It’s almost a tradition for me to get grumpy on the last day of GDC, and even though I had a great week this year there are some things that I would like to shine some light on.
A lot of people seem to think of GDC as this cuddly, educational industry event, by game developers for game developers. It might have been in the beginning, but nowadays it is not. GDC is run by UBM, a global, non-transparent corporation, organizing dozens of different conferences for profit. They don’t care about the games industry, they care about making money. Every year the passes get more expensive and every year something is excluded. Since last year you don’t even get free coffee unless you buy one of the more expensive passes (and as a side note they probably don’t even pay for the coffee – look for that “sponsored by” tag).
As a speaker you get a free pass, a shiny tag on your badge and a couple of lunch boxes. That’s it. They don’t pay for travel or accomodation, which is standard on many other conferences. On top of that they lock in recordings of your preentation in the vault, to which they offer access for an extra $550 unless you already purchased the most expensive pass. Preparing a high quality session takes a lot of time. I know I spent at least a full week on each of my presentations. You do this for free, because you want to share something and then UBM sell it for hard cash.
More and more sessions now come with a “presented by” tag, meaning someone actually paid UBM to give the talk. And even those talks you can’t see unless you buy an “Expo Plus” pass, or better.
That said, I still love going to GDC, and I’ll probably come back next year, but I really wish there was an industry initiative to organize this in a better way.