Sponsored By

Read More from GDC 2024 | Keep up with the latest game industry event coverage from GDC 2024, including news, talks, interviews, and more from the Game Developer team.

Behind the GDC scenes with Beth Elderkin and Sam Warnke: Game Developer Podcast ep. 43

We peek behind the scenes at GDC and look at what it takes to program and promote the event year-round.

Danielle Riendeau, Editor-in-Chief

May 15, 2024

Music by Mike Meehan. Produced by Jordan Mallory.

It may only take a week to hold the annual Game Developer Conference in San Francisco every spring, but the actual work of planning, orchestrating, and marketing the convention is a year-round process. It’s a job performed by far fewer people than you might think, and is one that requires a lot of spreadsheets, even more Post-It notes, and as many hours as it takes to sort through literally hundreds of panel submissions.

To shine a light on this Herculean endeavor, editor-in-chief Danielle Riendeau talks to GDC content marketing manager Beth Elderkin, as well as conference producer Sam Warnke, for a thoroughly illuminating discussion on this month’s episode of the Game Developer Podcast.

So, how many people does it take to organize those hundreds of discrete events into one contiguous, coherent week’s worth of systematized programming? Far fewer than most would guess.

“I have no idea how the programming team does it,” Elderkin says of Warnke’s unit. “There’s hundreds of talks, between 600 and 1,000 talks, and they curate through all of them and guide the speakers and guide the advisors through the process.”

“When you're looking at each day of GDC,” she continues, “one person is in charge of organizing two of those days, and two people are in charge of organizing three of those days.”

“I oversee the Summits program and I am much more of a spreadsheet girly,” Warnke says. “Whereas on the Core Concept side, my colleague Kysa Korosi oversees that and she and Ashley Corrigan, also on our team, they use a physical board and move things around with magnets. I've seen pictures of this magnet board and it's a beast, and props to them because putting together the Wednesday through Friday program physically in that way—I can’t wrap my brain around it.” 

Scheduling isn’t the only hurdle that needs clearing, of course, in order for GDC to happen the way that it does. There’s also the work of liaising with the myriad publishers, developers and organizations that might want to be a part of the show, such as this year’s collaboration with the Video Game History Foundation to produce the Game History Gallery.

“It was so incredible to see these physical artifacts of games from the past, and also playable games that just don't technically exist anymore,” Warnke says. “It's really heartbreaking how much hard work is lost, and how many nostalgic pieces of people's lives just become unusable, or things that they can't revisit, they’re worlds that they can't revisit, and it's vitally important that we do continue this work of game preservation and continue to support foundations like the Video Game History Foundation.”

About the Author(s)

Danielle Riendeau

Editor-in-Chief, GameDeveloper.com

Danielle is the editor-in-chief of Game Developer, with previous editorial posts at Fanbyte, VICE, and Polygon. She’s also a lecturer in game design at the Berklee College of Music, and a hobbyist game developer in her spare time.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like