OBP@GDC – GDC & Me: an Interview with Greg
Our fearless leader and CEO, Gregory Off, talks about some of his GDC experiences, what the conference means to the industry, and how it has changed over the years.
When did you first attend GDC?
About 6 years ago, in 2009.
Have you been going every year since then?
Pretty much. For me, going to GDC isn’t like going to E3. It’s mainly walking down to the convention center to watch a session, and then coming back to the office. Probably going back again later in the day to drop in for important meetings. It’s more casual, unlike E3 when you’re there all day, everyday.
Of the many sessions you’ve attended in past years, were there any you thought were particularly interesting?
It’s hard to choose, but from a business standpoint, the introduction of dynamic themes was an interesting one. It was still early on in the PS3 lifecycle, and Sony was presenting it as a new feature. For me, it’s all about creating opportunities, so I made sure to attend and take notes. It was monetizable to clients, and if we could offer the service, I knew we could create great products — which we do, now!
Have you noticed any changes from past GDCs?
GDC is so game-focused for developers, so from an agency and personal perspective, it’s mostly an opportunity to see friends and contacts that aren’t based in SF. How has the show changed? It’s definitely changed, and grown, along with the gaming industry. It’s obviously become a great destination for indies, and mobile and tablet gaming has become a much bigger focus. From my perspective, it used to be more middleware-centric, for those companies to show off their engines and tools to create games. But now, there is more of a push to showcase platform technology and indie games. Its certainly not E3, but the bigger console makers still have a presence. Companies like Havoc and Unity are also present to promote their wares. GDC is an opportunity to make connections with a lot of developers, and studios showcasing there are usually looking to find new talent.
With the addition of mobile and tablet gaming, as well as the indie boom, would you say that the people who attend GDC have changed, too?
Yes, without a doubt. Because there are so many indie developers trying to make the next big game, it’s drawing larger crowds year after year. These days, anyone can make a game if they have an idea, the desire, and maybe a math degree. We can expect a lot of attendance and tech people there.
What do people gain from attending GDC?
What’s so valuable about GDC (aside from networking and opportunities) is the information you can get by attending the sessions and listening to the speakers – there is a lot you can get from attending as a developer. Knowledge is power, and all that.
What does Off Base gain from GDC?
We gain a lot of insight. In previous years, when we were only doing creative and marketing, it was good to see what was happening and stay current. When we started doing product and software development, it was very useful, since we could talk to various middle-ware companies and figure out what tools were the best for what we were looking to build.
Are you looking forward to anything in particular at this year’s GDC?
I’m getting back into PC games. I was a PC gamer for many years, but kind of moved away from that. About a year ago, I caved in a bought a powerful PC, started using Steam, and even signed up as a developer for Oculus Rift. I’m very excited about VR. I know Valve just announced their prototype, so I want to check that out, as well as the latest on their Steam machines. I know Sony is showing off Project Morpheus in addition to Oculus Rift being there. Can you tell I’m really interested in augmented reality?
What are your thoughts on the importance of GDC to the gaming industry?
I think it’s huge. From a developer standpoint, developers look forward to collaborating with peers, exchanging ideas, and meeting new people. Aspiring developers get to dip their toes in and see what the industry is like. To get all of these like-minded people into one place is a powerful thing, and in that sense it’s really cool.
Is it difficult for starting developers to make connections outside of GDC?
It’s becoming a little easier. For example, I’ve seen 4 or 5 companies trying to collaborate with indies and make them the focus (indie publishers). Ultimately, the goal is probably for those indie publishers to become the next Square [Enix] or Sony, but for now it’s an interesting concept for guys in their basements trying to get their games out. It’s really hard to get your game noticed among all the other titles out there—a lot like trying to hit the lottery. It’s a challenge, for sure, and I feel for those guys who can’t get above it. And then there are others like Flappy Bird. But sure, it’s slowly becoming easier for developers to connect with the people they need to.
Do you have any favorite memories from past GDCs?
For me, going to GDC for the first time was eye-opening. I’d been exposed to CES and E3, but GDC was different. It’s not like E3 where there are huge booths with even bigger video walls blaring games everywhere you turn. At GDC, the booths are secondary, the swag is almost nonexistent, and the focus is on meeting people and making connections. It’s like the calmer, more relaxed older sibling of E3.
Any tips for someone attending GDC for the first time?
Be outgoing! It goes without saying, but networking is so huge in this industry. It’s about who you know and how you create opportunities. Doing your homework and research is also super important. If you’re going in looking for a job, then be sure to learn about the companies you want to work for. Arming yourself with knowledge beforehand is a tactic that will help take you far in the industry—and in life.
Have you met any amazing new acquaintances at GDC 2015? Gone to a particularly interesting session? We want to hear about your GDC experiences!