A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.


Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.

Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.


In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

4 Replies to “A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference”

  1. So, I guess the chances of me finding a date at the IGDA mixer are astronomically to my disadvantage. Doh!

  2. Total agreement! Imagine being there the year I was, where the “digital art” competition consisted primarily of boobies.

    Seriously? Next year I’m going to submit a rant to the rant panel. It will consist of a “time-to-ponies” review system which will be the inverse of Old Man Murray’s time-to-crate system. In which ponies=awesome. At which most games completely fail, and even WoW mostly fails because you don’t get a pony until level 30. And I will then tie this in to the overall gender-suck which is GDC. I haven’t quite figured out how that part will go yet. But I have figured out the pony part. Oh yes. I have figured out the pony part.

    also? thanks for re-directing people to user observation videos. I wish like hell people actually realized how useful those are. cheers.

  3. Agree. I think every woman I saw last year at GDC was a LL employee.

    The Expo does rock, I really enjoyed many of the demos, and I learned that I could emigrate to Canada if I chose to, as they need QA Engineers. It was a good thing to know in case McCain won.

  4. Erica, I had to laugh at the escalator moment. I’m a theological librarian, and, like you, I am accustomed to a work setting and professional library meetings where men and women are almost equally represented. Once I was invited to give a presentation at a conservative theological society meeting, and had the same gender shock that you report here.

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