GDC expects to draw 30,000 to SF in March


The 38th edition of the Game Developers Conference is expected to draw 30,000 people to San Francisco in March, according to event producer Informa.

Stephenie Hawkins, director of event production media & entertainment at Informa, said in an interview that the projected number for GDC 2024 (March 18-22) is about 2,000 more than the 28,000 that attended GDC 2023. It will take place once again at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

There will be more than 700 speaking sessions during the week, many of them curated by the GDC advisory board, which has more than 100 volunteers who are seasoned game and VR/AR industry professionals. The event will have 17 summits that take place on the first two days of the event, and the expo floor will be open from May 20 to May 22. There are five workshops and the Game Career Seminar.

“Our content has always had an emphasis on knowledge sharing. And that’s why it’s really important for us to be working with folks in the industry who are experiencing all of this firsthand so that there’s really great depth of insight and feedback that our advisers are able to provide us,” Hawkins said. “It’s a conference that’s by developers and for developers.”

In terms of the program, the #1ReasonToBe panel will return with a focus on women in game development from emerging territories across the globe. Laia Bee of Pincer Games and the Uruguayan Game Developers Association will help curate the session.

Hawkins expects to surpass the 345 exhibitors that were on the show floor last year. This year the show is introducing the startup zone for new companies. One small change is the business meeting rooms will move the Esplanade and they will be held all five days, not just three.

The themes this year include careers, community and accessibility. A new theme this year will also be safety. The GDC will give 900 scholarships to attend GDC with all-access passes.

As for amenities, there will be a babysitting room, a quiet room, a prayer room, and gender neutral bathrooms. Every conference room is equipped for visual or audio impairment aid. Attendees can choose the pronouns they want to use on badges. And there is a bike valet and bike rental program. The sessions in the GDC vault of videos will have closed captions in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese. A student day run by diversity.org will happen on March 22.

Safety measures

GDC mainstage in 2023.

Regarding safety, Hawkins said the event is introducing a hotline that attendees can call if they feel uncomfortable at any point in their GDC experience, Hawkins said. The team will also have an email address for the same purpose. The phone line will start March 14, and it will continue until April 1. There are also live emergency lines in the convention center that are better to use as emergency personnel have a hard time locating cellphones with Moscone.

There are conference associates with neon shirts who can handle incidents, and there will be a buddy walking system. Attendees can get a QR code to give them directions on how to walk safely to Moscone. SF’s Safety Welcome Ambassadors dressed in orange can offer restaurant recommendations and more on San Francisco.

GDC is adding security between the buildings and up toward the Marriott too.

“We’re just working closely with SF travel and the hotels and local venues to make sure everyone’s safe,” Hawkins said.

There were reports last year of people getting “roofied” with knockout drugs at side events. The GDC doesn’t monitor those non-GDC events, but it has a code of conduct that is enforced at its own events. The GDC doesn’t allow anyone to serve alcohol on the show floor before 4 p.m.

GDC and IGF Awards

In 2023, we may see crowded rooms like this shot in GDC 2019.
In 2023, we may see crowded rooms like this shot in GDC 2019.

The awards take place on March 20 at 6:30 p.m. The finalists for the Independent Games Festival get a $1,000 stipend and the grand prize is $10,000. The Game Developers Choice Awards will happen right after the IGF. The event will be livestreamed at http://twitch.tv/gdc.

As for new events, the Next Gen-Tech Forum will take place to educate people about topics like AI, Web3, blockchain, cryptocurrency and more. The GDC 101 session on Tuesday evening is a guide for navigating GDC. John Polson will host the alt.ctrl.GDC community space again. And GDC will hold speed networking on Wednesday through Friday.

Ashley Corrigan, conference manager and head of content at GDC, said in an interview that the Game Career Seminar will offer strategies for devs pitching their games, how to land investors or publishers, and how to build better careers.

The crowds hit 28,000 at GDC 2023.
The crowds will be back at GDC 2023.

“It focuses on getting into the industry, nailing the interview, and putting together a portfolio,” Corrigan said.

While there were lots of layoffs in the past year, the job-related sessions at GDC are the same as last year. They include career development content, a job board, speed networking and options to add “we’re hiring” to virtual booths or GDC badges. There is a Game Maker Sketchbook game art gallery held in conjunction with the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and Fortyseven. There is also a game history gallery.

There are community lounges with different themes to make it easy to sit and have quick conversations. The mobile app is good for finding spots on the expo floor plan. Roundtables will take place Wednesday through Friday and those sessions are not recorded.

The workshops will focus on fair play, production, game design, storytelling fundamentals and the climate crisis workshop. The Game Narrative Summit will have a competition that an advisory board will review. Some standout sessions include a level design talk on Alan Wake 2 by Anne-Marie Gronroos, a classic game postmortem on Karateka by Jordan Mechner, and crafting and balancing story and character in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 by Jon Paquette.

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