tl;dr – scroll down for pix
The photos used in this post & more are available under a Creative Commons (attribution) license here in hi-res. Enjoy!
When I got to San Francisco on the Saturday night before the 2013 Game Developers Conference, I had already been on the road for two weeks, hopping from Copenhagen to Chicago to Ann Arbor to LA to Philadelphia on PhD visits and law school tours. I’ve never done travelling like that, but maybe the worst part is that I kind of liked it. After the first few days, I had a routine even if I wasn’t in a set place— I read a lot on planes, made single serving coffee, sampled the greasy street fare and free art museums of places I’d never been before, walked constantly, etc.
I was eating at a hot dog joint with my folks on the way to the New Orleans airport when I found out about receiving the GDC IGDA Scholarship and I promptly cheered and told my parents. They weren’t that impressed, initially, but once I explained what the slew of letters I had just blurted out stood for, and also that I don’t technically have class this semester, I’d say they were at any rate supportively bemused. I sent the application for IGDA’s GDC scholarship from the deepest pit of LSAT purgatory, and it came sailing back through sattelite transmission to the screen in my pocket at half-time of a chilidog double-header. This is the modern world.
If you’re a student involved in the games industry in any way, I encourage you to check out the IGDA Scholarship program! It can get you to a lot more places than GDC!
In December, nobody in Glitchnap thought we’d be at GDC, but through an incredible spree of luck, we were all going by the time March rolled around. We sent in a ton of applications, hoping that something would pan out, and I ended up with an IGDA Scholarship, then Mads, Joon & Mikkel (as Wolfmans) found out they were selected for a slot at Chartboost University: Boot Camp, a two week session on the tech needed to successfully get a commercial software product off the ground, while we were in the middle of a submission to Mozilla’s Game On competition. A week later, Glitchnap won the Mozilla Game On Grand Prize and Best Multi-Device awards with an HTML5 port of Zumbie: Blind Rage. Through some careful finagling between the various prizes, we were able to get our whole team out to San Francisco. We can’t thank IGDA, Mozilla and Chartboost enough for getting us to GDC!
One of the great things for us was witnessing the global indie community in action first hand (and also getting drunk with them). Before GDC even started, we had a chance to meet some of the people who make games that have started some serious internal rivalries: we played the hell out of Samurai Gunn in my apartment, and I’d been a huge fan of 0space & Shoot First! so it was really amazing to meet Beau Blyth (a.k.a. @teknopants)—here he is on the right next to Paul Veer (a.k.a. @pietepiet), who does a lot of amazing pixel-art for Vlambeer.
Here’s Mads Johansen listening to Dick Hogg (member of Wild Rumpus & creator of Best Game on PSVita, 2012 Tommy Rousse Award-winner, Frobisher Says!) talk about the narwhals of his youth.
As part of the IGDA Scholars on-site tours, we got a chance to tour Double Fine and ask some questions of legendary game designer Handsome Tim Schafer.
Joon & Mads made it to the Rumpus Royale MMXIII finals in Hokra. The team that beat them was Doug Wilson, who was behind the whole Kickstarter that’s publishing the game, and fellow Sportsfriend Noah Sasso, so I’d say Glitchnap made a pretty good showing. I was hoping to dominate at Samurai Gunn, but we had to play on PS3 controllers and I got knocked out of the first round.
Here we are at the Mozilla San Francisco offices!
I got a chance to check out Ian Bogost’s Zen Atari game Guru Meditation
At the same exhibition, here’s avant-garde weirdo tabletop game Everything is Dolphins! (bit of a misnomer, really, as the game I overheard a lot of things seemed to be swords/maces/halberds held by dolphins) with David Kanaga’s Panoramical in the background.
Of course, getting an All-Access pass to GDC also meant going to some really outstanding talks. I wrote up one of those talks, by QWOP Maestro Bennett Foddy, over at Killscreen. I got a chance to see talks by Blizzard and Riot Games, plus I got a chance to get on stage and play some folk games with Doug Wilson. One of my favorite talks of the conference was the indie rant, and the highlight of the indie rant was an impassioned reading & reinterpretation of Cara Ellison‘s “John Romero’s Wives” by Anna Anthropy.
A lot of other awesome stuff happened at GDC– the Wild Rumpus party, exhibiting LAZA KNITEZ!! at the infamous IGDA/YetiZen shindig, going to Five Rings with the IGDA Scholars, meeting Jenovah Chen and all the awesome Mozilla folks, and lots of other stuff but with all the running around I did, I often found myself without my camera when I really wanted it.
Going to GDC made me feel like I had some kind of grasp on the videogame industry and the various factions it’s composed of, from academics to indies to AAA developers. Seeing the whole ecology at once gave me a better idea where I fit in, and even that there might be a place for an academic with a newly discovered passion for game design. Getting to mill around the IGF booth and “see the future” of indie gaming was pretty unforgettable!
Special thanks to Luke Dicken, Kate Edwards, Heather Decker-Davis, Sheri Rubin, & Molly Malone for all their great work putting the IGDA Scholars program together this year!