A survival guide to GDC 2023
Games industry professionals share their GDC tips, from networking advice to finding the best pasta in San Francisco
GDC is back at the Moscone Convention Center next week.
A staple among games industry events, GDC 2023 is expected to gather around 24,000 people in San Francisco, organisers said in January.
Officially running from March 20 to 24, the event extends well beyond the boundaries of these days and of the convention centre's walls. Games industry professionals from all walks of life have started gathering already and will be taking over San Francisco for meet ups within the next two weeks.
For newcomers, GDC can be overwhelming – big event, big city, thousands of people, hundreds of talks, almost as many networking opportunities... how do you make the most of this mammoth event?
Well, we've got you covered! Below you'll find advice from a dozen industry professionals about how to plan your GDC 2023, how to network, where to meet people, what food joint you should go to, and simply how to survive.
Included in this guide are (in alphabetical order):
- Gordon Bellamy, professor of the Practice of Cinematic Arts at USC, head of the USC Games Bridge incubator, and CEO of Gay Gaming Professionals
- Chase Bethea, music composer and creative/technical audio designer
- Guy 'Yug' Blomberg, founder of the Games Industry Gathering, and business development on various other acronyms (E3, IGDA, etc.)
- Wren Brier, creative director at Witch Beam
- Simon Carless, founder at GameDiscoverCo and former GDC executive vice president
- Dana Cowley, communications director for technology at Epic Games
- Marina Díez, CEO at Three of Cups Games (and host of this year's IGF Awards at GDC)
- Kate Edwards, CEO at Geogrify and director of the Global Game Jam
- Nazih Fares, head of communications and localization at 4 Winds Entertainment
- JC Lau, senior producer at ProbablyMonsters
- Caroline Miller, owner and CEO at Indigo Pearl
- Alexander Sliwinski, COO at Bithell Games
- Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam, founder of Tinsley PR
- Victoria Tran, community director at Innersloth
For more GDC and San Francisco tips, it's worth noting that the Games Industry Gathering also has a brilliant GDC guide that you can find on this page.
Also keep an eye for our interview with GDC director of event production Stephenie Hawkins and senior conference manager Ashley Corrigan, to be published on Thursday.
Now without further ado, here's our survival guide to GDC 2023.
Table of contents:
- Plan around your own priorities
- Advice for attending talks
- Advice for networking
- Advice for meetings
- Advice for first-time visitors from marginalised communities
- Advice for Ramadan
- Remember we're still in a pandemic
- Party responsibly
- Visiting San Francisco
- Where to eat and drink
- Ultimate secrets to surviving GDC
Plan around your own priorities
- Figure out what you're trying to get out of GDC and plan accordingly
- Don't overpack your schedule
- Leave space for unexpected encounters
Nazih Fares: Like every major conference, it’s about your own personal goal. Assess your own priorities. Do you want to meet new people, share your work, or hear about the latest advancements in your field? While most conferences allow you to accomplish all three technically, having some priorities will help you decide to focus on… Or you’ll end up burning out running from one end to the other. Trying to squeeze every minute worth of GDC is not healthy, and if you did get yourself an All-Access pass, then you’ll be able to watch most conference panels in the GDC Vault content until March 1 next year.
Victoria Tran: GDC is what you make of it, and I don't think there's a true "best" that works for everyone. Want to learn? Attend as many talks as you can! Want to network? Reach out to people to set up meetings! While you're there, you might get a sense that you have to do everything and pack your schedule until you're running back and forth between locations. But GDC is a marathon, not a sprint – it's okay to take time and go at your own pace. I always suggest trying to meet folks there and make true connections – not just as business contacts, but genuine friends. The industry can be difficult to be in, and having people who care for you always helps. Best of all is that GDC is a place where many developers expect to have random conversations with new people! And if anyone is rude or mean, then it's okay to move on. There are plenty of friendly folks around.
Marina Díez: I get the most out of GDC by taking care of myself. Even though I get lots of FOMO for not being able to reach everything, it's just impossible to attend everything. I prioritise what I think could be interesting for me. I also make sure to not schedule every single hour of my day because free time can also give you lots of good surprises. It's also important to eat and rest.
Advice for attending talks
- Talks are better in person to create connections with the speaker and/or fellow audience members
- Don't overpack your schedule
- Prioritise roundtables for connecting with similar minded people
Wren Brier: I know some folks say it's not worth spending your time on going to talks because you can just watch them on the Vault later, but I strongly disagree. It's different seeing them live and in person. It also gives you an opportunity to chat to the speaker afterward, and I find I often make friends with someone sitting next to me in the audience!
