Ep. 331 - Bye Forever GDC 2024, with Brandon Sheffield

Loved this episode, thank you. Meg’s segment kicking it off felt appropriate as I think she was able to get at why connecting with each other feels so right.

The ep also made me think about a couple others things. 1) I feel like I have a pretty healthy attachment to video games. I don’t use them to run away from anything, to numb myself to my own, and more largely the world’s, troubles. I play to have thoughtful experiences and to actively engage. This feels right to me and I’m glad this is where I’ve landed. 2) I engage in far too much endless scrolling and phone crap. Getting caught in disassociation no thought loops on twitter, instagram, or reddit is my way of numbing myself and I always feel like shit when I finally recognize what is happening. I think if I replace picking up my phone with picking up my journal and just writing a quick paragraph about how I feel it could be a good practice in getting more in touch with myself.

@“sabertoothalex”#p159540 to point 2. Same, and it’s one I still struggle with. I love that journaling idea

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@“exodus”#p159434 gsk not sure what you mean by the corporate vs creative-led elements??

the tl;dr is that it makes increasingly little sense to shackle stuff like IGF/GDCA to the rest of GDC—not that they'd necessarily be able to maintain the same amount of attendance if they were standalone, but being shackled to such an expensive event of dubious utility is keeping out a lot of people who might otherwise attend and would undoubtedly help improve the culture and purpose of those events.

tltldrdr GDCs fuckin expensive and full of grifters and no longer "worth the money"

@“exodus”#p159535 I was thinking more along the lines of one of the lovely people here knowing of a better way to do it rather than go down to the crowd funding route.

Sounds like you‘re already on it which is great, next time I won’t have to wonder if you‘re going to sneeze and make me drop my coffee again. It’s been a while and I'm quite enjoying not cleaning it up!

This really was one of my favorite episodes of IC. Thanks for being such a warm and humane… human, Brandon.

I feel like the lack of humanization is a major problem across all workspaces and professions. Thank you Brandon

@exodus did you post the prom pic with Frank anywhere?? Forums gottttaaaaaa see it :sunglasses:

@“Zack”#p159627

https://twitter.com/frankcifaldi/status/1771625412948275471?t=rt74VBKm700v7dEkmwUUAw&s=19

@“hellomrkearns”#p159664 oh yeah that is it!

@"gsk"#p159551 Yeah, I dunno. I am coming from a different perspective having worked with the company in some capacity or another for so long but it's a weird way to frame it. The IGF and Choice Awards were created by GDC, so they're not exactly shackled. There's also no way for them to split off considering they are all entirely put on/funded/planned/executed by GDC.

People love to talk about how dubious the utility of GDC is while also attending it so I just don't really know. The culture of the event is pretty good on the whole, everyone has a great time and talks to lots of people and etc. The only things that people really seem to have a problem with are:
1) the expense, which I mean... GDC is put on by about a dozen people, but they are owned by a corporation whose full headcount is like 1,500 people? more? there's not much to be done about this that isn't already being attempted internally. Can you imagine any sort of business where people are paying a certain cost to go ahead and reduce that cost? The purchase price affects their bottom line positively, as much as the actual GDC crew tries to keep it lower.
2) the venue being san francisco. it is really difficult to just move an international event to a new venue. It has to be ostensibly west coast or it's too far for Asia. Europeans generally won't go to vegas (according to europeans on the advisory board). The only real options are like... LA and Seattle, and how much cheaper are those?
3) the increase in business stuff, AI stuff, crypto stuff. This is all very annoying but also highly ignorable and basically pays for a lot of the conference and subsidizes a lot of things.

I don't think folks realize that GDC does fly some people out and pay for their hotels to speak. They also give honorariums to disadvantaged speakers. Friday is the career seminar which has two tracks of talks all accessibly by the lowest pass price.

I dunno! It's a business that operates at a profit and has shareholders. I don't think it's realistic to expect the IGF and choice awards to just split off their funding body, go get a bunch of people to run them, and somehow sustain financially. There are a lot of legitimate complaints to be made about GDC but these sweeping ones about how it would be nice if it were more altruistic and community focused are like... sure, it'd be nice! But what is going to motivate a huge business (Informa) which already barely understands what GDC is to let its profitable business make less profit? People can complain about it all they want but GDC can't do much about it past what they're already trying to do. Like it would be nice if individual labels could pay their artists more for spotify plays, but spotify makes those rules, and spotify's shareholders don't want to make less money just because it would be nice. Know what I mean?

great episode

So I don‘t know if I want to write this out because I get the feeling like it makes it less likely to work in the future. This is something that I haven’t specifically set out to do more just by chance. When I am absolutely buried by work and no daylight in any direction, if Jeff Gerstmann‘s podcast comes on then those steel drums in the intro music just obliterate everything else in my mind. No idea why, I’m not even the type to enjoy travel or tropical vacations. Being in a beach is mostly just uncomfortable and hot.

Like others said, I really needed this episode. Thank you.

wonderful episode, was a good listen

thank u brandon and esper

Definitely needed to hear this episode. Thanks everybody for their input!

