Lets be real, GDC can be hella expensive. If you are employed by a gaming mega corp they might cover your costs. GDC even has a convince your boss guide to help. If you are a smaller fish you will need to be thrifty. This article is for the small fish.
What GDC pass to get?
The GDC passes come in a few tiers, offering various access...
If you can afford it, the Expo pass will get you like 90% of the "official" GDC experience. The Expo pass will get you access to networking, and to the conference floor demo experience. You'll get to play the hottest indie games on the floor and attend the indie game awards. You'll also get to play the alternative controller games which we highly reccomend.
GDC Expo pass FOMO
The experience you are missing out on having the expo pass, is that of the educational lecture hall style presentations on game dev topics. These talks are all recorded and end up in the "GDC vault" They are later posted on YouTube.
In addition to these tiers there are some specialty teirs. One specialty tier to consider is the Independant Games Summit Pass This pass is more expensive at $419. This will get you access to a subset of lectures hall talks that are delivered by indie game developers. The indie pass talks are on the first two days seperate from th other summits -- which is before the expo and main conference start. So there are fewer people around.
How to get a free GDC pass
Submit a talk
Get your GDC pass covered by giving a talk at GDC. GDC accepts submissions for presentations. If your submission gets accepted they will sponser your GDC trip. This is a great way to get attention on your indie projects and cover the cost of the conference.
GDC employs a staff of volunteers or "Conference Associates" GDC Conference Associates receive a complimentary All Access pass in exchange for 25 hours during GDC week answering attendee questions, monitoring doors, checking badges, and other responsibilitie
Get invited to Judge an awards category
Small chance this happens but if you have produced some radical ground breaking indie game you maybe invited to GDC as a judge.
You don't need a GDC pass
More importantly, you don't need a GDC pass to have a good time and take advantage of the confrence. There are plenty of high quality unofficial events happening you can drop into.
Get a Job at GDC
There will be gaming mega corps looking to hire talent at GDC. They will have networking application sessions where hopeful new grads and devs queue up to present their resumes and portfolios. If you are an artist have some physical prints of your work ready to display. Get business cards can't afford to have them printed? Make them your self. Hand out QR codes with linked to your itch.io page.
Connect with the Pros
If you have any pass to GDC you get acces to the networking portal This is a directory of game industry professionals with which you can just book time to chat with. If you are strategic you can make a connection to your favorite studios or publishers. Use this to shill your wares and get hired or raise funding.
GDC side show parties
There is usually a unofficial 'party list' that goes around during GDC, a spread sheet of side show parties. Most parties do not require any pass to attend. Many also have free drinks and snacks for the extra thrifty. These publiclly listed parties quickly sell out or hit max capacity. If you rsvp and plan on going get, there early.
In additon to the popular unofficial party list there are many more low key off the grid anti-GDC parties. Things like people hosting tech talks in penthouse hotel rooms. Outsider Punk parties at public parks. These are more exclusive and word of mouth invite.
Meet the locals
GDC is hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is a large diaspora of indie game developers situated in the area. There are several decentralized discords and meetup groups through the region of eclectic outsiders. During GDC they host parties and game Jam events of their own.
- East Bay Game Devs & Creatives
- Bay Area Developer (B.A.D) Collective
- Hype O' clock game dev and tea time
- SF Game Development
- Silicon Valley Indie Game Developers
- SF Bay Area Gamef Jamming & Game Design
Host your own GDC party
Muster some (D.I.Y) do it yourself energy and host your own party! Yerba Buena Gardens is a public green space next door to the GDC convention center. It is often a gathering space for GDC attendees. People will camp out here and host their own micro events. Chances are you will run into a group of indies at Yerba Buena and if not, start your own gathering!
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