How the Big Boys Roll: GDC Canada Day One

There are five other conferences at the Vancouver Convention Centre, most of which boast larger audiences than GDC Canada. Vancouver is a hot spot for gaming and game development. The Game Design Expo, run by Vancouver Film School, attracts fresh talent with the promise of scholarships, a chance to show their partially developed games, and network with people in industry. We have close to fifty (!) game design and development studios in Vancouver with a major university and several private institutions teaching game design and development. It caught me by surprise that there weren’t more people (and more exhibitors) at the event.

Day One of the Game Developer Conference is all about learning about how the big boys do it: everything from monetizing social games to choosing the right lighting to casting the right voice actors. Or, if you are one of the big boys, how the other boys do it. Emphasis on boys. Not too many chicks hanging out at the GDC outside of those on staff or volunteering.

Good thing I wore my best business dress.

My favourite seminar was “Social Games: (Still) No Lightning in a Bottle” (with Matt Shea of WildTangent), which talked about building a social game the right way; using things like digital currency (not game credits/points), brand advertising (not banner advertising), and utilizing demographics correctly. As a nod to Bill Mooney’s keynote speech about his hugely successful social games (Mafia Wars and FarmVille), Shea focused a lot on FarmVille’s successes and shortcomings in terms of advertisements and overall conversion.

Day Two of the Game Developer Conference is going to rock! We’ve got sessions from Tommy Tallarico from Video Games Live and Electronic Playground; a session on how BioWare brought Dragon Age to life; and lots of information on how to get one’s foot in the game industry door with three sessions on Game Careers. Juicy, juicy stuff.

Overall, the conference is off to a slow start but there are great things on the horizon for tomorrow.

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