Gamedev conferences – the benefits of abundance

I almost wrote a bit of a rant post about how next week there are at least 4 gamedev conferences taking place, and how the increased number of these events results in a loss of quality and how we are rapidly heading towards a big fat gamedev conference bubble.

But I am wrong.

Gamedev conferences - Creative Coast
The Witcher Playing Progress at Creative Coast

Indeed, there are a lot of gamedev events pretty much all year round. Once upon a time, I could only dream to ever have the super expensive chance to go to GDC, GamesCom, NGC or E3 and that was pretty much it. Not only were those events super expensive, but they were also largely addressed to a market and a business with a very narrow, young white western male, focus. They had no place for young gamedevs just starting up, no place for broke indies, no place even for successful indies. There weren’t many indies back then. And not so many games to choose from, either.

What lots of gamedev conferences mean for us

Today, there are plenty of gamedev events to attend, overwhelmingly many. This means there are far more affordable alternatives for any gamedev to attend, network and exhibit, not only from a ticket/ exhibitors fee perspective (there IS competition amongst all these events, enough so that some are free), but also because, if you cannot afford to go showcase your game to an US event as an European (for example), you now have local alternatives, far more approachable from a travel and lodging perspective.

Gamedev conferences - Creative Coast
How gamedevs look like in real life – YES we are robots.

The local trend also opens up the video games industry, and I sure hope it continues. If there is a gamedev community in or near your town, why wouldn’t they showcase their projects and why wouldn’t you go? Lots of people increasingly support the idea of local products, latest studies certainly shows that gaming is turning into a mainstream activity, and I am sure someone with a similar background and upbringing can tailor more appealing experiences for you. SteamSpy showed clearly that game preferences do differ from region to region and we no longer make games only for young white western males. Not to mention that approachable, local gamedev communities can easily inspire lots of people who otherwise would have never considered a career in the industry.

As a gamedev, it has also never been easier to become a speaker. This is something I was skeptical about, because I questioned the value someone can convey if they have never really accomplished something tangible, mostly the sort of tangible that’s acceptable from a business perspective (read: made moneyz, lots of moneyz).

But that is not the world I want to live in, and it’s definitely not the games industry I want to work in. Its not the commercial success that determines the value of a creative product such as a game, its not the size of the studio or your marketing budget that guarantees the excellence of a creative team, and in this new indie age, we celebrate enough, sustainable and honest far more than ever increasing profits. And we started to truly grasp how valuable ALL lessons are, especially those that speak of failure. So I think I can learn far more from an emerging, money-less indie CEO than I can from people like <insert here any big AAA game name you can think of> because our gamedev rockstars function in a world no indie would ever step in or would even like to (or so I hope).

The ultimate bonus?  The opportunity to meet other gamedevs. They – you! – are the builders of the video games industry 2.0. Those of you who successfully self launched an indie title become the most reliable, helpful, smart and honest publishers. Those of you who get the hang of social media become the most ardent promoters of good games AND good teams. Those of you that share a lesson, you help make the industry better: more diverse, more inclusive, more open, both in terms of professionals but also in terms of games.

I might not know you yet, but I want to.

The video games industry is a wonderful, wonderful place right now, and we can never really have enough opportunities to meet and learn and celebrate this.

Gamedev conference GDC 2016
Yerba Buena aka the GDC of the loving indies <3

Some tips for gamedev conferences

This being said, its still an art to pick and choose between the many gamedev conferences and events taking place. Here are a few tips:

  • Generally, closer (to home) means cheaper. It means less money spent on travel and far more wisdom when it comes to choosing accommodations.
  • Most gamedev conferences welcome indies and indie games so make sure to check if, how and what can you submit your game(s), and what you can get from it (ie a small booth, a free pass, etc)
  • There are other ways to contribute for free passes and other gratuities, like volunteering, but this has a deadline which means you need to know in advance where you want to go and keep an eye on the events you selected.
  • In general submitting a game, volunteering, speaker submissions or other opportunities to cut down conference costs take place and end up cca One Month Before the actual event. Those people need to plan stuff, so build your calendar and keep an eye on the events you are interested in As Early As You Can. Thankfully we are creatures of habit so you can easily build up your gamedev events calendar one year before.
  • The more famous the event, the more early time-wise are the deadlines. For example if you wish to submit a speak proposal for GDC 2017, you need to kick start that process this fall.
  • You can keep an eye on the the gamedev conferences here or here (there are numerous other places, those are just my fav sources). All these resources are labors of passion so they are incomplete
  • DO tell people where you go! Have a calendar on your website, makes it easy for people to know where they can meet you!
  • Some conferences are free and awesome. You should know about them, and I won’t make it easy for you. Search!
  • When choosing what lectures to attend, be honest if its the gamer fanboy in you, or is it the creator, the studio owner who makes that choice. Not saying its wrong to get you know your childhood heroes, just that its good to know why.

Finally here’s my calendar for the rest of this year, in case you wanna meet up!

  • May 16-17 – Creative Coast, Karlshamn, Sweden
  • May 18-20 – Nordic Game Conference, Malmö, Sweden
  • June 10 – Swedish Game Awards, Skövde, Sweden
  • August 17-21 – GamesCom, Cologne, Germany
  • October 20-23 – Sweden Game Conference, Skövde, Sweden