Inside GDC 2009: 'Content Is King'

Ever wondered how talks get selected for GDC? Starting a series of articles from the event blog, Game Developers Conference director Meggan Scavio reveals this year's GDC advisory board and submission process.
[Ever wondered how talks get selected for GDC? Starting a series of articles from the event blog, Game Developers Conference event director Meggan Scavio reveals this year's GDC advisory board and submission process.] Every summer, the GDC advisory board gathers to discuss the direction of the next event. The board is made up of 17 of the most dedicated, brilliant people in the industry. And I’m not just saying that because they might read this. You may have heard of some of them, for example Blizzard’s Rob Pardo, Electronic Arts' Lou Castle, veteran creator Mark Cerny, Bungie's Chris Butcher, MGS's Laura Fryer, and Maxis’ Chris Hecker. See, it’s true. Smarties. Anyhow, during this meeting they talk about everything from networking opportunities (“wouldn’t it be cool to have a roundtable follow a thought-provoking lecture so the attendees can discuss what they just heard?”) to session formats (“what if we gave speakers 3 minutes each to present their cool idea or technology”). The meat of what they talk about, however, is the session content and how to make it better. It’s all-quality all-the-time with these folks. Our attempt at improving (and some might say maintaining) session quality for GDC 2009 was evidenced in our Call for Submissions. The board is always looking for interesting, well crafted submissions but the reality is they are really looking at takeaway. When reviewing submissions, they want to know if the attendee is going to walk out of the room knowing something they didn’t know when they walked in. We updated the submissions process this year by dividing it into two phases with takeaway being the focal point of phase one. GDC Submissions: Phase One We asked three things in phase one of GDC submissions this year: what do you want to call your talk?; briefly explain the focus of your talk; and explain to us how the attendee is going to benefit from attending this talk. We received over 800 of these. The board then reads, reviews and grades every single one to determine who moves on. This process involves locking the board into a hotel meeting room for 2 whole days while they productively discuss (sometimes I call it bickering like little girls but they don’t like that very much) the merits of the submissions. It breaks down like this: by track, we sort the submissions by the reviewers average grade and discuss every single submission that received a grade of 3.8 or higher (1=not so much, 5=much awesomeness). The board determines which of these will move on to phase two. After that, we go around the room and each board member has an opportunity to fight for a submission that didn’t score so well but they want to save. We continue to go around the room until no one has anything left to save. Wash and repeat. All weekend. And you wonder why I drink. GDC Submissions: Phase Two Right now we are in phase two. Submitters are in the process of, well, submitting the bulk of what their Game Developers Conference presentation is going to be for a second round of review. This is where the board can see if the content matches the intent. And this will, fingers crossed, help us in making sure that what seems like a super awesome submission turns into a super awesome GDC session. We shall see! [Meggan and her colleagues will be posting regular updates from behind the scenes through the lead-up to next March's Game Developers Conference 2009, including content reveals and other helpful information. You can subscribe individually to the GDC News blog via its RSS feed.]

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