that original IP shouldn't be the exception -- it should be the rule. He's going to blast through his postmortem of the project in a mere 20 minutes. Cool to hear someone so fully deconstruct the myth of having "one great idea" in the game industry.
    Friday, Feb. 22, 10:30 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.
    Room 2022, West Hall

    Storytelling in BioShock: Empowering Players to Care About Your Stupid Story. Okay, so I was immediately sold on the session title. But often that alone is promise of a good speaker and even better topic. BioShock is a big-name game that plays with storylines in an engaging way, and I think students would benefit from hearing about that process.
    Wed., Feb. 20, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
    Room 135, North Hall


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