Every year is the same: total exhaustion, broken feet, horse voice, etc. But, more importantly, a head exploding with new ideas and information, and a rolodex worth of new connections. Indeed, GDC is a marathon.

And, despite the fact that I didn’t have to handle all the usual IGDA stuff, my schedule was completely crammed with non-stop meetings, sessions, and, uh, social activities. Anyway, just some high-level thoughts to share:

  • juxtaposition between big games and small games was evident more so than in past years. For every Uncharted 2 session, there were a handful of iPhone, web, social, casual, etc, etc, style sessions
  • related, the best party of the week was the Gamma “One Button Game” showcase event, put on by indie collaborative Kokoromi - in the same big venue that has been used by EA and Sony in past years
  • the expo floor was full of vendors and bustling with activity the whole time, which is a good sign, as many use the floor as a barometer for industry health
  • the career pavilion was doubly full with folks looking for work, but encouragingly, there were many studios there to snap up CVs
  • most panels suck, not because the speakers lack expertize, but the format de-emphasizes any one panelist’s need to “perform”. I had to walk out of several panels that put me to sleep, despite value of content
  • despite previous point, the annual rant panel that Eric Zimmerman and I organize was spectacular - probably our best ever. Paul Bettner taking blame for Ensemble’s crunch culture got a standing ovation.

Some quick snaps from my week at GDC:

The Social Game Summit was packed the whole time. Here, InsideSocialGames.com editor Justin Smith gives a state of social gaming overview.


? and Tim Laning (Grendel Games) with a Wii surgery game? Yes.


Kellee Santiago (thatgamecompany) gives a great talk on leadership at the Education Summit…


…which includes admitting that you are wrong sometimes.


Eric Zimmerman in caveman mode.


Susan Gold (FullSail) and Kumar Garg (Office of Science & Technology, The White House) setting our post dinner plans.


An animated Justin Hall (ngmoco) takes on Scott Jon Siegal (Playdom) during the ngmoco party.


A lunch and panel hosted by Canada. The desert had maple syrup drizzled all over it ;)


Roof-top view from Jane McGonigal’s condo building during her super-secret happy hour.


Indie devs jammed in for the Indiecade party.


Chris Hecker shows off Spy Party to Jason Rohr.


The Gamma party and One Button Games showcase.


Baiyon an awesome set during the Gamma party.


Devin Monnens, Henry Lowood (Stanford) and Bonaventura Di Bello (ViGaMus) discuss game preservation and history.


David Edery (Fuzbi) covers the biz details of various emerging business models and platforms.


Corey Seifert (Koas) and Brian Reynolds (Zynga) cheer on as Bob Bates wins IGDA “Person of the Year” accolades.


Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins prior to picking of their Ambassador Award.


id’s Todd Hollenshead and Lifetime recipient John Carmack settle in perfect the ceremony starts.


Kyle Gabler (2D Boy) and Erin Robinson (Wadjet Eye Games) co-host the IGF portion of the ceremony.


The guys from Closure win for best Audio.


Randy Smith (Tiger Style) collects the best mobile award for Spider.


After hosting the IGF ceremony for years, Andy Shatz (Pocketwatch Games) scores the big prize with Monaco.


Ah, Warren Spector, you’re so cute… After the Disney gag was up, he did a fine job hosting the Choice Awards - hatless.


John Carmack picks up his award, with Will Wright looking on.


The legendary Sid Meier (Firaxis) delivers the keynote on the psychology of design.


Oh my! Budgeting issues at the IGDA?


Neil Young reveals the inner workings of ngmoco’s development process.


The expo floor always had a lot of traffic.


VR hamster ball…


The annual game design challenge: Eriz Zimmerman (moderating), Jenova Chen (thatgamecompany), Kim Swift (Airtight Games), Heather Kelley (Kokoromi) and Erin Robinson (Wadjet Eye games).


Heather Kelley (Kokoromi), Matt Toschlog (Reactor Zero) and Babsi Lippe telling stories during the “Level99″ speaker party…


Will Wright on the metaphysics of play.


Funnily enough, the A/V dude at the back of Will’s room was playing games on his laptop.


My first GDC wedding: Ben Smith (Blizzard) and Robin Hunicke (thatgamecompany) tie the knot.


Ben and Robin hosted the post wedding party/reception at the Exploratorium. Eric Zimmerman and Jenova Chen play with the smoke/vortex chamber.