Just Add Value - GDC 2015 Postmortem

I came back home from GDC 2015 just a couple weeks ago. As usual, it was an insane whirlwind of friends, games, and fantastic times. For those of you who are considering going, I highly recommend it.

Now, I'm going to make a bold statement and say that this was absolutely one of the best GDC experiences that I have ever had. Why is that? Did I walk away with a dozen projects? Did I win any awards? Did someone finally realize that my idea for a wrestling/Metal Gear/Dark Souls mashup would be the greatest video game of all time?


This was one of the best GDC experiences I have ever had for one reason: I focused 100% of my energy on adding value to other people.

What do I mean by "adding value?" Well, before we get into that, let's chat a little about the International Ambassador program that I was a part of.

International Ambassadors:

This year, I had the great pleasure of gaining an International Ambassador (IA) scholarship at GDC. This was the inaugural year for the IA program. The greatest benefit of being an IA is that it made me a part of an amazing group of people that I could hang out with throughout the conference.

                                                                                      The GDC 2015 International Ambassadors

                                                                                      The GDC 2015 International Ambassadors

Having a support network like this is one of the greatest things you could ever ask for at GDC. I am incredibly grateful that I had a group of International Ambassadors and Conference Associates that I could spend time with throughout the week. The incredible friendships that were formed go way beyond the conference and will surely have a huge impact on me throughout my entire life.

Adding Value:

My goal for this year's GDC was to introduce as many amazing people to as many other amazing people as possible. I'm lucky enough to have plenty of work to do, so instead of drumming up more for myself, I went in looking to help others in whatever way I could.

                                                                                                     This is what GDC's all about!

                                                                                                     This is what GDC's all about!

A funny thing happened. Even though I focused all of my energy on helping others without asking for a thing in return, I formed a ton of great connections, got hired for a new project that I'm very excited about, and left San Francisco feeling amazing!

So what do I mean when I say "add value?" Adding value can be anything from making someone smile, all the way to giving a project to someone more suitable than yourself. Without trying to sound too woo-woo about this, it seems when you're focused on helping other people, a lot of great opportunities seem to come your way, almost by accident.

I'm lucky enough to be in a position that I occasionally have to turn down projects due to a consistently full schedule. This doesn't mean you need to give away tons of work when you can barely afford rent. However, when you're shaking someone's hand, changing your mentality from "How can you help me?" to "How can I help you?" can make all the difference in the world.

The best networking advice I've ever received: 

When I was first starting out in this industry, Danny Baranowsky gave me some truly amazing networking advice that I still carry to this day: instead of focusing all of your energy on getting a gig with someone who is way ahead of you in the industry, focus on the people that are at your level and bring one another up through hard work.

Although that advice took a while to click for me, I couldn't agree more. While it's absolutely imperative to speak to those who have tons more experience than you, there are countless people at your current level that you can and should create amazing work with.

Counterintuitive networking:

I will be the first to admit that my old mentality when it came to networking events was to go out and talk to as many people as possible - all in an effort to hoard every gig for myself.

So many people I know who are starting off in the game industry have a similar mentality. And who can blame them? No one has told them that they need to do anything different. It definitely doesn't feel natural to add value to complete strangers when you're looking for your big break.

As soon as I made the shift to adding value, the results were insane. Gigs came to me without me needing to hunt for them, my network got stronger and stronger, and I was able to connect talented folks to one another with ease, which led to more gigs, an even stronger network, and more connecting.

How can you help?

What are some ways that you can add value in this industry? Here are a few ideas, but this is by no means a complete list.

  1. Introducing people to other people in your network.
  2. Giving projects away if possible.
  3. Mentoring others in the industry.
  4. Playing other people's games and letting them know how much you liked them.
  5. Being a good conversation partner.
  6. Sharing cool resources with those around you.

Again, not a full list by any means! Now go out there and add value, friends!

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Game Industry Networking Part 2 - Events and Conferences

If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, go ahead and read it right here.

It's conference season again! That means we'll have to brush our teeth (for once), print some new business cards, and get networking!

Of course, with all of these conferences coming up, we're going to need to dive deeper in to the much-dreaded topic of networking. Last time, we discussed how we can better introduce ourselves at game industry events. This month, we'll go a bit deeper into the topic and cover networking at events/conferences both small and large.

Adding value before even walking in to the room

When it comes to getting truly phenomenal results from your networking efforts, 80% of the work is done before you even walk in the room. We're going to put in 2x the work compared to everyone else. This 2x investment can mean 50x better results. 

First, to add value to every event you go to, you'll need to do your research. You'll want to find out a few things out before you even walk through those doors. 

  1. Who's going to be there? (is there an invite list like on Meetup?)
  2. Who am I most likely to meet?
  3. What questions (if any) do I have for them?
  4. Do they have LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter profiles?
  5. Have they done any interviews, lectures, etc?
  6. What games have they worked on?

Yes, I actually want you to take some time and make a plan based on who may be at the event you're headed off to. This can be done weeks in advance for larger events such as GDC, or just 20 minutes before heading out the door for a local IGDA meetup.

Obviously, for huge events such as GDC, you won't be able to know exactly who's showing up. In cases like this, make a list of some of the people that you'd likely run in to and who you'd like to meet. On top of this, look at who's speaking, look at the IGF nominees, research their creators, and if you want to go the extra mile start sending out emails now to plan some meetings!

Here's what to do:

  1. Make a plan using the above tips before your next event.
  2. Write down who is going to be there and who you'd like to meet. I use Evernote for this.
  3. Write out scripts/questions to the potential people you're going to meet (Similar to what we did in Part 1)
  4. Show up to any event and talk to people!

Let me know how it goes!

Write those scripts down! I'd love to hear what you come up with, so please do send me an email or follow me on Twitter! I can't wait to hear about your results.

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects