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The 2019 Game Developers Conference, the world’s largest and longest-running event serving professionals dedicated to the art and science of making games, concluded its 33rd edition on Friday, March 22 after a week of networking, learning and inspiration.
The event broke last year’s record attendance with a total of 29,000 industry professionals at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center from March 18-22. GDC will be returning to the Moscone Convention Center Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 20, 2020. The call for submissions for GDC 2020 will open in the summer.
GDC 2019 hosted a slew of content over the course of the week, including a total of more than 780 lectures, panels, tutorials and roundtable discussions, as well as more than 550 exhibitors on the Expo Floor. This year introduced the GDC Main Stage: The Developer’s Journey, a multipart presentation that featured Siobhan Reddy of Media Molecule, Sean Murray of Hello Games, and Laralyn McWilliams of Microsoft describing the sources of inspiration that drew them to game development and propelled them though the challenges of creating and releasing games out into the world.
A new addition for 2019, the GDC at The Gardens added areas to relax, games to play, and a Pokemon Go Pokestop hosted by Niantic. The GDC Film Festival returned after its 2018 debut to give passholders access to a slew of feature films and documentaries about games and game production.
The indie game scene continues to thrive at GDC, with multiple showcases for cutting-edge titles. The Independent Games Festival Pavilion gathered many of the most acclaimed indie games of the year, allowing passholders the opportunity to try the games themselves. Likewise, the Indie MEGABOOTH, iam8bit and Double Fine’s “Day of the Devs,” the traveling indie developers at Train Jam, and the super-chillaxed indie lounge called the Mild Rumpus gave talented development teams the opportunity to show off their games.
At the 21st annual IGF Awards ceremony on Wednesday night, Lucas Pope’s narratively-rich murder mystery, Return of the Obra Dinn, won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. The award comes six years after the 2013 Grand Prize win for his previous title, Papers, Please. That same night, Return of the Obra Dinn received the award for Best Narrative.
At the 19th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, which immediately followed the IGF Awards, the big winner for the night was Sony Santa Monica’s God of War, which won the prize for Game of the Year. An archive of the IGF and GDCA ceremonies can be viewed at http://twitch.tv/gdc.
The thousands of attendees of GDC have their sights set to the past, as well as the future of the video game industry. In the spirit of reminiscence, GDC asks the developers of many of the greatest classic games to come to GDC to describe rewarding, challenging and sometimes charmed development processes that gave rise to classic games, Paperboy, Command & Conquer, Panzer Dragoon, Spider-Man 2 and Lemmings.
The GDC’s Expo Floor, which was open from Wednesday through Friday, was spread across the sprawling and newly-renovated halls of Moscone South and Moscone North. The Expo Floor encompassed more than 550 exhibitors showing off their newest technologies, software and services from games and tech industry leaders like Epic Games, Amazon, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Unity and many others. The playable alt.ctrl.GDC space let attendees try their hands (or in some cases, their other body parts) at unconventional controllers and alternative control schemes. The special GDC Play area allowed emerging developers to display their games to key distributors, publishers and investors in attendance. In the Moscone’s West Hall, the Shut Up & Sit Down area allowed attendees to enjoy the best tabletop board games of the year.
Amidst the technological breakthroughs of the latest hardware, software and services was a larger discussion taking place in and around GDC about the labor that goes into game creation, and the growing dialogue around the unionization of the games industry. With vocal support from noted developers and speakers, and spirited GDC sessions centered on the challenges and opportunities of industry unionization, the questions posed at GDC 2019 are likely to echo in the coming years, with the industry wrestling with what a labor union would look like, and what changes that might bring about.
“The Game Developers Conference evolves with every year, encompassing new trends, new technologies and bringing up new questions for the whole industry to reckon with. GDC brings people together, and gives developers a space to solve those problems and invent the solutions to help developers make better games that can be enjoyed by more people,” said Katie Stern, general manager of the Game Developers Conference. “From the countless indie showcases in and around GDC, to the amazing new VR hardware and cloud gaming technology from industry stalwarts, the GDC is a conference for developers of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. This year, we concluded GDC with eyes wide open for the challenges and potential for the future of games. We’re even more in awe of the hard work it takes to create compelling games and appreciative of the connections made here to facilitate better games and better work environments to come.”