top of page

Game Developers Conference 2023

In mid-March, West Virginia University students and MonRiverGames members hit the sky to travel together to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. It's been a couple months now since our big group of 16 (3 faculty, 13 students) came home. As the Spring session concludes, members of the studio and trip got together one last time to chat about their experiences. Here are their highlights:


Donning their tourist hats


Back in March, we released this series of panels on our various social media accounts. To sum it up: whether their first time in San Francisco or not, they all enjoyed the excursions!



Best Conference Sessions


"The highlight of the conference for me was Epic Games/Unreal Engine’s presentation. Epic Games has always been attempting to breach its industry's mold time and time again and this year’s presentation on Unreal Engines new improvements showcased just that. I learned about the latest programming techniques and best practices, and even got to experiment with some new tools being added to Unreal Engine 5."

~ Devin Lienhard, ESPORTS/Marketing


"My favorite talk that I attended was probably “Empowering Female Game Changers”. It was really interesting to learn how professionals in the industry are striving to make this industry more inclusive; it was also just interesting to hear how Riot Games’ Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion envisions the future of women in gaming (it’s positive!)."

~ Gabrielle Boal, Journalism


"Two seminars that I enjoyed include "The Material Art of 'The Last of Us Part I'" and "Fostering Positive Self-Esteem and Mental Health in the Metaverse." The first was centered around the environmental design of the popular game, and it was great learning how these elements are created and put into video games. The second seminar focused on the well-being of those in the gaming industry, and it was inspiring to see how people put effort into ensuring that creators and designers are well."

~ Kaelyn Pavlick, Game Design and Interactive Media


"For my lectures, some of the ones I found the most interesting were the Autodesk summit about the cinematic pipeline for New Tales from the Borderlands game and the Creating Playable Horror in ‘The Dark Pictures Anthology’. The Dark Pictures talk really opened my eyes into the complexity of the production of a game but also how even those who have been in the industry for a long time are still learning new things or how to improve."

~ Lucas Stout, Game Design and Interactive Media


"My favorite session was 'Why Care About Wholesome Games' because I saw the impact that cozy games have on the community. Another great session was 'An Imposter’s Guide to the Industry' because it made me realize that the mental challenges I’m going through or may go through are widely experienced. "

~ Liza Litten, Game Design and Interactive Media


"The event that was most helpful to me in gathering information on the wild world of game development was a speed-networking event I attended. As someone who doesn’t really know whether they want to do game development full-time, it was great to poke and prod about it with people in the industry."

~ Zachary Lightcap, Mathematics


"I attended Virginia & Co’s presentation on Being a Unicorn: Multiclassing in an Industry that Wants Specialization. After this, I had the excellent opportunity to talk to her more in-depth and hear questions from others nearby. Virginia has experience in programming, game art, and game design. Throughout various positions, she mentioned having a habit of “shaking things up” as she continuously would take a position and then try to branch to other areas. When asked how to get a job as a unicorn, she suggested trying for the role your record and mindset best fit into. Tailor your resume and interview to that individual role. Once in an interview, you can add on your other experiences, explaining how that enhances your capability and helps you work well with other groups. Like myself, Virginia came to GDC at the start of her career to make connections and network. Whenever she went to the portfolio review, the reviewer crossed out her entire art & design section on her resume. It gives me hope that, despite setbacks, unicorns can make it in this specialized industry."

~ Tessla Muir, Computer Science



At the Expo


"The venue was fantastic, I had been to conference centers before, but the underground expo floor was something else."

~ Devin Lienhard, ESPORTS/Marketing


"With this being my second ever GDC, I imagined that I’d be pretty prepared for the events of this one, but I was blindsided by just how big this one turned out to be. Last year was the first one since Covid, which naturally cut down the size, and I knew that, but specifically the expo floor was wildly different. I’d say last year’s was less than a fourth the size of this year’s, and the free swag from booths was astronomically better."

~ Jennifer Corona, Game Design and Interactive Media


"My favorite booth was actually one that I did not even notice when looking at the map, which was the Pico booth. I had never heard of Pico prior to this conference. They had disassembled virtual reality headsets so that you could see the layers that are inside of their headsets, which I thought was cool since I am a pretty big fan of virtual reality. I feel obligated to say that I enjoyed the Skillz booth, as I won a Nintendo Switch OLED from playing the mobile version of 8 ball pool. "

~ Gabrielle Boal, Journalism


"I came across a game where you and another player wear a giant top hat, which controls your character's movement. The game's concept is to move your character around a city and have him complete tasks, such as carrying coffee and entering buildings, as quickly as possible. I found this game incredibly creative and humorous, as the giant top hat that hangs from the ceiling and is worn by the players is most definitely unconventional."

