If I had been asked the question of "would I of seen myself at GDC?" 12 months before I went, the answer would have been different from the answer that I gave about 4 months before I was going.
Shortly after the online registration opened a friend of mine, who attended the year before, posted a link on social media and said if anyone has the opportunity to go they should. I'm not sure what made me buy a pass, book off my holiday days from work and everything else that you do when going abroad, but looking at my their post and the GDC website it just made sense to go. Then I waited for a few months until those 5 days of talks, meeting new people and learning about new things to come around in March.
I left for America on the Saturday before the conference started, so I could spend the Sunday going around San Francisco and recovering from the plane journey from England. It was my first time going to America and also the first time going abroad on my own. As I was boarding the plane it didn't take me long to work out that the majority of the people on the same flight as me were also going to GDC.
On the Monday morning I sitting in one of the rooms waiting for the first talk about DirectX 12 being presented by Nvidia and AMD to start. I'm sitting about 2/3 back from the front in a middle of a row by myself, looking around seeing friends chatting and people talking to old colleagues and friends they haven't seen in years. I'm thinking "how do I make the most of this event?", I've not been to a conference that been more than a day long before and I also don't know anyone attending. As I'm sitting in the room surrounded by some of the best and future best in the industry, it hit me that if I wanted to make the most of GDC that I'm going to have to throw myself outside of my comfort zone. Just making the journey to the other side of the world that I've never been to by myself before wasn't going to cut, I had to jump straight into the deep end and quickly teach myself to swim otherwise I'd sink wasting this opportunity.
Tuesday I woke eager to build up my networking skills as well as go to as many talks as I can. I felt that the previous day had been successful as I gained new knowledge and started talking to people that sat around me during breaks. But I felt that I could do more and so I did, in fact, a good number of the people I met on this day I would meet again later in the week and we'd chat whilst waiting for a talk to start or just in passing.
Wednesday the Expo floors opened and the conference got very busy. For the next two days, I split my time between going to talks and walking around the expo floor talking with people from different studios at booths and playing some of the games that were being demoed. One such game was Dreams by Media Molecule, which grabbed my attention as I like creative sandbox games and also a Little Big Planet fan. I went to a number of graphics talks, such as new Ambient Occlusion techniques and geometry culling.
Friday, the final day felt different, I went to a lot of the career talks that were going on and there were still people playing games and giving out freebies like there had been for the last few days. But also everyone knows it's the last day so there are lots of goodbyes, good lucks and last minute catch ups.
After an exciting but also tiring week, having learned a lot and met many great people I can't help but feel that I stepped off the plane in England a different person to who stepped on the plane a week before.