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The Geekwave

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The Geekwave

University of Utah

The Geekwave

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My experiences/reactions at GDC 2024!

A couple weeks ago I had the wonderful experience of visiting San Francisco for 2024’s Game Developer Conference, my first time ever going, and so I wanted to share my experiences both inside the convention center and outside, as well as my overall feelings and advice afterwards. To provide some context and background on me, I’m Jaxson Day, the director of Geekwave, and a games student finishing up my capstone project Barnacles Beers and Brawls (shameless plug to wishlist here). While I only attended from Wednesday to Saturday, I can confidently say it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I learned a ton about this wonderful industry I fell in love with. 

Devs are fed the fuck up

For those that have been following the games industry a lot there are lots of things for devs to be frustrated about and this year more than ever you could feel that. Whether it be the rise of AI, which took over most of the panels on the expo floor, to the massive layoffs that have taken over the scene. A common sentiment was of developers looking for jobs after being laid off, or trying to get funding for their own projects after being done with greedy publishers repeating the same cycle. This all culminated in two events, GDC SCREAM, which was when developers all across GDC met up in the park above the north hall and for a couple minutes, screamed their frustration, anger and rage for everyone to see. Rebekah Valentine from IGN wrote a whole piece on this that explains the event better than I could, but it really was a wonderful moment.

On top of this Sven Vincke from Larian Studios was given the GDC choice awards for Baldur’s Gate 3 and gave a wonderful speech about this cycle publishers continue to repeat. In his speech he explained “I’ve been fighting publishers my entire life and I keep on seeing the same, same, same mistakes over, and over and over. It’s always the quarterly profits. The only thing that matters are the numbers, and then you fire everybody and then next year you say ‘s**t I’m out of developers’ and then you start hiring people again, and then you do acquisitions, and then you put them in the same loop again, and it’s just broken.” For an industry that is built on a common passion for video games, it was really heartbreaking to see such a low point for the industry when outside of the dev space you would assume business is booming with 2023 being one of the best years for some of the best releases.

Despite the overall frustrated and sad feeling, the passion is there stronger than ever

I have never been to a games convention like this before and the energy was electric. While the industry has been through a lot lately, there were still many events, booths, and lectures surrounded around the accomplishments of games, and nothing shared this better than GDC Concert, which was hosted by legendary Troy Baker and Austin Wintory, which played a bunch of pieces throughout gaming history, from 2023 to 1999. This was easily one of my favorite moments because the passion and energy felt for games was absolutely incredible to feel, as they played iconic themes that mean so much to so many people in that room.

Outside of this event were events like the expo floor which had alternative controller games (some of which from U of U grad students) that were a blast to play, to Unreal show demos that showed off the new tech making development easier, and just the overall friendly feeling from GDC. Everyone there is a nerd, and have strong feelings towards the same thing and you can feel that walking around and seeing everything and everyone. 

This passion was especially felt among students, which I spent a decent amount of time with. Students, not just from the U, are incredibly excited, talented and passionate to get started in the industry and cannot wait to start developing for big games, and I am really excited and optimistic for this upcoming generation of developers to take the reigns and take gaming to new heights. 

My Advice for GDC (my excuse to shout-out Balatro)

As I have gotten back and reconnected with friends, a couple people have asked my advice or opinions on going and so I figured I’d put that here for everybody to read. For students unsure whether to go or not, I would highly recommend it assuming you are able. I ended up going alone, however there are usually plenty of other U of U staff and alumni around that you can find groups pretty easily (I even ran across one alumni that was willing to uber me to the convention center which was incredibly nice), as well as U of U events to meet up with fellow students and staff! I would also encourage being as outgoing as possible and be prepared for some busy days, talkative evenings and late nights, however focus on yourself first. Don’t get surrounded by the pressure of feeling like you have to go and do everything at once, but make the most of your time there.

Along with this, I would recommend going there Sunday through Saturday instead of what I did Wednesday through Saturday, even if that means only buying the expo ticket and missing out on the lectures. While the lectures were very good and informative, a lot of them end up on the GDC vault anyways (available to all students), and what you end up getting the most out of GDC at the end is the connections, friendships and people you meet, which is why going and trying to hang out with people as early as possible makes the trip all the more worth it.

Also this is aside from GDC but I have to talk about it, please go buy Balatro on steam, this game single handedly helped me through any moment I had during GDC, during the long train rides, slow moments, or just chilling in my hotel late at night, I can’t gush about this game enough (and it’s only $15). Overall, GDC was one of the best experiences of my life and worth every penny, lost hour of sleep, and missed school days, and I would highly encourage anyone that is able to make the journey out, enjoy the community, sites, city, make the absolute most out of it and I hope to see you there next year!


Cities Skylines 2 is available on PC through Steam and Xbox Game Pass. Don’t miss Caitlyn’s review for Jade City by Fonda Lee and Ronny’s review of Cities Skylines 2. For everything else geeky stay right here on Geekwave.

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About the Contributor
Jaxson Day
Jaxson Day, Geekwave Platform Director
Jaxson loves all things nerdy, but his favorite thing is easily gaming. He is currently finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree in the Game Design track where he specializes in Producing and 3D modeling. Some of his favorite things outside of gaming include listening to and collecting hip-hop records, watching movies and anime and all things coffee. Some of his favorites include The Legend of Zelda series, The Last of Us, Cowboy Bebop, Princess Mononoke, and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.