Reminiscing of my first GDC in 2004

My 11th GDC in San Francisco is upon me. Thinking back it has been full of really great experiences for most part. The first time I went to GDC the event took place in San Jose, CA. I was in college and a professor, Prof. Wilcox, who became a dear friend of mine paid for the flights of two other students and myself to attend. One of the people was my roommate and best bud Andy. The other was a young freshman named Kevin that Andy and I had never met. Kevin is now in my best buds list but his young age, under 21, was likely to make trouble for Andy and I.


We had to come up with the money for the hotel room. I remember saving up for the trip and having a credit card with a $600 limit on it, so I had to put the room on my card. We ended up staying at a fairly shady Red Roof Inn, but it had a free continental breakfast and it was within walking distance to the San Jose Conference center. I would end up staying at this hotel again with a business partner 6 years later when we went to a 360iDev conference at eBay’s offices.


The first night there was a board game meet up at the hotel connected to the convention center. It was a lot of fun, and throughout the years I would meet people that were at that board game meet up and we would feel a connection of history from when GDC was a much smaller event in San Jose.


The three of us only had expo passes so we tried to attend every free event they had, and sniffed out every party possible. Our professor had a full access badge and was awesome enough to let us each borrow it one time to see the talk we wanted to see the most.


My chosen talk was an easy one. I remember seeing Peter Molyneux and I think Will Wright do a game design competition. Each one made a written game design concept the night before their talk. They presented them back-to-back like it was a pitch competition. It was really fun and inspiring to hear these legends talk about a game and which functions would work, and critique one another’s designs. I instilled things I learned at that talk into my future game design documents and practices.


As for parties there is one that sticks out clearly. It was at Gordon Bersche for some sort of meet up. We ended up coaching Kevin on how to act cool so he had the potential of getting in and possibly getting served. We made it in after a little bit of talking and quickly found a table outside like shy sheep. I was more willing to push the limits back then and could still drink beer, now I’m allergic to yeast L.


So I got up and went to the bar and asked for 3 wheat draft beers and that is what I brought back to our table. I put one in front of Andy, who hated beer then. Another went in front of Kevin, who had never had a beer. Then I began sipping mine. It was the first time I had a microbrew beer and it was great. Eventually I convinced Andy to take a sip by telling him this wasn’t the PBR or shitty can beers our friends would drink. He warmed up to it. We ended up trying another beer shortly after knocking that round down.


Kevin had yet to drink his. He was concerned because of his age, but we managed to coax him into drinking it because we weren’t going to let anything bad happen to him and would look out for his well being. Turned out to be a really cool bonding experience for the 3 of us even though we didn’t find any leads on jobs.


One of my goals were to meet some of the people I deemed cool in Chicago’s game development scene and ask them to mentor me. Eric Nosifinger was a punk looking dude from High Voltage Studio in IL that I wanted to befriend. I ended up seeing him in a parking lot. He was easy to spot because he had blue hair. I ran to catch him and we quickly did introductions because he was running to a meeting.


That running introduction made an impression on him because a few years later we had become friends. It’s important to find people in the profession you want to be in to become friends and ultimately mentors. Just be persistent but not creepy. I’ve been really lucky with my list including Alan Martin from Mutant League, Josh Tsui from Midway, Kudo Tsunoda for a brief period from EA, and now countless others. Over the past 5 years I’ve begun mentoring others and it is my favorite way to continue to learn.


I’m not sure if I’m just being starry eyed as I think back through my career, but there is definitely one thing I want you to take away. The way I look at it, wanting and doing are really polar opposites. Doing takes work, risk, over coming fears, sweat, tears, failures, small wins, hopefully large wins, energy, sickness, and sacrifices. The world doesn’t change for wanting. It changes for doing. Stop being scared and just go for it. Hit me up on twitter if you are ready to start doing. @jaredepicpower