This year, I was fortunate to be selected as an IGDA Scholar and able to attend GDC! This was my second year at GDC, and I think I learned a lot in the process.
First off, I was grateful to be able to have a great community of support this year. The first year I went to GDC, I didn’t know anyone. This year, I had the support of the IGDA Foundation and my fellow IGDA Scholars, but also had the support of other members of my graduate school community at UCSC and of course the warm and welcoming community of CAs. Starting off the IGDA program with a great mental health workshop also boosted my confidence that although we were here to accomplish a lot, part of GDC is also being able to take care of yourself and handle GDC in your own way.
This is in part why I called this post “Doing GDC My Way”–because I think that going into it, there is a certain mentality (and I have been caught up in it before myself) that there’s a right way to go about things, and if you do not follow this optimized path (and lose a lot of sleep) that you’re missing out. Especially for a conference with such a tight schedule, so many events and people, and very focused on knowing people in the right circles, it’s easy to feel out of the loop, or that you’re the one in the wrong if you miss out on the opportunities afforded to you. My advice to upcoming scholars is that you can do things your own way, too.
For me, this meant getting plenty of sleep, eating good food, and making sure to spend quality time with the people I cared about. These might not be the things most commonly associated with “succeeding” at GDC, but they were the things I really cared about, and what kept me grounded even when things felt a bit hectic. One example of a great path this led me down–I went to go see the GDC microtalks series on advocacy to support my friend Karinya Song, and it was the best panel I’ve seen at GDC. The panel was emotional and had a ton of heart. It called for a greater diversity of thoughts and backgrounds. It was grounded in the presence and the community of all of us there. These were all things I realized I was missing at the rest of GDC, though I hadn’t been quite able to put this absence into words until then. Although I wouldn’t have gone to the panel otherwise, I am so glad that I did, as I think it made my GDC a much more positive experience.
The IGDA provided us scholars with some amazing opportunities this year, which I am grateful for. It was wonderful meeting my mentor Liz England and talking with her about her work and my future. The studio tour at Double Fine made me re-realize why I wanted to go into the game industry in the first place–because of the great people who do creative, talented work and are passionate about games, play, and storytelling. But what you get out of GDC might be different than what I valued most. I think the most important thing for a program like this is to open yourself up to experiencing things in new ways, and not always taking the path of what it seems like you ought to be doing. It could lead to some great new things!