The Game Developers Conference (GDC) brings together developers from all walks of life: Indies, social game devs, and console and PC game developers rub shoulders with students and game-development hopefuls. GDC features lectures, summits, workshops, and more, all designed to make you better at your job (or help you land one). Of particular interest for students is the Game Career Seminar, in which industry luminaries give lectures to aspirational game developers. This popular event continues to grow and support the show's Game Career Pavilion, where attendees can meet face-to-face with some of the industry's top studios and hand out a few resumes.
GDC also hosts the annual Independent Games Festival, which showcases some of the finest games in the indie-development space. It has a special Student Showcase, which displays 10 specially chosen student projects and puts them in front of thousands of attendees (and potential publishers). (GDC is owned and operated by UBM TechWeb, which also owns Game Developer magazine and GameCareerGuide. It next takes place in 2013 in San Francisco.)
GDC 2012 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA.
GDC Europe follows the structure of the San Francisco-based GDC, but it turns its gaze toward European developers and regional market trends. The show takes place in conjunction with the consumer focused trade show Gamescom and has cheaper student passes that allow access to all content.
GDC China, which recently took place in Shanghai, hosts talks on business and management, game design, production, programming, and visual arts, but it has a bent toward the Asian market. The show also hosts its own IGF competition, much like the primary GDC, and is open to Oceania as well as all Asian countries.
New to the GDC family in 2013 is the Los Angeles-based GDC Next. This show is the successor to the Austin-based GDC Online, and will focus on what's next in smartphone & tablet, social, independent, cloud and other major forms of games. The debut event will take place November 5-7 in Los Angeles, alongside the brand-new App Developers Conference.
Be sure to book some extra vacation time when you visit GDC Europe, because Cologne, Germany also hosts the consumer-oriented Gamescom, and the shows often run back-to-back. Gamescom is Europe's largest trade fair for games, and the show invites the public and industry professionals to check out upcoming titles and interact with the developers behind them.
The annual Develop Conference, held in Brighton, U.K., hosts talks on production, coding, audio, design, art, and business. The show also features the Evolve Conference, which focuses on the emergence of new platforms, technologies, and markets. Develop usually takes place during the summer.