The annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) was held last week in San Francisco, boasting 28,000 attendees! Among those conference-goers were members of the CG Spectrum team, including the Community Manager—and proud alum—Penny Gaubatz. Penny was kind enough to share her experience at GDC and why she believes it's such a valuable event for people looking to break into the games industry.
GDC is an annual event that brings together programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, and business leaders from around the world. It offers people opportunities to exchange ideas, learn from each other, problem-solve, and explore the latest advancements in and the future of game development.
My name is Penny, and I’m CG Spectrum’s Community Manager, currently living in Dallas, Texas! I began my journey at CG Spectrum a few years ago as a student and have learned so much while studying and, later, working here.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, California, and let me tell you: it did not disappoint!
Here's me at GDC, sitting on what I like to call the Throne of Codes.
From the moment I arrived, I was surrounded by some of the most passionate and creative minds in the games industry, all coming together in one place to learn, network, and share their experiences.
During the three action-packed days I attended GDC, I got to:
Meet some amazing fellow CG Spectrum students and mentors in person;
Sit in on inspiring industry-related talks;
Network with dozens of industry professionals;
Witness some of the latest cutting-edge technology in games.
Below, I’ve shared a brief day-by-day rundown of my experience at GDC, including some key takeaways from all the things I learned along the way.
Day one at GDC
A significant portion of my first day was spent traveling from Dallas to San Francisco. On arrival at the airport, I met up with CGS alum and fellow teammate Technical Assistant (TA) Jessica Geis. Together, we made our way to our hotel, only a short walk from the conference center. We spent some time planning the next few days’ activities before getting ready for our CG Spectrum in-person team meetup at Alchemy Bar and Lounge!
As we made our way to the meetup that night, a wave of anticipation and excitement washed over me. Being a part of CG Spectrum’s lively online community—filled with students, alums, and mentors all offering support, guidance, and sharing their journeys—has given me the opportunity to build so many meaningful connections and lasting friendships. Now, I would be meeting some of these people in the flesh!
A blurry but happy photo of our CG Spectrum meetup, where some of the team, mentors, and students got to meet in person.
As the night wore on, we exchanged stories and got to know each other even better. It was clear that we were all here for the same reason—to have fun and share our passion for gaming and the desire to learn and grow within the industry. We left feeling energized and excited for the next few days of our GDC adventure.
Key takeaway: Build your community
The CG Spectrum meetup reinforced just how powerful and inspiring it can be to connect with others who share similar passions to you. Ultimately this was my favorite part of the entire journey!
So, my advice to people starting out in the industry is to find ways to connect with other creatives. These people become your co-workers, your mentors, and your friends who inspire and encourage you.
GDC is a great way to meet like-minded people, however, not everyone will have the resources to attend events like this. I caught up with CG Spectrum Mentor Ehsan Ebrahimzadeh, who spoke at this year's GDC about his experience working on the video game Redfall, and we chatted about accessibility. He had some great, more affordable and local suggestions:
Ways to build your community—
Attend local game development events. Many cities have local game development communities that host meetups, workshops, and other events;
Participate in online communities. There are several online communities dedicated to game development;
Participate in game jams;
Get GDC Vault to gain access to recorded GDC sessions. You can also find lots of them for free on the GDC Youtube channel;
Invest your money in building your game dev skills and portfolio at a reputable school with a vibrant community (like CG Spectrum!).
Ehsan also had the following advice for CG Students, "If you can't attend [GDC], don't worry that you've missed out. Keep informed, keep learning and improving your work (a good portfolio is key!), network online, and be active in the CG Spectrum online community."
I can’t emphasize the value of CG Spectrum’s online community enough. Meeting these skilled and talented people in person was a reminder of what an amazing resource the CGS community truly is. It's not often that you get to experience that kind of camaraderie and shared passion in the same space (both virtual and in person), and I left feeling more grateful than ever.
Day two at GDC
On the second day, we were joined by several other CG Spectrum students. We walked around the expo floor together, which was a whirlwind of energy and inspiration! The conference had so much to offer, and it was really fun to experience it together as a group.
Some of my GDC posse! They helped make each day extra fun. I met these wonderful people through the CG Spectrum online community.
We made our way through sprawling booths and displays from companies like Epic Games, Sony, Microsoft, and Unity (to name only a few!). The space was enormous, with something for everyone.
We witnessed some incredible innovations and listened to interactive demonstrations showcasing the latest advancements in AI and machine learning, VR, 3D modeling and texturing, rendering, visualization, animation, game design, storytelling, and so much more.