~ Kaelyn Pavlick, Game Design and Interactive Media


"It was very heartfelt to see other artists who shared my sentiments of feeling overwhelmed, but also were looking out for each other. The expo had a section solely for artists to talk and hang out and it featured a massive drawing board for all of us to work on together. This was super cool to see and work on alongside other artists. It made for a great way to start conversations and meet."

~ Madison Roy, Game Design and Interactive Media


"My top favorite booths were Epic Games, Unity, Sony, Optitrack, and Meta. Epic Games had the biggest booth and probably the most entertaining, in my opinion. I loved how they had merch, popcorn machines, drinks, and a bunch of spots to play games. I was definitely there every day. "

~ Megan Shears, Game Design and Interactive Media



Meetings by happenstance


For a week, game developers take over San Francisco. They fly in from all over the world for this conference. You never know who you are going to meet there. You could be sipping your coffee next to a legend and not even know it. Here are their highlights-


"I met a group of artists that do contract work for AAA game companies like Blizzard. In the same gathering, I met a lead tech artist from Bandai Namco."

~ Liza Litten, Game Design and Interactive Media


"I sat down with Jace Shultz from Monolith Productions at GDC to ask him about him and his company. He is the engineering manager which means “working with our engineers to ensure that we are building products that meet the needs of our customers, while also managing timelines, budgets, and resources.” He told me about how Middle-earth: Shadow of War was the last game they produced but Wonder Woman will be coming really soon, which will be a single-player, open-world action game."

~ Megan Shears, Game Design and Interactive Media


"Raj Sri Shanker is a Game Developer who has worked on AR projects and 'Endless Runners', games similar to something like Jetpack Joyride. Raj gave me a lot of great advice on making myself stand out more in the industry to better find a job. The first thing he told me was to make sure I specified what I specialized in which was already brought up by my professors, but he took it a step further and told me to specialize even more in a sense. He said it wasn’t enough to specify from Game Designer to something like Animator, as there are many sub-sections in those Lighting, Rigging, Character animation, environmental animation, etc. Another great piece of advice he gave me was for my portfolio, that I should 'take old games and make them better'. What he meant by this is take a game, any game, and “improve” it within your field, like he took the original Mario and redesigned the Level Design and put that in his portfolio. He also added that it would be even better to do it for a game by a company that you are interested in working for."

~ Lucas Stout, Game Design and Interactive Media


Final Thoughts


"Looking back on my trip to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference, I can say without hesitation that it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount of information regarding the production and creation of games but also how it can be applied to my path in Esports. While I can say that the game developers conference is a conference with game developers in mind there were experiences that can and should be shared with more areas of the games industry. "

~ Devin Lienhard, ESPORTS/Marketing


"It was also great getting to see some of the indie studios and learn about how they work as a group and their process. I was shocked to learn that a lot of them were very small teams with even smaller time and budget. I used to think that you HAD to have a larger team to be able to pull off the massive hit games, so it was a big eye opener to hear that some of the winners from the conferences awards was literally games made by very small groups sometimes by teams even small as four or even two people. It helped to make it feels less impossible and goal that feels lie it can be achieved with enough hard work."

~ Madison Roy, Game Design and Interactive Media


"My trip to San Francisco last month taught me that everyone has a place in this world, no matter their passion. I learned how vast and diverse the gaming community is and about the opportunities for creators, designers, coders, marketers, and others in the field. Meeting and talking with people of all nationalities and lifestyles was inspiring, as it made me realize that anyone can create games."

~ Kaelyn Pavlick, Game Design and Interactive Media


"Overall, attending GDC 2023 in San Francisco gave me valuable learning experiences related to cultural diversity, networking, technological innovation, travel, and time management. This was an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. I loved seeing San Francisco and hanging out with everyone, it was so fun! I hope that I can attend again in the future."

~ Megan Shears, Game Design and Interactive Media


"I’m happy and believe I’m better off from this trip. Admittedly, it was kind of jarring being the minority in a conference talk - especially the more technical ones. However, I feel more comfortable thanks to the connections I made and looking up to female industry leaders. I wouldn’t feel the same way without physically going on this trip. "

~ Tessla Muir, Computer Science


"This whole trip would’ve have been enjoyable if it wasn’t for the friends that I’ve made. I’m glad I was able to open up to them and we were able to become close friends. They are the most kind and talented people I’ve met and I hope we stay close long after this trip."

~ Isaiah Lezama, Game Design and Interactive Media



32 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page