[In this article, first published in Game Developer magazine's 2011 Game Career Guide issue, we provide a roundup of the key events and organizations to know when breaking into game development.]
Video game events and trade shows are an excellent resource for learning about the industry and making connections with professional developers. Here are a few events you should know.
Game Developers Conference
Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the Game Developers Conference (GDC), which brings together developers from all walks of life. You've got indies, social game devs, and traditional developers rubbing shoulders with students and game development hopefuls. GDC features lectures, summits, workshops, and more, all designed to make you better at your job, or to help you get one. Of particular interest for students is the Career Seminar, in which industry luminaries give lectures to aspiring game developers. This popular event continues to grow,
and supports 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 space. It has a special Student Showcase, which displays 10 specially chosen student projects and puts them on display in front of thousands of attendees (and potential publishers). (GDC is owned and operated by UBM TechWeb, which also owns Game Developer magazine, and will next take place in 2012 in San Francisco.)
Photo courtesy of Game Developers Conference
GDC Online is similar to GDC, but (as you may have guessed!) has more of an online focus, and is located in Austin, Texas, a hub of game development in the southern U.S. But that's not all the show covers-there's everything from mobile and social titles to free-to-play and subscription-based MMOs, not to mention offline game development. There's a Career Seminar here, too! The next GDC Online will be held October 10-13, 2011 in Austin, Texas.
GDC Europe follows the structure of the San Francisco-based GDC, but 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, and will take place in Cologne, Germany from August 15-17, 2011.
GDC China, which will be held November 12-14, 2011 in Shanghai, hosts talks on business and management, game design, production, programming, and visual arts. The show also hosts its own IGF competition, much like the primary GDC, and is open to Oceania as well as all Asian countries.
Be sure to book some extra vacation time after GDC Europe, because Cologne, Germany will be hosting gamescom immediately after the developer focused event on August 17-21, 2011. 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, UK, 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. The 2012 Develop Conference will take place in the summer.
The Toronto Game Jam (TOJam) aims to foster collaboration and experimentation among developers by hosting a three-day programming marathon for hobbyists and professionals alike.
Attendees bring their own computers, tools, and sleeping bags to collaborate with their peers and make the best game they can-from scratch-over the course of a weekend. The event is not a competition, but rather an opportunity for amateur and professional developers to test their skills in a fun environment while surrounded by like-minded peers. Since the first TOJam in 2006, the event has produced well over a hundred complete games. The next TOJam will take place in May 2012.
The annual IndieCade Festival brings together independent games and developers from around the world to celebrate the growing indie space. The event allows developers to showcase their titles and network with peers, and the event organizers host an awards ceremony to honor the industry's standout indie games and studios. The next IndieCade will take place October 6-9, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA.
Penny Arcade Expo
The biannual Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), held in Seattle and Boston, builds its reputation on celebrating video games and the culture that surrounds them. This is by far the most accessible of all the shows we've mentioned, and has a real consumer and fan-oriented focus. The show features a range of tournaments and other social events for attendees, as well as a number of panels from industry professionals. The show's expo floor offers a collection of upcoming titles, as well as a showcase of top indie games known as the PAX 10. The Seattle-based PAX Prime event will take place on August 26-28, 2011, and PAX East will take place in Boston in early 2012.
The D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit is more about the business end of the industry, bringing the higher level executives together as they discuss developing trends and opportunities within the game industry. The show is organized by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and hosts the annual Indie Game Challenge as well as the Interactive Achievement Awards. The last D.I.C.E. Summit took place in February 2011 in Las Vegas-details for the 2012 event have yet to be announced.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), organized by the ESA, is one of the largest and most extravagant U.S. events in the industry. The show brings together publishers and hardware manufacturers as they reveal their upcoming projects, and build excitement for the ever important fourth quarter. While the show is only open to professionals, E3 drew in more than 45,600 attendees in 2010.
Tokyo Game Show
The Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is the largest video game trade show in Japan, where the region's biggest publishers exhibit their upcoming titles to journalists, fans, and the industry at large. The show features a number of workshops and conferences for developers, and serves as a venue for the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association's (CESA) Japan Game Awards. TGS' Sense of Wonder Night allows developers to showcase their new or experimental projects and ideas.
The first two days of TGS are held exclusively for professionals, though the final two days are open to the general public. The event is co-organized by CESA and Nikkei Business Publications, Inc., and the 2011 show will be held September 15-18 at the Makuhari-Messe in Chiba City, Japan.
These organizations support and regulate the game industry, and a number of them are open to students and consumers.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) aims to connect developers worldwide. This non-profit organization has chapters in North America, Asia, and Europe, and sponsors a number of events and parties at the industry's various developer conferences. Members of the organization gain access to a wealth of community tools and discussions that allow developers to connect with each other and share information and ideas. Annual memberships are available to both students for $30 and to professionals for $48, with other options are available for qualified individuals. They even have a group health care plan!
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) represents the interests of U.S. game publishers via anti-piracy programs, business and consumer research, government outreach, and intellectual property protection efforts. The organization also owns and operates the popular E3 Expo, and funds several charities through its ESA Foundation.
Video Game Voters Network
The Video Game Voters Network, sponsored by the ESA, helps lead the charge against legislation that threatens the video game industry. The organization aims to keep voters educated about issues that could affect game regulation, and encourages outreach to local, state, and federal officials.
The Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB), created by the ESA in 1994, rates the content of games released in North America, and ensures that the industry follows a common set of marketing guidelines. The organization receives support from publishers and retailers alike.
Game Audio Network Guild
The Game Audio Network Guild provides a common network for game audio professionals to connect with peers, share ideas, and advance the implementation of audio in video games. Members of the organization gain benefits including access to the G.A.N.G. social network, as well as a number of other opportunities to network with like-minded audio professionals. Membership is available at a variety of levels for both students and professionals.
The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) is a nonprofit organization that celebrates the developers behind the industry's most influential games. The AIAS hosts the annual D.I.C.E. summit, as well as the event's Interactive Achievement Awards.
There are several other events, organizations, and web sites that game industry professionals should be familiar with, including:
- Game Developers Association of Australia
- IGDA Student Action SIG
- The Entertainment Consumers Association
- Microsoft Gamefest
- Montreal International Game Summit
- Taipei Game Show
- Casual Connect
- GameON Finance
- AI for Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference