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As trade shows go, the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco creates an explosion of news each year. Polygon, a trade publication, issued over 70 articles this month about the show. The “big guys” (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Sony, Microsoft, etc) featured huge booths filled with gadgets, developer programs, and giveaways. But, for most attendees, the event created an opportunity to gather information from peers, to determine in what direction to steer their efforts and their careers.

Cogswell senior Kit Ainslie put it this way, “I learned that I could approach anyone wearing a badge and ask them anything. It was amazing that everyone was so open and willing to talk and share.” The kinds of interactions students reported from GDC ranged from finding job opportunities to exploring new techniques and technologies.

Michael Zhou was also impressed by the scale of the show. “You get an idea about what these companies are all about just by how they demo their games.” He saw plenty of independent productions, with small teams, building on the offerings of major platforms. The entire ecosystem was on display at the show, with some vendors selling hardware and cloud-based services, others offering development tools, and other showing what they had developed using those tools.

Kalyn Farmer reconnected with one of her professors at Sacramento City College, who was thrilled to catch up and find she was pursuing a career in the field. Said Patrick Crandley, “There are very few places that have top-notch programs in game, animation, and sound design. Many educators have a huge gap in their knowledge. They would benefit from summer workshops to refresh themselves on new technologies and workflows in order to provide their students with the best education possible.”

The Cogswell booth served as a hub, a gathering spot that stimulated these kinds of interactions. Alumni, faculty, and staff mixed with current students, pointing out booths to visit or topics to consider. And, the booth stood out not only as a hub but also as a beacon, even while surrounded by other university booths (from NYU, Utah, RIT, and Digipen).

The University focus extended next door to the show flow as well. Of particular interest, Intel sponsored a University Showcase at the Metreon, taking out a floor for top-ranked game schools to provide student teams with a  venue to show their games to judges.

Intel Takes the Plunge

“Intel wants to know where the game industry is going, and what kind of chips they will need”, said Randi Rost, Senior Strategic Planner from Intel’s Graphics, Games and VR division. “We don’t make games ourselves, but our chips have to support what game makers want. We invited teams to showcase their work by reaching out to schools ranked by the Princeton Review and gathered industry pros to judge.”

Cogswell’s team of Michael Kilmer and Norman Pham showed off one of a stream of games they have developed together over the years. “We got great feedback on our game design”, said Norman. “The judges were impressed with the collaborative elements we built into the game, in which players can communicate with each other through the game to improve their performance.” They also showed the game to students from USC, BYU, Michigan State, Indiana U and other top schools, as well as to industry professionals.

In an industry that changes so rapidly, the best way to get a sense of where things are heading is to show up at events such as GDC. The Cogswell students in attendance will be sharing their experiences and recommending the show to others.