[Editor: This is a guest post from IGDA Victoria volunteer and UVic student Dylan Gedig who went to E3 in Los Angeles this past June as one of the winners of the IGDA E3 Scholarship. Way to go, Dylan!]
The IGDA E3 Scholarship trip was one of the coolest trips I have ever taken in my life, and certainly the most relevant to my career. I would highly recommend the IGDA Scholarship program to any students that want to get into the game industry. The application process was simple, and it was a great way to get involved with the IGDA on a more global scale.
For me, E3 started on Saturday, when I arrived in LA and got to meet some of the other scholars at the condo we would be sharing for a week. It was great having a group of like-minded people to hang out and travel to and from events with, and made the rest of the week that much better.
The event officially kicked off on Monday, where we had a lunch meeting with the scholars and the IGDA members that organized the event. We took care of official business and got to know everyone we would be spending the week with, all while watching the E3 press releases. That night we had the chance to attend an LA Video Game Supper Club event, which is a quarterly event organized by members of the LA game industry, for industry members to meet up in a casual environment. It was an excellent opportunity to meet everyone who was in LA for E3 and chatting over the course of a dinner was very enjoyable.
The next day we had a Q&A period with Justin Berenbaum, who has worked in the publishing side of the industry for many years. He had some great advice for the scholars, particularly about the specific things a publisher looks for when being approached with a game. His main advice for us was to finish several projects while we were in school, as the main thing he looks at as a publisher is previous completed projects. He also recommended to keep track of time and budget commitments for a game, saying that it looks good to have proof that you can stick to a budget, be it money or time. One quote that stuck with me particularly was “The hardest thing to do in this industry is finish a project.”
After the Q&A, we were free to roam the show floor and check out whatever we wanted. I took this opportunity to meet my mentor, Alex Seropian, for the first time. He introduced me to some of his other team members and industry friends, and offered me advice on various things in the game industry, answering every question I thought to ask. We talked mainly about the differences between working at big companies and small, and what it takes to start your own studio. Alex provided an interesting point of view, saying that to start and run a studio took a wide range of skills and interests. He recommended that if someone just wanted to program then they should go work for a larger company where they would be able to program for 8 hours a day and leave the other responsibilities to other people.
After parting ways with Alex, there were several booth tours on the show floor that had been set up for us. The first was the Disney tour, where we were taken around and got to play the new games that they were showing off. Afterwards was the Bungie booth tour. This one was especially neat because we were allowed on the show floor after hours, and got to hang around with the Bungie team for quite a while. It was an awesome opportunity to talk about specific aspects of the game and the techniques they used to create them. After that, most of the Scholars decided to attend one of the Pocket Gamer mixers, which was another great chance to chat with people in a casual setting.
We started Wednesday with a series of tours, going from Sony to the Video Game History Museum to Oculus to Ubisoft. We got to see a bunch of cool stuff and had very helpful people showing us around at each booth. My favourite moment from these tours was getting to talk to the lead level designer of Far Cry 4, and discussing how to apply level design practices to an open world environment. He stressed that for Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 he put a lot of importance on making the side quests and collectibles tie in very closely with the game world and the story. This was to prevent it from being too jarring moving from the main story to side quests and back, and for maintaining a consistent atmosphere.
After the series of tours, we all headed to the IGDA mixer, which was great for meeting people from around the world, and it was fun to meet IGDA members beyond our local Victoria chapter.
On Thursday we had a Bethesda booth tour, where we got to play their upcoming new games. The team that was there to run the booth was incredibly friendly and very excited about the scholars program. They were awesome about discussing design decisions with the games and providing gameplay tips while we played. For the rest of the day we had free rein to check out whatever we wanted. I took this time to talk to the Star Citizen team, check out the Civilization: Beyond Earth Demo, and catch a Witcher 3 presentation. Near the show floor close time we were all summoned back to the IGDA booth, where we were to meet with Chris Jurney, who had worked with SuperGiant Games on both Bastion and Transistor. He talked to us candidly about how he got into the industry and about the different AI work and research he had done. One of the interesting parts of our talk was Chris was about how small the industry is, and how you can become one of the leading experts in a field if you dedicate yourself to it for a few years.
Friday brought studio tour day, starting with a trip to EALA. There we met devs from several different fields, who had prepared talks and took numerous questions. They demonstrated some of the tech they were working on, which was awesome seeing things both in and out of my field. After they gave us free rein in the EA store, we were on our way to Insomniac. While there, we had a round table discussion with several members of the Insomniac team. We had conversations about portfolios, engine architecture, project management, narrative design, and more.
Then it was time to return the van and say goodbye to the Scholars. By the end of the week, I had asked every question I could possibly think of. I had so many thoughtful conversations with so many people, that I was ready to just digest and think about everything. Some of the main topics that came up again and again were the fact that the industry is very small, and that working on and finishing side projects is incredibly important, especially for students.The event gave me a clear path forward and helped me get into the game development community at large. It was definitely life-changing, and I’m so glad I was given this opportunity.
I want to end this post with a thank you to all of the IGDA members who made this incredible experience possible, especially Luke Dicken and Molly Proffitt. It was an amazing week and I appreciate all the time and effort that went into making it everything it turned out to be.