From Business Contacts to Friends – GDC and PAX

Hi everyone!

As you may or may not know, I just came back from a week in San Francisco followed by 4 days in Boston, for GDC (Game Developer’s Conference) and PAX (Penny Arcade eXpo) respectively. These are a couple of the biggest events in the gaming industry and have been extremely important for myself and for our company.

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My first GDC was three years ago, and was useful for us to put ourselves on the map in the game developer world as well as making important contacts that would lead to our eventual success (success in this case is defined as continued existence). We hustled, somewhat aggressively, our way into meetings with Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Google, and others. I spend most of the conference in meetings and walking around the business development section of the show meeting people and pitching our game and our studio. It was hugely successful, as we ended up getting fast-tracked through the portals which allowed us to ship our game on XboxOne, PS4 and now (eventually) on Switch. It was all business development, all the time, and it worked.

At this year’s GDC (and PAX), I noticed something different. Instead of hustling into meetings with people to do “business development”, we did a lot more of catching up with people we knew. This makes sense, since we already knew them… but the thing I noticed is the tone of conversation and what was talked about. From conversations with people like Microsoft to conversations with other game developers, we talked significantly more about life outside of game development. We talked of travel, of family, and of the struggles of running a game dev company on a more personal level, and it allows me to feel not only like this community is here for support for the company’s needs but that it’s also there for my needs. We didn’t have a new product to pitch so we weren’t looking for new contacts who might be able to help us get our game out, and this may have contributed to my realization, but I think it’s still quite valid; had we had a new project, that would have been additional to the relationship building that I’m talking about.

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I never thought that this kind of progression could exist when you only see people once or twice per year. In Montreal, I have some game dev friends that I see often enough that we’ve managed to build a relationship beyond what’s traditionally¬†work, but now that I see it happening with developers from Seattle, Austin, and even on other continents, it just reinforces how amazing this industry truly is. People are genuinely out to help each other, and have seemingly no concern that their help might be detrimental to their own sales… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t imagine this kind of thing exists in other industries.

Anyway just wanted to share this realization with you, and encourage people to see their “business contacts” also as friends, because it makes for much more enriching relationships and probably leads to better business down the line as well.