Exhausting. Motivating. Inspiring.

Those short words basically summarize what I felt the past week. Granted, the week sacrificed precious time needed to focus on my school projects, which I am now catching up on (today marks 58 days until commencement), but the time was well worth spending in these events.

In very short summary, I attended both the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, and PAX East in Boston, MA. I want to share with you what these events were, what I experienced, what I learned and probably could have done better, and what I've taken away from all this. 

Before I go and ramble about these experiences, I need to share a few thank-yous that are very needed to be said:

Huge thank you to Tatiana Diaz and her family for being the greatest hosts ever and allowing me a place to stay at San Francisco for Game Developers Conference - GDC.

Thank you to everyone at the IGDA for allowing me to volunteer at GDC and represent the association with many other incredible volunteers.

Thank you to all the mentors and peers I met who do something I aspire to be, and took the time to meet and sit down with me for questions. And also to the inspiring people I met who are determined to bring more knowledge to the world (#GameAudioGDC).

Thank you, MassDiGI, James Spavold, Pat Rowan, Catherine Shen, Loren Sherman, Oleg Brodskiy, Yenni Desroches, Ali Swei, and Sarah Como for allowing me to share my own thoughts and perspectives along with incredible people at PAX East.

And thank you to all my friends I saw and spoke to during these events to catch up and hang out and allow time to relax.

 Thank you to everyone I saw, and for everyone here and beyond who continues to support me, whether involved in games or not. I hope to give that same support to you somehow.

GDC (March 1st - March 6th)

GDC (Game Developers Conference) is essentially a Mecca gathering of developers, programmers, designers, artists, audio professionals, media, students, and other enthusiastic folks who work in products related to video games. I was always told that it was the best place to go and network, meet people, and get to know the industry I want to work in. To me, I got the image of Cambridge's Moksa, where Boston Post Mortem holds its meetings, basically expanded into a giant convention center. Sounds fun for sure! I had no clue what was in store for me. 

I took a flight Saturday night from Boston to San Francisco and took a taxi ride to my awesome guest's house to get ready for the next day, which was volunteer orientation for IGDA!

For the entire trip, I volunteered for IGDA (International Game Developers Association), a fantastic group that establishes chapters and interest groups all around the world for developers to come together and meet other and share ideas of their own. They had us represent them and motivate people to follow their positive campaigns and join them. They do have awesome benefits, so I find it easy to vouch for them. 

Oh, and the volunteer team was awesome.

With them, I got a free expo pass to the conference. Sure, I couldn't attend any of the talks, but I was at least able to focus on helping them and on who was around the conference, whether old friends or potential people to meet and chat with.

Which takes me to talking about the conference itself.

The conference was filled with people of different backgrounds and identities who performed so many various tasks. Whatever they did, it was on their nametag. The fantastic thing about this conference is, everyone is generally here for the same reason: meeting people.
Sure, some primary goals would be getting a job, or building a business with new partners or clients. But in the end, it's a hub to meet others who develop around the US or even around the world. AAA, indie, student, press, you name it. And the best thing is, I found that people were willing to be comfortable with others. I sat around the area pictured above for lunch with some friends and met 4 awesome folks that way, just because they were sitting nearby. It becomes easy to nudge the person next to you and simply ask how their experience is with the conference.

Isn't it great? I mean, don't you feel good if someone is genuinely asking how you are doing? And in my personal experience, it never felt invasive or selfish. It felt like people genuinely wanting to talk. 

Granted, I still consider myself an introvert. It takes a lot of energy for me to go up to someone to ask them something. I have to be in the right mindset. Often times, I want to think for a moment and make sure I want to talk to someone for a genuine reason and not just to gain something from them. When you're surrounded with people who just want to talk, however, then I'm able to feel calmer and less self-conscious. And then I even feel more motivated to find new people to make friends with.

There were tons of places people went, such as luncheons, meetings, and parties. Oh yes. The parties.

Here's an IGDA lunch for members and guests. General admission seating!

Here's an IGDA lunch for members and guests. General admission seating!

Here's a mixer for folks working in virtual reality sponsored by Leap Motion.

