Five Tips for GDC (Game Developers Conference) 2020

Update: Game Developers Conference 2020 is postponed to later this summer.

I’m very excited to be delivering a session at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this year. Before I joined MongoDB in 2016, I spent two decades working in video games, and I still stay involved. I’ve been to – and enjoyed – many GDCs, and I’m looking forward to going again, this time with MongoDB.

GDC can be overwhelming: a full week with 29,000 attendees, more than 700 sessions, hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors, and of course, more new games than you can possibly try. Here’s my own top list for what to do while you’re there.

1. Explore new technology and trends

GDC’s atmosphere has a cadence based on where we are in the console cycle. If you’ve been a few times, you’ll no doubt have felt the differences between shows, pre and post a console launch. This GDC is going to be really interesting because although we are close to the next-gen release, we’re not close enough to be openly talking about it. I’m sure it will be the subject of many conversations in hallways and out of hours, but if you were hoping to spend your time in sessions on how to optimize shader routines for the GPU on the next Playstation, you’ll be waiting until next year. Instead, there will be a lot of focus on trends and technologies that at last year’s GDC may have been wild and crazy, but now are getting established. Cloud Streaming with Google Stadia and Apple Arcade spring to mind.

You should ask yourself: what new tech and trends you’re interested in this year? It’s a safe bet that there will be lots of VR on display, both at VRDC and GDC proper. We’ll be there, talking about MongoDB Cloud, and why MongoDB is a good fit for video game data. Whether it’s machine learning, advances in game engines, cross-platform support, or new cloud services, GDC is a great time to spot what’s going to be big in the coming year.

2. Enjoy the sessions, but don’t obsess too much

The sessions can be great, but there are far, far too many to go too. There are probably too many to even read all the descriptions unless you’re very dedicated. My advice is to pick a handful that seems interesting – not so many that you’ll be running around flat-out – and don’t worry about the rest. Find some that are relevant to your day job, some that fit your other interests, and maybe a few that are totally out of your area.

Obviously, I think you should come to my session, How to Stop Wasting Time With Databases. Before I worked for MongoDB, I used it for video game backends and telemetry, and its ease of use is why I went to work on it full time. It’s now even easier with MongoDB Atlas, the fully managed global cloud database. My hope is that you’ll leave my talk with ways to make your life easier and spend more time building games.

Other talks I’m personally excited about include:

3. Make time for the Expo Hall

First, it’s huge. If you want to really explore, it’s going to take a while. Second, there’s a lot you can get out of it: swag of all descriptions, promotional credits or discounts for game tech, and maybe some new information or interesting experiences. It’s also where there’s a lot going on, and you can experience it at your own pace, in contrast to the scheduled and frantic world of sessions.

MongoDB is in Booth S1135 in the Main Hall, and we’ll be handing out all of the above (swag, credits, and information).

4. Meet new (and old) people

Whether you’re reconnecting with old colleagues, trying to get a job, meeting new collaborators, or just looking to chat about your favorite games, meeting people is probably on your to-do list. How you go about that depends on your vibe. If you’re the networking type, or if you’re looking to make Important Connections for your new game, bring business cards, book meetings, introduce yourself to strangers, and shake lots of hands. If you’re looking for people interested in a specific topic, take your pick of luncheons, parties, and other gatherings. Or just find someone and introduce yourself! The MongoDB booth is a friendly place to start if you’d like. And if you want to meet up with me to talk about MongoDB or anything else, find a time!

I’m always blown away by the number of people who I haven't seen in ages (probably since the last GDC!) It’s a super friendly place and everyone is willing to chat.

5. Figure out what you want to get out of GDC, then go for that

At the end of the day, people go to GDC for all sorts of different reasons. I’m there to talk about MongoDB, meet people, and catch up with what’s new in the industry. You might be there to try to sell your game or make new contacts. Someone is definitely trying to break the record for most swag acquired.

If you’re clear about what you want going in, it makes it easier to come out feeling that you’ve had the experience that you wanted.

Good luck, and hope to see you there!

Due to the postponement of GDC, we encourage you to attend our webinar on 3/25. Reserve your spot today!