GDC 2018 – My Experience as an IGDA Scholar

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Attending GDC as an IGDA Scholar was possibly the best week of my life. It was an exhausting, emotional, and amazing conference packed with experiences that have really stuck with me since, and changed me as a designer.

Once I got over the initial shock and excitement of finding out I’d been selected as an IGDA Scholar back in January, I spent the following months looking forward to GDC with a mixture of nerves and anticipation. Meeting the other scholars at our first event together quickly put me at ease – they are a very cool and friendly bunch of people, and I hope that we’ll all continue to stay in contact! On top of that, Oleg, Nick, and Sarah did a great job of getting us all organized, giving us itineraries and helping us find relevant events. So between their help and the GDC scheduler I started the week with some vague notion of what my life was!

I’m a writer and designer, and at the moment I’m focusing most on developing my writing skills, so I tried to go to lots of talks with a literary angle. I think the most useful of all these talks was the Writing Roundtable. Hearing other writers talk about their professional practice, as well as recount a few anecdotes from their careers, was really useful for expanding my own toolset and for networking. The other talks I went to were either relevant to my PhD research in creating interactive narratives to help patients, or were just talks that stood out to me as particularly interesting. One of my favourite sessions of the week was Girl Games of the 1990s: A Retrospective. The veteran developers on the panel spoke very candidly about their experience as women in the 90s trying to carve out a part of the game industry to market games towards girls. As a designer who played some of those games growing up, I found the discussion eye-opening and moving.

On top of the sessions at GDC, there were some amazing events throughout the week for the scholars. One of the earliest of these was a great talk from industry veteran Dave Weinstein, followed by Q&A panels with Kiki Wolfkill, Mike Bithell, Ghost Story Games, and Emily Greer. All of these speakers gave really interesting answers to our questions, and were keen to help us with whatever tips and guidance they had. It was great to be able to hear from such talented speakers with such a range of experience and knowledge. The Scholars program also arranged for us to have studio tours at Zynga and Double Fine! It was incredibly cool to be able to get a behind the scenes look at these studios, hear from the employees and see how they work; both studios were very welcoming and open with us and it was a fantastic addition to the week.

Overall my first GDC was a wonderful experience that I’ll never forget. It was made, not just by the informative talks and learning experiences crammed through the week, but more so by all the people who were so willing to give up their time to help pass on their experience and expertise. It was really inspiring to see so many people eager to help out a group of aspiring games industry professionals, and I hope that as my career develops, it’s an attitude that I’ll be able to pay forward.

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