@“exodus”#p159677 i also had one of the best times this year i‘ve ever had - agreeing with Frank’s tweet above. not per se because of anything in the show to be honest, but i actually got a chance to stay near the conference in SF this time with my best friend which improved my experience a lot. and in spite of the state of the industry, a lot of the one-on-one conversations i had this year were among the most honest i‘ve ever had at GDC. i was only able to do this from a combo of my friend’s workplace covering their hotel, me having travel and pass covered, etc etc though.

i do want to say that there are still many aspects of the event that are really depressing to me. i do think the place the IGF holds has been diminished over the years - as someone who has juried a bunch for it, it just seems to be hard to get people excited about a lot of that stuff even when it is really interesting/new. there's no longer this sense of indies being this insurgent thing exploding with energy from within the walls of the booth - that whole culture has become more corporate too and it has diminished what the IGF is. and as someone who jumped aboard as that space was blowing up, it's really sad for me to see. i also feel like the even is run on cheaper margins than it used to ten years ago, tho i'm not 100% sure of the financials. also while the overwhelming corporate presence is a necessary evil to run an event like this, it makes it no less hard to engage with some aspects of it and does define how people act in response to it. it's a space where people are putting their best face on and not trying to show weakness, lest they be ignored. it's a transactional space by nature, and that hasn't changed (though the crypto shit that was insufferable the last two years is mostly gone now, thank god).

but it's also just hard to think of a context where you can bring a bunch of different types of people together like GDC. to me that is the #1 utility of GDC and something i just have a hard time imagining there ever being a sufficient replacement for. and it's something a lot of groups of people increasingly won't go to GDC at all are missing. i think we are increasingly in a space where people are only engaging in their own bubbles. this can be both good and bad. but you can have conversations at GDC you cannot have anywhere else, and it does benefit you in the long term to make friends with people which is why i continue to go. local or regional meetups can do that too, of course, but not nearly to the same degree. you just have to be prepared for what GDC is and isn't, and try to find fun in the margins of it.

i think a lot of younger developers in particular really came of age during the huge growth of a bunch of online communities in the peak pandemic years and are hoping for discord communities and like, marketing to youtubers and streamers as an adequate replacement to most in person events. and - i'm sorry - it's just not, especially not in the long term. that pandemic energy is gradually starting to dissipate, smaller online communities can easily get tanked and become toxic very quickly (as i'm sure most of us know), and those content creators have no incentive towards being fair to the people whose games they cover. going to an event like this and building friendships is what helps you feel less disposable to the overall structures when everything else is constantly in flux. that's also why i'm doing the Experimental Game Workshop there and keep trying to get people to go out to GDC - even if it is an uphill battle sometimes, and even if i wish we could bring a lot more people into the fold that can't or won't go.

(also hello, folks! i have recordings from GDC this year that will be coming soon)

@“ellaguro”#p159839 Yeah, this all jives with what I‘ve been thinking and feeling about the event. It’s always hard for me to say whether my experience is unique because I‘ve put in a lot of effort to meet people across the 22 years I’ve been going to the event, so now when I show up I am generally not alone in the crowd, but I also saw people networking all during the game career seminar which was nice.

There was a couple who was trying to get into games, and a guy who does animations for the San Jose Sharks (hockey team) who had just met sitting in the crowd for the career seminar, all with friday-only passes ($199 at max price), comparing notes and then going off to show each other what they're working on. Whatever the problems GDC may have, that stuff is still working as intended.

$199 is still a lot for most people, but you can also literally just go to the park in the middle of the event and meet people without paying anything. My friend Caryl Shaw organized a "GDC Scream" event there during the show for everyone to go into the park and scream their anxieties out for 5 minutes.

Also there are lots of grant and sponsorship programs, and I (usually, not this year because of no time) give out 20 expo passes to women, POC, and LGBTQAI+ folks, and so many of those people have turned that expo pass into a career, or come back as a speaker later, etc - like, it's an expensive difficult event in some ways but it's also the best one, and a lot of people are working to make it more inclusive where possible.

Baiyon mentioned Shigesato Itoi in this podcast. Did he say there was a translated book that Itoi wrote? Anyone know what that book is, or did I mishear? Maybe he was just talking about Mother, audio was a bit crunchy. I’d most certainly love to read whatever it could be.

great episode. I always like when you include more real life stuff in the episodes. and it’s a good question! here is a handy list of people’s responses:

  • strike up a conversation with strangers. be complementary and genuinely curious, and you are very likely to get a positive response.
  • go outside. surround yourself with nature.
  • have a sense of balance. understand the limits of what you can control and let go of what’s beyond it. have other sources of enjoyment and personal development beyond work.
  • hug people. sometimes as a kindness to yourself and sometimes as a kindness to them. it’s always good.
  • use times of lower activity to reflect on what you have accomplished and what you want to accomplish, reassess your values and nurture your interests.
  • play Lumines by Q Entertainment.
  • bike around leisurely, maybe stop at a nice coffee shop.
  • play around with emulators. specially older games made by few people, such as Ultra Box for PC Engine, Lady Bono, Apple Run, or Exciting Milk for the PC98.
  • listen to podcasts while washing the dishes and looking out the window.
  • take a weed gummy and watch a Super Metroid ROM hack let’s play before bed.
  • go for runs and do weight lifting. use your body to make it feel differently.
  • make space to forget about yourself.
  • get good sleep.
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