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What to expect from an all-digital GDC Summer? A chat with GM Katie Stern

For the first time in over 30 years, Game Developers Conference is going completely virtual.

At the new GDC Summer, sessions, networking, expo activities, and more will be made available online via a robust digital platform from August 4-6, 2020.

Leading the effort is GDC general manager Katie Stern, who answered our questions about what to expect from the first-ever, totally virtual GDC Summer.


What are some of the topline goals for the digital version of GDC Summer?

As someone who has worked in live events for her whole career, I have a certain love of creating in-person experiences for communities of professionals. Initially, I was just as disappointed as everyone else that we weren’t able to make that happen this year. Luckily, it provided an opportunity to rethink what it means for the GDC community to come together and how we can provide value to the industry even with certain restrictions in place. 

By taking GDC Summer to a digital format, we are now able to open the doors even wider to offer education, networking, and business functions for a global audience at a price point that is more accessible, and in a way that doesn’t require travel. It allows us to continue to break down barriers in the game development industry and foster both budding and seasoned professionals in their career journey. 

Is this going to be purely streamed talks and sessions, or will attendees also be able to connect with one another and build relationships? 

Attendees can expect the same high-caliber educational conference sessions that are the cornerstone of GDC, but also exciting new interactive formats that aren’t as easily executed at a large-scale physical event. It will be structured in such a way that an attendee can easily find experiences that match with their interests and engage with like-minded colleagues. You’ll find everything from small group roundtables, to community forums, to webinars with live speaker Q&A, hands-on workshops, AMAs and likely even a few ‘unconference’ sessions where you get to drive the content that is delivered. 

I recognize that a large part of the value of GDC in its physical form is the serendipitous networking that occurs from the ‘hallway track,’ bumping into people you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to engage with. Understanding there is no one-to-one recreation of that, we set out to create other fun, engaging experiences that surround the core program. These offer unique engagement formats to give your brain a break from learning, create some social space and facilitate that opportunity to organically “bump into” new people.

While we’re still finalizing the exact programs you can expect some pre- and post-conference socials--maybe a virtual mixer with a pro-mixologist teaching a signature cocktail and mocktail recipe? Perhaps a field trip to a museum with a docent? A little light yoga or mindfulness session? Maybe some ever-present relaxation live-streams throughout the day; Puppies? Otters? Jellyfish? Who knows!

Of course, no event, live or virtual would be complete without the ability to formally network. Our exciting platform has an easy-to-navigate meeting tool that allows attendees to search for each other, as well as for sponsors, live chat, or set meetings for video calls. You can use this feature for professional networking, finding new tools & services, mentoring, portfolio reviews or simply catching up.

Will there be any way attendees can connect directly with publishers and form new partnerships at GDC Summer? 

One of the major disappointments about not hosting GDC proper was the gap that was left for those wishing to pitch games to potential publishers. We’re excited to announce that GDC Summer will host an Indie Showcase, as well as reprise GDC Pitch to help facilitate those business interactions. 

GDC Summer will also be home to a Sponsor Showcase. We understand how important it is to continue to have easy access to those vendors you already do business with, but also the opportunity to discover new potential partners to help make your organization shine.

With this setup, you’ll immediately have access to the materials they are offering on their dedicated brand page (videos, whitepapers, etc.) as well as a listing of all the sessions they are presenting during the week. You can schedule meetings with them right on that page, or immediately enter their live video room to speak with a rep (you can be immediately whisked away to a private meeting room too if large group convos aren’t your thing). 

What can students expect from the show?

It is not lost on us that you are being launched from an extremely structured school environment into a fairly chaotic, highly complex world state that no one has experienced in our lifetimes. GDC Summer is committed to offering a dedicated student pass that offers tailored content to recent graduates and current students looking to begin their careers in the game development industry, create opportunities for mentoring/networking, as well as provide valuable access insights into the industry.

Some people won't be able to take time off work and participate in a live virtual conference, even if they'd like to. What are the options there? 

I’m glad you asked! We know that just because you are working from home does not mean that you have ample amounts of free time. You may even be finding that your workload feels heavier than ever before (working during a pandemic is mentally exhausting!).

So, if you’re in the U.S., we’ve created two blocks of time: mornings and afternoon/evenings, to help bookend your day instead directly interrupting it. If you are in European regions, you’ll find that you have access in your afternoon and evening hours, and depending where you are in APAC regions, you can join us late at night or early morning.

That said, all first-run broadcasts will immediately be archived on the event platform for on-demand access the week of the event so you can make up your own conference schedule. Watch while you eat breakfast! Multitask while you’re in that really boring all-hands meeting (ok, maybe don’t do that)! Take it in over your very own at-home happy hour for one! While the kids are wrestling in the living room! You get the point…GDC Summer is whatever hours you want it to be during August 4-6. 

All-in-all, we know GDC Summer won’t look like GDC itself, but we think there is power in that. It gives us all an opportunity to rethink the experience, how to create meaning for a virtual gathering, and ultimately create a bigger tent. Just because we can’t gather in a convention center in the middle of San Francisco or commute to company offices or host physical meetings doesn’t mean that the industry itself has paused. There is still business that needs to get done and games that need to be made. No matter what format, GDC intends to help you do just that!

Register now for GDC Summer in August! For more information about what to expect, visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via Facebook, Twitter, or RSS.

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