GDC 2016 Recap

GDC_30_logos_v2Last month I attended the 30th annual Game Developers Conference out in San Francisco. This was my second time going out to the event and this time I was able to attend for the entire week. There was a lot to see and do, so I kept myself very busy throughout the week.

I arrived in San Francisco a few days before the convention since I was part of the Indie Train Jam, which I’ll be writing about in more detail later. It turned out that the hostel I was staying out was one of the go-to places to stay for most of the indie game developers. So before the main event had even started I got to chat and mingle with a bunch of cool people in the game industry.

Once the convention started on Monday, I didn’t waste time getting involved in events. One of the meet-ups that I found out about during last year’s GDC was the early morning game audio gathering at a coffee shop called Sightglass. This was a meet-up where members of the game audio community would discuss the upcoming events at GDC that concerned our discipline as well as share the knowledge we had gained from attending sessions the day before. These took place again this year and it was great to be able to participate for the whole week this time around.

These meetings were especially helpful for me since I did not have the more expensive Audio Track Pass for GDC but the Expo Pass, which would only get me into the main halls and a handful of sponsored talks. Being able to arrive at Sightglass every morning and hear the specifics about the talks that I couldn’t attend was immensely helpful to me, but it also promoted further conversation about the topics that were covered.

This GDC was a big year for the promotion of virtual reality or VR tech. We had plenty of discussions about audio’s importance in VR experiences and many of the difficulties involved with making believable and immersive experiences. One of the interesting discussions we had was about music and whether it could be present without feeling jarring to the player in the virtual world. There are clearly a lot of questions and unknowns about the new technology and it was great to hear different opinions from professionals in the field about these new challenges.

Wednesday of the GDC week saw the opening of the expo floor and as I suspected the big thing was VR. Sony ended up announcing the price of their VR headset to compete with the other companies. I had the chance to check out the Google Cardboard VR, the cheapest of the options, and the Samsung VR headset which only works with Samsung’s phones. Even though they were the cheaper and less high-tech options for VR, the effects were still present. Each set worked well even if they weren’t as impressive as the Oculus Rift models I’ve tried out before. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to try out the Sony VR or the HTC Vive at the show. Personally, I’m still skeptical about how well these headsets will do as the new must-have gaming devices, but we’ll see what happens.

Oculus GDC

One of the events that I was able to attend this year was the Game Audio Network Guild ( or G.A.N.G.) Awards. Just like any big award show there were tons of categories, including awards for sound, audio design, and best original soundtrack. This year’s big winners were Jessica Curry for her amazing work on the music for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Gareth Cocker who also received recognition for his soundtrack for Ori and the Blind Forest. The game Gathering Sky also won three awards that night. To end the evening, Marty O’Donnell, composer for the Halo series, received the G.A.N.G. Lifetime Achievement Award. It was fun to be in the audience and to watch many of the game audio people that I look up to receive recognition for their work.

O'Donnell Award

Outside of the main events of GDC I spent plenty of time talking and networking with fellow game audio people. There were a few parties including a pre-GDC bar crawl event and the IASIG (Interactive Audio Special Interest Group) mixer on Wednesday night at the Thirsty Bear. They were a great opportunity to chat with other people in the field, talk about projects that we were working on, and just a great way to have a good time. Much like the early morning meetings at Sightglass everyone was incredibly friendly and willing to share knowledge about various subjects within the field. I met people involved with voice acting, sound design, audio programming, and of course fellow composers.

The big thing that will continue to stick with me from this year’s experience is how amazing and welcoming people in the game audio community are. Everyone was helpful and friendly, always willing to share their knowledge, and they made me feel like a part of the community. I made a lot of connections and new friends that I will honestly miss hanging out with. This GDC was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait for the next time that I can meet up with these people again. In the meantime, I have plenty of work to do and hopefully some new projects coming down the pipeline.

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