Here's a mixer for folks working in virtual reality sponsored by Leap Motion.

For the most part, parties were the next best place to find people to meet. I couldn't believe who I could find and bump into. Great professionals that I admired, developers and designers of all genres of gamemaking who worked on games that I adored, and uprising people who had brilliant ideas or fantastic portfolios.
Frankly.... that was basically what I did! I met people. Had a huge bunch of business cards that I've now put into a contact sheet, connected with some great people on LinkedIn, and found out about so many resources to keep aware of (Game Audio Podcast gets a shoutout).

By the end of the conference, I was absolutely packed with business cards, all of which I have only just finished compiling into a contact sheet to follow up everyone I met there and to keep in touch. My legs were aching, I was running on about 12 hours of sleep in 3 days when I was getting back to my redeye 9pm flight to Boston (which got delayed to 12:45am, pushing time a lot since i had to get back to my MassDiGI Panel at PAX by 1pm).

After a long but mostly comfortable flight where I managed to sleep most of the way through, I arrived to cold Beantown for PAX! Round 2 of Video Game Week was about to commence.


PAX East (March 7th-March 8th)

My flight was Friday night to arrive in Boston Saturday morning, so I had to miss the Friday portion of PAX East. This was to be the first time I would speak in a panel.

Well, actually, not just one, but two.

1.) "Game Devs: The Next Generation, Part 2"

In this panel, me and 4 other great colleagues (James Spavold, Catherine Shen, Loren Sherman, and Pat Rowan) and friends of mine discussed our experiences at MassDiGI's 2014 Summer Innovation Program. As Monty Sharma moderated, we talked about how we worked together as a team in a studio-like envionment and how we managed to go from making concept ideas to 4 playable videogames, one of which is shipped for the LeapMotion and two of which are currently being published by Thumbspire and due for release later. Along with using agile development and scheduled SCRUM meetings to follow our Kanban boards and complete our tasks for the day and for the week, we managed to make a summer internship a professional studio environment.

2.) "Full-Time Student, Part-Time Indie"

Moderated by Oleg Brodskiy, I sat with Ali Swei, Sarah Como, and Yenni Desroches as we talked about how we balance the work of being students and indies doing work for games, no matter how small or big the work. The panel turned out very well for us. We had a great conversation about how we work differently and what our philosophies are in doing work during or after school, and we ended up having the second half of the panel as a Q/A for students and indies attending the panel.

Final Thoughts

You know, granted, I never really attend parties or gatherings besides game dev meetups, so I never know what it's like to go to events to just meet others and socialize. I did much more meeting people in GDC than PAX East, of course, and I was way too exhausted by PAX East to meet new people. I'm still proud of myself for managing to be awake for 2 panels!

Honestly, it is very hard for me to approach others. I mean, what do I say? What if the person thinks I just want a job? I'm still an undergrad, so what purpose would anyone want to talk to me? What if I'm being selfish in the first place? Why bother?

GDC was the first time I had to fight these negative voices in my head, and I had to come up with something. Something more motivating. More positive. What if the person is interested in my questions? What if I can stop thinking about "the job" and just keep a desire to make new friends and make new relationships with people? What if I can build my network while genuinely learning from the people I'm talking to?

I came out of GDC and PAX East loving people more. I met so many people of different personalities and different backgrounds that I couldn't help realize that I needed to have at least some pride in myself. It's still so hard for me to maintain a positive attitude when meeting new people. I have to constantly remind myself that the other person is human, too, and that I can't be anyone but myself. It always runs in my head.
But I can not thank both of these events enough for pushing me to meet others. And I need to thank you, if you're someone I met at these two events. You've given me more courage and more self-esteem, really! I hope to be truly happy with who I am and have nothing but pride that I am who I am. And I hope you do the same. It is so important for us to just be ourselves.

That was the beauty of this week. All I had to do was be myself.

I am still tired. I'm catching up on work. I've got a lot to do if I want to make it to the industry, as I've learned from mentors and peers at GDC and PAX. But I can go on being a little more proud of myself.

Thank you, video games. And thank you, reader. :)