The three largest video game conferences in the world are, in order, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show, and every year I watch each of these with interest. There is another conference, however, that may be more important than all the rest combined.
I’m referring to the Game Developer’s Conference, or GDC. While E3 and similar large, spectacular conferences are done mainly for fans or for the gaming press, the GDC is held for game developers looking to expand their knowledge or show off new technology. In fact, showing off games is a very small part of the conference, and the number shown is easily dwarfed by the number of games seen at E3.
Despite being an event organized and attended by professionals in the industry, the conference itself is anything but bland. The first two days of the conference are all about tutorials for new products coming out in the coming months or years. They’re basically workshops for game developers, and can educate them on a variety of technical subjects including computer programming, marketing, business and actual game design.
In addition, the first two days are when the summits are held, each of which is dedicated to a specific sub-set of the video game industry. Mobile games, gaming education and online games have been discussed in the past and are still talked about at the GDC annually.
More recently, the console giants have taken notice and have started coming at the GDC to talk about their new products and technological offerings. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all speak to the GDC about their plans for the future, but these speeches and demos are radically different from those found at E3 because the audience is so different. Console makers tend to be clearer on what their machines can do when they’re speaking to a crowd dominated by industry veterans.
The conference will also be holding its tenth annual “Game Developer’s Rant,” an event created and moderated by Jason Della Rocca, the former executive director for the International Game Developers Association, and Eric Zimmerman, co-founder and CEO of Gamelab. Zimmerman and Rocca bring together a group of prominent developers to moderate a debate on some of the most pressing issues in the industry.
Zimmerman originally conceived the panel as a way to “really take those grumblings and mutterings and bring them out into the light, speak truth to power, cut through to the real s*** and talk about what is going on in our industry, what’s wrong and what we can do to change it.” The event is a rare blend of entertainment and education, and is one of the most popular parts of the conference.
This year’s GDC takes place in San Fransisco, California, and will run from March 2 through March 6, and it promises to be an especially exciting year for the conference. Valve, which hardly ever makes appearances at any game conferences, GDC or otherwise, will be appearing to show off their new virtual reality simulator, currently just called “SteamVR.”
The “Occulus Rift” platform has shown that virtual reality, not unlike what the people of the 1980’s pictured the future to be like, is not so unrealistic. It’s telling that Valve is making the choice to make the first major announcement about its new hardware system at the Game Developer’s Conference, when E3 or even Gamescom would almost certainly draw more media and public attention to the platform.
Flashy presentations have their place in the entertainment industry, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the future of gaming will not be presented to us with lights and sweeping orchestra, but will instead be first introduced to a group of developers looking to increase the technical know-how and creativity of the entire video game industry.