So you're going to GDC (or any other game industry event)! Good for you. And you wonder what to take with you, and how to act when you get there. OK. No problem.
The industry pros who go to these events have their own agendas, their own reasons for attending these events. And those purposes or reasons vary depending on the event and on the individual...
They're most likely not there to meet wannabes and hand out cushy dream jobs.
I wrote in detail what E3 is about - what GDC is about - what TGS is about - what MGS is about - in Article 6 and Article 46. Go read those articles, then come back here before continuing.
Okay, I know. You want to get a job. You want to sell your "Ultimate Idea". You want a break. You want everybody to understand how brilliant you are. That you're not just the usual wannabe - that you're special - that your Mama knows this, but nobody else seems to get it.
Guess what, though. Networking can help you achieve these things... only indirectly. Ya gotta be sub tile!* Ya can't waltz up to a game biz pro and say, "Hey, hi, can I have a minute of your time? I'm not the usual wannabe! I'm special and even my Mama would tell you, if only she could be here! Let me knock your socks off with my Port Foal E-O!"
No. That's not how to network. And guess what. That's why you go to these things... to "network."
So. What the heck is "networking"?
At GDC, lots of companies do set up hiring booths. But they've heard it all before. (You think other guys' mamas don't think their little boys got smarts too? Think other mamas' little boys' don't gots no port-foal-E-O's? Gimme a break!) The chances that you'll come away from GDC or E3 or whatever, with a job offer, are slim indeed. But there's still a lot you can accomplish.
At E3, producers and submission managers routinely hold meetings in which they listen to pitches from excited folks from all around the world about the great game ideas they have. If you are reading this, trust me -- you would not believe the sophisticated pitches those guys are going to be hearing. The chances that yours is going to win over all those others are very low. Have you read my FAQ 1 and my FAQ 11 and my FAQ 21 and my FAQ 31 and my FAQ 35? I'm not saying you shouldn't dream of pitching your idea. And I'm not saying you shouldn't pitch your idea at a huge industry event like GDC... What I'm saying is, if you're still a raw wannabe, you should continue reading.
To read more about conferences and trade shows, see FAQs 6, 33, 46, and my Game Biz Links page (use the nav frame at left). And use Google and Wikipedia. To look up IGDA chapters, go to www.igda.org.
If you are just a raw wannabe, admit it. Say these words aloud: "I am just a raw wannabe." Go ahead, say it. I'll wait...
Okay, now repeat after me: "I still have a lot to learn."
That one is hard to admit, isn't it? I mean, GEE! You've graduated from high school. You've graduated from college. You've been trying very hard to stifle your impatience so you could begin your career. Impatience is normal. Especially today. I mean, this is 2005!! The internet age. We have smartphones now. And our smartphones aren't just for talking on anymore.
Hey! Don't put down my smartphone! It's gonna let me mind-meld with the planet. It's gonna let me perform brain surgery, end famine, become Miss America, eradicate terrorism, wipe out all disease, promulgate world peace, and make religious extremism a thing of the past! HEY! I MEAN IT! I CAN DO ALL THAT STUFF! AND I OWE IT ALL TO MY SMARTPHONE!!!
Right. And it'll all happen, like, y'know, next week or sumthin'. Look. You are not a nerd, right? I mean it. Nerds are smart. (^_^)
Sorry... Just a little splash of cold water. We return you now to your regularly scheduled program.
There are just two things you are going to accomplish (short term) from networking:
1) You're going to collect business cards.
2) You're going to make your face visible to the folks you meet.
3) You're going to listen. (I lied when I said there are two things.)
That's it. That's all there is to it. Hey -- it's easy.
To GET a business card, all you have to do is to GIVE a business card. Worst case: the other guy will say, "Sorry, I ran out." If that happens, well, too bad. That's what happened. Deal.
To make your face visible, all you have to do is be there and say "hello." I mean, does it get any easier than that?
To get somebody else to talk, all you have to do is ask a solicitous question. Do not try to talk about yourself. Just ask them something about their current projects.