It was amazing to see just how far technology has come in recent years and to imagine all the possibilities it holds for the future of gaming. Walking the GDC expo floor emphasized just how vast and diverse the gaming industry truly is and how many opportunities are at our fingertips—there really has never been a better time to pursue a career in video games!
Day two also involved watching and trying out some incredible game demos, which gave us a sneak peek into some of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, including many notable indie developments as well. These demos were not only exciting to play but also allowed us to chat and connect with developers and get an inside look at their creative process.
Throughout the event, we had the chance to network with tons of people in the industry. Everywhere we looked, there were creatives walking around, each possessing their own unique perspective, vision, and role within the industry. It was almost impossible not to bump into someone and strike up a conversation.
One excellent conversation we had was with David Banner, the founder of Wales Interactive. He shared a brief history of his career and key moments about his journey in the gaming industry, highlighting how he came to create amazing games such as Maid of Sker. GDC was filled with moments like this while casually walking around!
Key takeaway: Network!
Networking can be incredibly valuable at an event like GDC where some of the industry's best minds congregate. It's a perfect opportunity to get to know some of the people who work (and hire people!) in video games and better understand the ins and outs of the industry.
Networking in general is super valuable! It helps you to build your reputation and increase your visibility—so studios and recruiters start taking notice—while offering an avenue to exchange ideas, encouraging personal learning and growth. Networking also helps you find your people and build your community (my main takeaway from day one).
CG Spectrum's Career Development Manager, Maxine Schnepf's number one networking tip is to do your research. Start looking up specific companies relevant to you—artists and/or studios creating similar looking content or working on the type of projects you're interested in. Then you need to figure out how they got the job or what the expectations are for those companies.
As well as networking with people working in the roles you'd like to pusure, you also want to try to connect with people who work in adjacent fields—artists who you can collaborate with.
Day three at GDC
The final day of GDC was bittersweet. We were exhausted from all the fun and walking around but were determined to make this last full day count!
We attended a roundtable session on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the games industry, including a variety of topics around mental health, which was a highly motivational and educational experience.
As we know, changes in our industry are gradually being made to provide a safer and more balanced environment for everyone in this industry. I felt lucky to be included and listen in on such important conversations!
Some of the 28,000 attendees at GDC 2023 (Photo credit: GDC)
Soon it was time to get back to the hotel and pack. Our group visited the exhibit floor one last time, taking in all the last-minute sights and sounds we could before we had to say our final farewells to this awesome conference.
Key takeaway: Try new things (get out of your comfort zone)
I highly recommend that all students and aspiring game developers break out of their comfort zones and seek out opportunities like GDC. It can be hard, but it’s worth it. Because of my former studies at CG Spectrum, I was lucky to already have an amazing community to share the experience with, which definitely made it less daunting. My peers helped me to feel supported and motivated to make the most of this experience.
Putting yourself out there and trying new things can enrich your learning journey and growth as an artist, developer, and person. And you don't necessarily have to travel or attend in-person events to put yourself out there—even posting your work online and accepting constructive criticism counts!
So, take that leap of faith and embrace the possibilities that await. Who knows where it might take you? One thing's for sure: you won't regret it.
Goodbye, for now, GDC!
As I sat on my flight back to Dallas, I took some time to reflect on the many things I'd learned while at GDC, including how important it is to:
Make lasting connections with your peers;
Network with working professionals;
Gather intel about new and changing technologies;
Put yourself out there;
Dive deeper into subjects outside of your wheelhouse to have a better understanding of this industry as a whole;
Enjoy the ride!
My experience as both a student and CG Spectrum teammate at GDC was truly unforgettable. From the excitement of my CGS teammates and fellow students to the thrill of walking the expo floor and exploring the latest innovations in the gaming industry–every moment was filled with energy and inspiration.
Before I sign off, I want to take a moment to acknowledge my team. You know who you are! Thank you all for helping me arrange schedules, coordinate meetups, and ensure that everything ran smoothly. Without your assistance and attention to detail, our time at GDC would not have been nearly as successful. ✌️
Build your community while you build your game dev skills!
Along with a job-focused education led by game industry experts, enrolling in any of our game development courses at CG Spectrum also gives students access to our active online community—a supportive network of peers, industry mentors, and alumni (many of whom now work in the industry!). It's a place to get creative, collaborate, learn, share your progress, get valuable feedback, receive technical support, network, and have fun with thousands of like-minded people!