My time to spend at GDC this year has expired and well, I have to say it was much more interesting this year than it was last year. I spent a good portion of two days either on BART or in talks at GDC trying to keep my back from hurting in their crummy chairs. Now that it is over though, I have had some time to look back over it and build a better understanding of what I paid for.
GDC is a costly experience, by any measure. That is not to say that it is not worth the price tag. There are ways to ensure that everyone gets their pennies worth – Sharing the load by distributing it across multiple people and choosing the person with the most androgynous name works well for getting through security because they don’t actually check ids in or out, and you can do some really interesting stuff once you get past the security guards. Most of the fun comes from the summits and tutorials pass, where you can get into all of the cool stuff and even participate in a few of the round tables – the primary benefit of the all access pass is to be given access to the vault. Also an amazing experience because they cache their presentations going back to damn near the beginning.
There is one hidden danger, however – Repetition.
On a recent episode of the daily show Ricky Gervais was on, and almost as if he thought it was new, he jumped into a joke he used in his 2003 stand up show Animals.
You can see the daily show interview here.
Unfortunately, I had watched Animals earlier in the day while waiting between classes (read doing homework) and so it was fresh in my mind. Comedy is one of those things where you can only really laugh at a joke the first couple times you’ve heard it, so now I get to reevaluate what I expect from one of my favorite living comedians. Wait, are you telling me they all reuse their jokes… FFS!
As I mentioned last year, the Math and Physics talks are backed by white papers* and while it means there is a level of stability and sturdiness, it also leads to a level of stagnation.Very little changes from year to year and considering how long peer review can take, things get backed up quite well. Getting vault access gives you a peek behind the curtain and with this being the second year I’ve gone a similar level of amazement washed over me when my wife tapped me on the shoulder and showed me a stack of slides from the current speakers GDCEurope talk from 2009 sharing a shocking amount of content.
In an industry as driven to innovate and diverse as this is, it leaves me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach. those of us who go to these conferences spend a pretty hefty penny to get in past those crazy security guards and as such we expect that innovation to shine through. The movers and shakers of the industry show up with opinions and don’t really have to back them up beyond their power point slides and a little shoulder shrugging, but in the realm of science and math we expect to be dazzled.
Dazzled I was not, but I was (and am) definitely very interested in how this all fits together. I am very interested in what is to come, and how I can help the industry achieve those goals.
If they could find one more Erin Catto I think they would be much better off. I have loved his presentations thus far.
* Not all of them are. One this year was on the topic of Data Oriented Design, and it devolved into a rant about the lack of merits in references, inherent weaknesses in data structures and how templates are the root of all evil. I think that Mike Acton is one of the more interesting figure heads of this community I am trying to move into, but all of his clout seems to have come across more like an old man yelling at the younger group of “Kids” who just don’t get why playing on the lawn is bad. A shame really, he had a chance to really drive home some important themes and philosophy.