Game Developer’s Conference – Days 4 & 5

Day 4
Thursday started off with a meeting with the executive producer of a game studio I applied for a summer job with. Thanks to the help of some fantastic people I met the day before, I was able to get a face to face talk with my first boss. I got the lowdown on how my job will work once I started, and about the opportunity to job shadow. Basically, if I work at the studio long enough, I can spend some time with some of its developers as they work, getting a firsthand look at the game development process, and the day-to-day experiences of various positions. The plan is to get an opportunity to shadow someone from each position at some point during the summer, no matter how much work it takes.

After the meeting, I went around talking to all of the developer booths I hadn’t hit yet. I gathered a great deal of valuable advise about  projects to pursue and ways to improve my programming and design skills. One interesting thing I noticed is that many developers seemed more interested in telling me about potential jobs and internships they had than some of the other people in line with me, despite the fact that I told them that I was only looking to talk with developers and learn from them, and not for any sort of job. A few people actually asked me for my resume!

After this, I decided to go around to some of the other universties’ booths. While I’m quite happy at RIT and have no intention of transferring schools, I still enjoyed talking with them to hear how different schools design their programs and seeing some of the projects their students have created. Even if we are essentially “competing” for the same jobs, we are all people with a passion for the same art, and want an opportunity to pursue and show the world our creativity and dedication to the trade. For instance, I bet inter-school collaborations would garner quite a bit of attention from prospective employers. *hint hint*

The day ended with a RIT alumni dinner to which students past and present, teachers, and faculty were all invited to wine and dine together. It was a great time getting to see some of the people who came through the school before me and where they are now, as well as meet some of the students whom I’d heard so many great stories about. Although my table could have done with a certain professor splashing water all over the bread, we enjoyed a fine Italian meal and headed home.

Day 5
The fifth and final day of GDC opened with the IGDA student SIG annual meeting. There, we got to hear from IGDA leaders and industry professionals about new projects underway to further the innovation and creativity of students across the world interested in becoming game developers. From a site where students can pose questions they have and get them answered by people in the industry to more access to a variety of development kits, there were quite a few plans are promoting access for everyone. The IGDA scholars were also introduced, and their experiences throughout the week shared with us. The talk ended with a developer from Epic Games providing personal knowledge on ways to make it into the industry.

Up next was the IGDA minority SIG meeting.  It was great to see a variety of familiar faces from the Blacks In Gaming event on Wednesday, as well as connect with new people. A big topic was showing the youth of our community that game development is just some far off dream, but legitimate career choice for them. Game companies won’t care about the color of your skin, the way you look or dress, or how you talk as long as you possess the skills necessary to make their projects a success. It’s only right that everyone be informed of this and have the chance to reach for their greatest dreams. The meeting ended with the introduction of Jerry Lawson, a pioneer in the field of game development. Lawson worked for Fairchild Semiconductor in the early 70s, and developed the very first video game cartridge!

My time at GDC ended with an informal meet and greet of the IGDA minority SIG in the front lobby. Along with introducing myself to Mr. Lawson and being apart of a group photo, I ran into the developer who wrote the articles on networking that I read a while back and learned a great deal from. Finally getting to speak with him after running into him several times was rather satisfying, and a high note to end my time at GDC and head back and start packing for RIT.

GDC 2011 was a week full of inspiration, boyish wonder, satisfied curiosity, many new questions proposed, and a whole new world revealing itself to me. The people I met and experiences I had will stay with me for many years to come as I embark on my own journey. Never before have I been so eager to return to college with my classmates and begin making our mark on both the industry and the hopefully the world over. Let’s see if we can’t get some RIT students standing on stage giving lectures at GDC 50, huh?

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