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  • The GDC Survival Guide

    - James Portnow

  • Parties
    After hours, go to the parties. In my opinion this is where the real work of GDC is done.

    Finding parties. Yeah, I know this is why you're really reading this article...

    All I'm going to say is join the IGDA! It gets you into the Members-Only Party (Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the Westin on Market, also known as the Argent Hotel). If you're a student, IGDA membership is amazingly cheap: $30 per year. And you should be an IGDA member anyway. You get a neat t-shirt.

    There's also an open party called Suite Night at the W Hotel on Thursday of the show. For more, see "8 for GDC '08."

    From there you're on your own. Many parties are invite-only, but you can always latch on as someone's guest if you make strategic friends.

    Getting drunk. Don't. Period. Enough said.

    Students. Don't talk to other students as much as you talk to industry insiders. It's not worth your time. Most of the time you'll be able to tell from people's badges which camp they fall into, but a quick, "What do you do?" at the beginning of any conversation should make things crystal clear. There's never enough time at GDC, and as sad as it is, if your goal is to get a job, you don't want to waste what little time you have talking to students.

    One of the funniest things I've ever seen was two students trying to schmooze with each other. They were so deep into social networking mode, they spent an entire party complementing each other and trying to sound intelligent. Neither of them could disengage from the conversation because there was no natural way for the conversation to end. Neither of them was going to bow out or claim they had somewhere else to go. When I left the party, they were telling each other their thoughts on "practical development theory."

    Don't try to flatter people. Just be yourself. Nobody likes a sycophant. People will see through it right away. Be humble, listen, and speak when you have something worth saying. Don't try to sell people on you. Know why you're worth noticing and other people will know it, too.

    Business cards at parties. Make sure you have a stack of business cards with you when you go to the parties. It's there that you'll hand out most of them. Having resumes on hand never hurts, but if you hand a resume to someone at a party, assume they're going to lose it. Usually it's better just to collect business cards and ask if you can send your resumes later.

    Dinner. Get dinner before heading to the parties. This may seem silly, but GDC nights have a way of stretching into GDC days, and when you're at the after-after-party, you will be thankful for the lucidity that comes from a few calories and a full stomach.

    Following up
    What you do after GDC is just as important as what you do at it. Here are a few tips for what to do when you get home.

    Email. You should send emails to all the people who gave you their cards. Don't mass email. Tailor each message to the person you are emailing.

    Personally, I keep the "people I met" information in my head, but I have a friend who writes on the back of each business card exactly who the person is and what they talked about. I highly recommend this approach. If you're enquiring about a job from the person you're emailing, make sure you ask if you can send them your resume -- don't just attach one unsolicited.

    Following up timeline. Most people are swamped right after GDC and won't respond to your emails. Don't worry. It's okay. After you write the first email, give people two weeks, then write a follow-up email. This may sound like the rules of following up after a first date, but it's important.

    Let me stress the two weeks: If you follow up too soon, people will feel like you're hounding them. I know you'll be excited and nervous and will come up with all the ways they could have missed your email, but trust me: two weeks!

    I wish you all the best of luck at GDC. I'll be attending the IGDA party (time permitting) and look forward to talking to many of you there.

    You can email James Portnow with questions, comments, or for further advice via jportnow(at)


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