This past week, I had the amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse into the unfamiliar playground that most people would give their organs for — GDC. Before arriving at GDC, I already had the notion that this was a professional event for game developers, artists, narrators, and so on. So, of course, I put together some semblance of mismatched, professional attire and armed with a camera, freshly printed business cards, and a smile, I was ready to explore.
Upon arriving, I downloaded the official GDC app which highlights all of their panels, seminars, tutorials, and keynotes. The panels ranged from technical bootcamps like “Working with 3D Rotations” to cultural narratives like “Empathetic Games Are Here to Stay.” Picking only a few out of the many to attend required some sort of organizational prowess that I definitely did not possess. There were so many options and so many opportunities! I picked a few that interested me and off I went.
I do have to note that the “Male Sexualization” panel was definitely one that caught me off guard in the best way possible. Maybe it was the scantily clad bishounen men on the slides that did me in, but I was hysterically laughing in my corner for most of that panel.
Aside from the panels, there were multitudes of different areas to explore — the history of game museum, career centers, award shows, and of course the expo hall. Ahh.. The expo hall.
The GDC Expo hall was basically a sensory overload of technology from every corner: 3d printers, virtual reality machines, game engines demos, and everything and anything you could possible dream of — except bacon. I did get bacon eventually but we’ll get to that later. I noticed that anything virtual reality related garnered the most attention. Lines doubled around for the Oculus Rift and don’t even get me started about getting a ticket to try Sony’s Morpheus. You had to get there at 10am and hope that you could get a ticket to try it out.
I scheduled an appointment to try the Virtuix Omni: a full body immersive virtual reality rig. The experience was beyond crazy. Stepping in, I was a bit hesitant and afraid that I would projectile vomit all over their glorious rig. Don’t get me wrong; FPS are just not my strong suit. Match that with a hint of motion sickness and I was already planning for disaster.
First, I had to play the demo which familiarized me with their special custom sneakers and got me sweating much more than I was comfortable with. After that, I was strapped into the harness, fitted with an Oculus Rift, headphones, and given a gun (a controller one of course). If I thought that stepping into the expo hall was sensory overload, what would happen next was much crazier than I expected.
Stepping was a bit hard as I do have shorter legs than the others who demo’ed the Omni. But as soon as I got into it, I was completely immersed. I actually forgot that there were approximately two dozen people watching my every awkward move outside the Omni. In the first half of the game I followed my guide around until he was violently killed and thrown across the screen. The next half was pure chaos as I was running and shooting as fast as I could to escape. As the demo ended I was greeted with applause from what had turned out to be an audience that formed to watch.
Day was slowly turning into night as the official GDC closed its doors until the next morning. But the unofficial GDC doesn’t just end there. Each night a plentitude of parties took place — some hosted by game companies some put together by people who share a similar undying love for games. I won’t get into the specifics of the parties but let’s just say that cured meats and cheeses were a staple at the ones I attended. Going home in the wee hours of the morning, I was excited to do it all over again the next day.
I’m a bit sad that my first GDC had to end so soon. It was actually a full week but it seemed like the blink of an eye. As the carpets rolled up and the booths dismantled, there was little evidence of the imaginative minds that built the amazing games, engines, characters, etc. that helped shaped and form a conference for like minded people. I slowly walked away from Moscone and secretly hoped that there would be a fade to black or a slow motion montage that that would play with some ending credits to this epic week.