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GDC 2020! Tips for first timers

Updated: Feb 18

We're about a month away from GDC and I'm so excited! This will be my fourth GDC so I feel like I've gotten it down to a science that personally works for me. However, many friends of mine will be attending GDC for the first time this year. Yay! So a lot of them are asking me for tips. I've decided to gather the posts and tips that have helped me in the past so I can send them everything at once.

Existing Links That Have Helped Me:

  • This guide is honestly my go-to. It's incredibly organized and detailed! This guide is by Ian Schreiber and based on a guide by David Schwartz. It's aimed at helping students but this has a lot of helpful tips for anyone attending GDC for the first time.

  • This Twitter thread by Xavier Coelho-Kostlony is full of a lot of amazing info! This is a great thread to reference while you're at GDC since each Tweet is short and to the point.

  • This quick guide by Phosphor is also great! This one is another quick read and great for on-the-go tips.

  • This isn't a link but something my mentor Cindy Miller told me back in 2017 when I got the Glitch Power Levelling scholarship. Below is a map of the Tenderloin District in San Francisco. It's close to Moscone Center and has pretty cheap hostels to stay at. However, that's because the area is not very safe. If you can avoid staying here, please do! If you are booking last minute and it's all that's left or even if it's not last minute but all you can afford, try to stay as close to Moscone as possible and stay with a friend. That way, you won't have to walk by yourself.

How I Personally Do GDC:

  • I always bring business cards since this is the main thing people will ask for when they want to keep in touch with you. People typically won't immediately ask for you number or email.

  • I make a schedule for myself on Google Calendar. That way, I can color code my events by priority. For example, the things I must attend, like my own talks, are in red. The events I'd like to go to if possible are in yellow. And my backup events are in green. I typically end up using all of Google Cal's available colors though so I have a wide variety of options.

  • Speaking of schedules - you will absolutely not be able to go to everything. All the events that you think are cool will seem to overlap. That's why I like to prioritize

  • I also make sure I schedule in breaks and meal times. It's very easy to lose time while you're at GDC so it's important to remember to eat. At the very least, I bring snacks with me.

  • I fight off FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) however I can so you can take breaks. Taking breaks is one of the biggest things that has helped me. It's been more beneficial for me to leave when I'm tired so I can be fully functional the next day. If you can't be 100% mentally present, it's ok to go back to your place and relax.

  • Related to FOMO - It's ok to skip the big events to hang out with individual people. Some of my best GDC memories are of hanging out with a few friends at a diner or swimming somewhere.

  • If you want to go to the big events, that's awesome! But if big events are draining for you, make sure you do things that also give you energy, instead of trying to do all of the things that will take up energy for you.

  • Comfy shoes are a MUST! You will not believe how much walking you'll do during the week. Honestly. They have seriously saved my butt each time

  • GDC is pretty casual so if I'll usually wear something like nice pants with a cute top (and comfy shoes of course). If you want to do more, that's certainly not a bad thing; just make sure you're comfortable walking around.

  • For students in particular: there is talk of some people you meet giving you the cold shoulder when you tell them you're a student. This has personally happened to me and friends of mine in the past. Honestly? Don't even worry about it. There are so many lovely people are GDC. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unwelcome in this community, leave the conversation and find someone else to talk to. Basically:

You're going to meet a lot of people; if you need to walk away from someone, that's ok! Do so in a respectful way. Your main priority is your safety.

  • But even if I don't want to talk to someone, I'm still polite and as kind as I can be.

  • Have a buddy system: whether you're going to a meet up or a party, having someone with you can help make you feel safe. It's also a great way to escape awkward situations; consider having a code word you can say to each other if you don't feel safe or if you want to leave for any other reason.

  • I always pack a bag of essentials to bring with me to the conference everyday.

Bring a Bag of Essentials With You Each Day:

  • I use a mini, faux-leather Loungefly backpack; this is what it looks like:

Here's what I include in my bag:

  1. My business cards

  2. Something to hold the business cards I get from other people

  3. Refillable water bottle

  4. Deodorant

  5. Mouthwash, and/or one of those to-go toothbrushes

  6. Wallet with cash. Don't bring too much cash at once in case someone picks your pocket.

  7. A small, discrete taser. I've thankfully never had to use it, but I feel safer walking around when I have it.

  8. A hairbrush

  9. Roll-on perfume, or a small travel size spray

  10. Poo-pouri

  11. Mini first aid kit with Band-Aids, Neosporin, and Liquid Band-Aid

  12. Travel size tissues

  13. Hand Sanitizer

  14. At least one power bank. I usually bring one super powerful one and some more standard ones for back ups

  15. Mini power strip. This will help you make friends while you charge your phone.

  16. Phone charger + whatever other chargers you need.

  17. Polaroid. This is both just nice to have and a great backup if you end up running out of business cards: take a photo with your new pal and write your contact info in the margins.

  18. A luggage lock for you bag, especially if it's something like a backpack. I personally haven't had issues with pick pockets, but my bag is a backpack which means I can't necessarily see or feel when someone is touching it.

I also bring my Star Wars hat with me everyday. When I don't wear it, I keep it clipped to my bag. I use my hat to identify myself and it definitely helps a lot. If I have some downtime, I'll post on Twitter saying something like "I'll be in Yerba Buena Gardens for 15 minutes, come find me!" with a selfie wearing my hat. People have actually come up to me and said "hey, are you Aubrey? I follow you!" I've met a lot of cool people that way.

I know that sounds like a lot to bring, but the mini backpack from Loungefly is the perfect size for me. I've used nearly everything I've brought with me to GDC. Also, if you don't feel like you have the room to spare in your bag, you could get a strap for your refillable water bottle so you can carry it around your shoulder. I have a hydroflask and

the strap I got

has two different lengths so I can do whatever is the most comfortable.

Lastly, my favorite moments at GDC have absolutely been while meeting old and new friends. You can check out

this spreadsheet

to find a list of this year's parties. Some of these are casual meet ups, some are sponsored parties; take a look and check out what interests you!

I hope you found this article helpful! Feel free to comment with your own tips, links, or anything you'd like me to add to this list. ✌ See y'all at Moscone!

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