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Prepare for GDC with these quick tips

It’s springtime in San Francisco which means that we’re about to play host to thousands of game devs for GDC. The annual (wildly expensive) conference is back which means that it’s going to be a lot of devs’ first time at the show. In the interest of passing along what I’ve learned to the next generation, I have some tips on how to make your first GDC great. Last year I posted a similarly themed list (you should read that post too) but here a few new tips to complement those.

Seriously, preparation is important

Last year I talked about preparing your schedule, this year let's talk about preparing your bag. San Francisco is expensive, like REALLY expensive. Save some time and money and bring some water and snacks. You’re going to get worn down cruising the show floor and attending talks and while there are several drinking fountains, they’re never around when you need one. In the same “human bodies are weak” vein, you’re also going to get hungry. Grab a couple of granola bars and stuff them into your bag. They’ll save you from making the “stay hangry or buy a $18 sandwich” decision.

One of the best tips I ever got for conventions is to invest in a decent pair of shoe inserts. You can find some that fit tons of different foot sizes for less than $20 bucks and it turns your regular shoes into little pillows strapped to your feet. You'll be glad you picked a pair up after you've walked 35 miles over the course of 4 days.

San Francisco is a walkable city, do some walking!

I’ve lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade and while it’s definitely an overpriced nightmare that sucks the life out of its residents, it’s also a genuinely great city with plenty to see, do, and eat. GDC takes place at the Moscone center, which is in the heart of downtown. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of great, cheap places to eat right next to the center (please don’t buy the convention center food, it’s so expensive) but there are several if you’re willing to walk a few blocks. Check out some maps and find somewhere new to eat! Quick warning though, if you’re going north of Market Street make sure you know what and where the Tenderloin is.

Don’t spend too much time in panels

When I went to my first show I ended up spending more than half my time in panels. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect it was almost a complete waste. Everyone’s schedule is different, so I can’t tell you what “too much time” means for you, but I’ve always found that spending time with other people is most effective at shows. In last year’s post I talked about how making friends is an important avenue of growth, so it’s important to consider the balancing act between potentially meeting new people and learning from the experts in panels.

Hopefully these tips will help you hit the ground running at GDC, but these are far from the only pieces of advice out there. What have you learned from your time at shows? Let everyone know in the comments below.

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If you are interested in attending the parties (and if you are looking to make friends and network, you should be), look them up on eventbrite ahead of time to see if any appeal to you.