This, too, is really easy. All you have to do is to not do a typical wannabe trick. Do not talk about yourself. Do not say you need someone to give you a break. Do not ask for a job. Do not ask them to look at your portfolio. Do not force your résumé or demo disc on anyone. Instead, try this...
Wrong: "I really admired that game you produced. I'm looking for a job."
Right: "I really admired that game you produced. What was one of the biggest challenges on that project?"
Wrong: "Whoa, you worked on that game? Cool! Got any advice for me?"
Right: "Whoa, you worked on that game? Cool! I was wondering, was that all developed at your location, or was it external?"
Wrong: "Can I have your business card?"
Right: "Here's my card." (He'll give you his in return.)
It. Is. Really. That. Simple.
If you meet a "hero" -- somebody whose name you've already heard, or whose games you have played, then read the above. Then read it again. Then read it a third time. Got it now? Are you sure? Get down on the floor and give me 50 push-ups. Then read the above a fourth time. NOW DO YOU GOT IT???
Wear (1) shoes, (2) shirt, and (3) pants. Not clear enough? How about this...
1) Shoes - Note that flip-flops are not shoes. Sneakers are. Socks are optional, as long as the casual observer can't tell whether you're wearing socks or not.
2) Shirt - Don't wear one of those muscle-man fishnet things that let your nipples and shaved chest show through, OK? Something that covers your nipples, and something that prevents anyone from finding out whether or not you have chest hair, would be just great. Regard this as a personal favor. PLEEZE! (Note to females: the foregoing was addressed primarily to males. But try to use good judgment - playing the sex card is not recommended. We're nerds. Nerds are smart. If you're playing the sex card, a lot of us can see through that one. Doh! There I go with the "see-through" thing again...)
3) Pants - Pants should extend from your waist down to the tops of your shoes. And your pants should not have holes in them. Your underpants (your "U-trou" if I may use the vernacular of my youth) should not be visible in any way whatsoever. Regardless of your gender.
4) Neckties - Please! Are you kidding me??? A necktie??? What planet do you live on, anyway???? And where the heck do you get off adding a #4 when I specifically only mentioned three articles of clothing??? Do not wear a necktie to a game industry event, unless you aspire to be in marketing, or unless you want to specialize in game law or something. Trust me on this. I wore a necktie to CGDC back in what, 1987 or something. And I've regretted it ever since. Do you need it in Morse Code or something?
Maybe nothing. Maybe email the guys or gals you met at an industry event 2 or 3 days later, just to say, "Hey, it was a pleasure to meet you at [name of industry event] in [name of city where industry event occurred]. If you are at all interested, you can check out my online portfolio at [URL of your online portfolio]. Hope to see you again, perhaps at [name of next industry event you might attend] in [name of city where said industry event is scheduled to occur]."
That's all. Anything more than that might be legally considered to be "stalking." (^_^)
And that's all there is you need to know about networking for now. If you have questions, email'em to me and I'll respond on my bulletin board. Hey, you already know how to find my email address, and how to find the internet address of my bulletin board. (Hint: if you don't, then give up right now - you have no hope in hell of ever working in the game biz.)
* "Sub tile" = "subtle"... only in a not-so-subtle way. It was a play on the word, sort of playing on the fact that subtlety is totally being ignored in the way I wrote the word. Get it? Do I need to explain it more? (If I do, then I am truly sorry, but you are not cut out to be in the game industry. We in the game industry is nerds. And nerds be smart. Sorry, but that am the way things is. Are. Do. Doo-doo... Whatever.)
Additional reading on the topic of networking:
Got a question or comment about this article? Email your comments to - you'll get a response on the Sloperama Game Design bulletin board. Like, for instance:
How do I network when there's no networking event?
