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March 28, 2006

The Last Tribal Gathering

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:23 am

The annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) is many things to many people. A tremendous amount of information gets distributed through the panels and presentations. I huge amount of business get done in private meetings. Developers get their first look at new technologies on the expo floor. And vast quantities of beverages are imbibed at the lounges where old friends meet and new friends are made.

This year the GDC returned to San Jose, after being in San Francisco last year. CMP, the folks who own and run the GDC, have decided that the San Jose location, where the conference has been held for the past 8 years or so (except for last year), will just not handle the number of attendees. So, instead of spinning off the mobile or the “Serious Games” portions of the program, they have pretty much decided that this was the last year in San Jose.

So what. you say…well here’s what. First, developers own the town in San Jose. You can walk up to someone anywhere in town that week and odds are they are a developer there for the conference. As much as I love San Francisco, it’s just not like that there. Three steps out of the Moscone Center and it’s even odds that the person next to you is a bus driver, rather than a developer. And there is no social center in San Francisco either.

The center of all activity at GDC San Jose is the Lobby Bar in the Fairmont Hotel. There are plenty of other saloons in San Jose…one in every Hotel. But the Fairmont Lobby is THE place. It is an institution. Deals get done in the “pit” all day long and socializing goes on til they throw everyone out at closing. Then the cycle starts over the next day throughout the conference. As the week progresses the “pit” gets more and more crowded. Sunday night there were only a few of us there. But we were all veterans and knew, or at least recognized, each other from prior years. I guess you would call us the tribe elders. Night after night more and more people pour into the “pit.” The tribe grows…but still has a recognizable core. By Thursday evening the cacophony of sound is almost unbearable as thousands of game developers all crowd into the only place to be in San Jose. The Fairmont Lobby Bar…the home of the last Great Tribal Gathering of Game Developers.

Next year we will be in San Francisco. There is no one place for folks to meet. There are many. And the GDC will move on to the next stage of its maturation process….from a tribal gathering to just another business conference. I guess this is an inevitable part of the maturation of our industry…but that does not mean I have to like it. So, don’t be surprised if you hear about a bunch of hard core old schoolers renting a bus next year and all heading down to the Fairmont Lobby for an evening of drinking and reminiscing…after all, that why they are called the Fairmont Lobby Lizards!

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