Many game developers across the world make the annual pilgrimage to San Francisco, California, around this time for the Game Developers Conference (GDC), an event that often sets the stage for the revised development practices that will be seen over the year to come.
More than that, however, it’s a place to meet likeminded professionals, exchange ideas and demo work-in-progress projects to one another. There are many times I personally have attended and met with many people who didn’t even have a ticket to the event and simply came along to catch up with old friends and be a part of the community off-site. It was obviously a significant blow, then, when the event was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, the safety and well being of those potential attendees come first. While much of the online gaming community has a reputation of being ‘toxic’ and treating developers with far less respect than is deserved, those working within the industry know otherwise; we aren’t simply numbers on a spreadsheet drawing polygons for people to shoot at, we’re all individuals with lives outside of our little gaming bubble. In uncertain times, the protection of our personal lives and those around us have to take priority.
With this in mind, the quarantines and ‘self-isolating’ processes currently being enforced by governments around the world are of course a good idea. But we need to look to the future, and with that comes the question of how to make up for the lost time? There are undoubtedly many developers – especially, though not exclusively, smaller indie studios – who invested a lot of time and money into preparing for GDC only to have the rug pulled from under them. Many studios would have featured the event as integral to their 2020 strategy, and so now they need to be flexible and find a way to recoup the lost time and financial investments.
Informa Tech, the organizers of GDC, has one idea: an interim summer event. Opposed to simply waiting for March 2021 to roll around, Informa Tech has announced that ‘GDC Summer’ will be held in 4th – 6th August 2020, in the same location, the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Billed as a ‘three-day celebration of the art, craft, and business of game development’, GDC Summer will act as a replacement to the traditional annual event including expert-led talks and a ‘freestyle’ two-day expo show floor (exactly what ‘freestyle’ means at this point is anyone’s guess).
In principle, this sounds like a great alternative plan. However, it’s likely that many will remain skeptical about booking travel for many weeks yet, and perhaps even long thereafter. So will GDC Summer accurately recreate the thrill and excitement of bringing the development community together? Most likely yes, but on a very smaller scale. Another issue is, of course, the fact that another big annual industry event, Gamescom, takes place in Cologne, Germany, just a couple of weeks later. Will indie devs have the budget to attend two large-scale events on opposite sides of the world within a matter of weeks?
Arguably, GDC Summer will cater to American developers (as opposed to global teams, as is typically the case with GDC) while Gamescom will have a heavy European focus. If you can afford – either financially or timewise – to attend both that sounds like an ideal scenario. However I suspect that most developers will have to pick their battle, and the war for an indie hotspot in 2020 will be fought on geographical proximity.
Kevin Joyce has been working with immersive technology since 2013, establishing VRFocus.com as one of the leading AR and VR publications before joining Admix, a non-intrusive advertising platform designed specifically for immersive experiences, as Lead Evangelist.