>From: The One Man Project
>Sent: Tue, June 14, 2011 11:43:42 AM
>Subject: Game Industy Connections Question
>Hello Mr. Sloper,
>Its me Kaylin N., I emailed you a few months prior praising your work here on the site. MY web handle is the ďOne Man Project".Ē Anyway I wanted to ask you a question regarding connections. This summer I really want to boost the amount of friends that are either in or going into the game industry. I have a pass to the PAX event in august which Iím very excited about, Iím sure Iíll make some sort of connection there. But this leaves a near two month gap of time that I could be using trying to put my passion in creating games out there. What I want to know is how can I properly convey my interest to others who have my same passion and gain connections within this two month time frame?
>Every time I try I end up getting the same words thrown at me about developers in general, that theyíre these unfriendly and spiteful people who donít welcome newcomers at all( of course I donít believe this).
>Iím not asking for a direct answer Mr. Sloper, just suggestions. I value your opinion highly since you have more experience in this field than I could ever muster.
>Thank you for taking the time to read this message. I humbly await your valued response,
>a.k.a The One Man Project
Hello Kaylin, you wrote:
I ... want to boost the amount of friends ... in or going into the game industry.
Contacts and acquaintances are easy. Friends take time.
I have a pass to ... PAX ... in august... But this leaves a near two month gap of time that I could be using ...
So you can network locally, and you can network digitally.
trying to put my passion in creating games out there.
Why? What is the end goal? What does it accomplish that people here there and elsewhere know "Kaylin is passionate about creating games"?
From your choice of moniker, it sounds like you're telling everyone that you're a Lone Wolf type. Lone Wolves usually aren't interested in getting game jobs, and game hirers aren't interested in hiring Lone Wolf types. If you're a Lone Wolf, what do you need anybody else for? Or maybe you're a One Man Project through circumstances, not by choice? And trying to change that? If so, you should consider changing your persona.
And maybe I just don't understand what "putting my passion out there" means. Um, well, actually, no "maybe" about it. I don't. We are what we do. We don't have to tell people what we are; we only have to show by our actions.
how can I properly convey my interest to others who have my same passion and gain connections [while not at a game networking event]?
Network locally -- look for an IGDA chapter, local SIGs, schools, clubs. And network digitally -- go on indie game forums, read, share.
Every time I try I end up getting the same words thrown at me
So every time you talk to a developer or someone who's interested in becoming one, they just say "forget it, kid. Developers are unfriendly and spiteful." I can't believe any developer or aspiring developer would tell you that. (When you say "every time I try" to make connections, I have to assume you are contacting the people you're trying to connect with -- but apparently, from your words, you're doing something else instead, like talking to people not connected with the industry about your aspiration of connecting with industry people?)
about developers in general, that theyíre these unfriendly and spiteful people who donít welcome newcomers at all( of course I donít believe this).
Good, don't. Because that's bull$#!+ started by losers who talked a lot and never listened.
Iím ... asking for ... just suggestions.
Read my FAQ 54. Be a good LISTENER. When you're at PAX, ask good questions of the people you engage in conversation and exchange cards with. Don't just go on and on about yourself.
If there's no chapter, SIG, or club, then start one. Go real grassroots; post flyers, talk to local business organizations (you know, Elks and Moose, if those still exist) and schools (high schools and up, don't bother with junior high and lower).
Nothing you can say to anybody is going to convince them you're someone worth working with. You have to work, read, listen, and do. Go on indie forums (see my Game Biz Links page for some that I've found, for starters). Read, read, read. Don't bother posting a "hello dere youz guyz" post, it's a waste of time and makes you look silly. Wait until there's a topic you can add meaningfully to, then add meaningfully to it.
Bad: "Hey dood69, you say you're stuck in Outer Noplace? I can sympathize, I'm stuck here in Nowheresville trying to put a portfolio project together, anybody know somebody in either Nowheresville or Nohootersville? Oh, and btw how do i make a cutscene for my game lol?"
Good: "gdev123, you said you were looking for hosting solutions? Well, I read on indiegamerforum that XYZ.net and QRS.com are both pretty good hosts. Haven't tried them myself (haven't gotten that far yet), but you could have a look at their offerings."
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