Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Conferences I Have Known

N. Evan Van Zelfden | 15 Jan 2008 12:07
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The game developer wants to connect on a deep level with his peers. Ernie Pyle once wrote that the first, pioneering days of anything are always the best days. "Everything is new and animating, and acquaintanceships are easy and everyone is knit closely together." That, then, is the simple answer. The game industry is small, and everyone is connected. Colleagues are appreciated. There may yet come a time when the industry becomes so large and reflects a market gone so mainstream that developers will neither be able to recognize each other, nor care. But for now, this is a golden age to make friends, to trade secrets, have drinks and meet again in some other strange city.

The Last Keynote
There is always that first moment when you walk into a convention center in some far city, and you find it decorated and populated with those who share your values. You feel differently, and it dawns on you: Conferences are magnets for the young, fresh and eager.

It's possible to become jaded, to reach a point where you have nothing left to learn, where you hate the crowds, the noise and the bad food. The costs take their toll with time. But at every convention there are fresh faces. They might remind you of yourself. People who are discovering for the first time that they have found, from across the world, people just like them who love and develop games. There always will be. And with experience comes insight. Conferences have a pacing all their own, which you can see with time. When you arrive early, it's an empty downtown, but there is an occasional friend here and there. Those greetings are the warmest.

Registration lines prove you're in the right place, and the conference begins. Things pick up on the second day; there are parties and whatever work you are there for continues.

The last afternoon is always the most exhausting. People are tired and begin to melt away. There's a moment when you're walking to lunch and notice that passersby are from some medical convention, and you realize that the town is no longer yours.

One by one, everyone leaves without saying goodbye. They have planes to catch, hotels to check out of and suitcases to pack. The convention center begins to empty, and if there's a show floor, it closes early so booths can be torn down and shipped off in crates.

One last glance shows two volunteers still on the sidewalk, smoking. And so you find yourself standing alone in a strange city, which is fading from work into weekend. Your friends have gone home, until the next event.

Walking quickly to your own destination, you can whistle. Because in all the world, you want nothing more than to go home.

N. Evan Van Zelfden has traveled tens of thousands of miles in the industry of games, is perfectly at home in airports, and subways, and the most disparate of hotel rooms - some air conditioned, some not.

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