Marina Díez: Regarding talks, I normally attend three or four of them total or maybe one summit but not the entire day. It depends a lot on what you are keen on. For me, there is more value in hanging out and speaking to people outdoors and watching any talk I need back at home. But this depends a lot on the person!
JC Lau: GDC's main pull is the fact that there are tens of thousands of people in the industry in the same place, so networking opportunities are key. There are plenty of networking events around, so I would recommend those, even over going to talks. The only time I will not deprioritize conference attendance is for roundtables which – unlike talks – are not recorded, on a specific topic, and are capped (usually at 40 people). I've found these spaces to be great for networking with other people interested in similar topics as I am.
Advice for networking
- Check meetups with this handy GDC 2023 List created by QAG's director Ty Tyler
- Just talk to people, but don't talk *over* people
- Venture into hotel lobbies by the convention centre and Yerba Buena Gardens
- Pre-plan your introduction and exit statements
- Follow up with contacts you made
- Be authentic and don't make everything a sales pitch
Alexander Sliwinski: GDC is supposed to be a networking event. A networking event for an industry full of introverts. Don’t worry about starting conversations. Is it awkward? Sure! But it’s awkward for everyone. Trust me, talking to new people and networking is nothing compared to the anxiety of pitching to a publisher. Talking to devs from all over the world you don’t know is just good practice.
Gordon Bellamy: One key is to pick 20 people of interest AHEAD of the show, and ask on LinkedIn to spend 15-20 minutes with them either in person at the show, or in a call after the show. If you are trying to showcase your game, have a short video available on your phone to show at all times, and a description doc or resume that you can airdrop. Have your LinkedIn/Instagram/whatever-socials-you-are-comfortable-with open so that you can add new connections, and follow up with a quick one line note of how you met, or from the conversation. In group settings, don't talk over people, and let people who don't identify as male speak first. Always have a phone battery and charger cable to share with a new colleague. Ask people WHY they are in or pursuing the games industry, not WHAT they do for a living.
"Don’t worry about starting conversations. Is it awkward? Sure! But it’s awkward for everyone"Alexander Sliwinski
Guy Blomberg: If you're looking for things outside of GDC, the trifecta of hotel bars around GDC are the Marriott Marquis, the W Hotel, and St Regis. Between them and the Yerba Buena Gardens, you'll most likely bump into many of the folks you know or would want to know. Your most comprehensive list for GDC parties can be found here: gdcparties.com. There is always a karaoke party happening at night, if you know the right people…
Victoria Tran: Pre-plan your introduction and exit statement. I know it sounds ridiculous, but as someone who finds it awkward to both introduce herself and get out of a conversation I'm not feeling, having a practised "script" works wonders. My introductory scripts can be: "Hi, I don't think we've met, I'm Victoria" and then asking them how they're enjoying GDC after they introduce themselves. Or if I am hovering over the food table, then chatting with someone who comes to eat and commenting on the food. You don't need to plan this to the point it becomes unnatural, but I find the opening line to be the most difficult to get out! Exit sentences are also very important, especially when you might be in a rush but don't want to appear rude. While people should be pretty understanding of this, it still is nice to know how you'll shut down something when you're getting bad vibes or just need to leave!
Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam: To get the most out of GDC, talk to people in a real way – on and off the show floor. Most people I’ve talked to over the years don’t even have a badge for the actual show, they’re there to find work, recruit, get a publishing deal, strike a partnership, obtain funding or show their game to the media. If you’re going to GDC, and you’ve made the expensive trip to SF, don’t waste it by just hanging out with the same four friends – you have 51 other weeks in the year to do that somewhere far less expensive than San Francisco. Head to a cocktail hour, or a group meetup. Walk the show floor and talk to everyone exhibiting there. Lobbies and bars of the surrounding hotels are always full of industry folks but if you want to steer clear of alcohol, there’s plenty of other places to chill and meet people on and off the show floor.
- Introduce yourself and ask questions.
- Be authentic – you have a skillset in a particular area and it’s okay to talk about what you do and what you like. If you aren’t good at talking about yourself, ask the other person questions – people love talking about themselves and the more they do that, the more they remember that they enjoyed their conversation with you.
- Keep it positive. Be mindful that the trash you talk about someone else’s game or work reflects more on you than it does on them – putting someone else down to make yourself look better always backfires.
- Make it a speedrun to collect as many cards as you can. Get to know people for who they are and their likes and passions.
- Make every conversation a sales pitch. Networking should be about being groovy and hanging out. The more you get to know people, the more organically you might see an overlap for how you might work together. And if not, that’s okay too, because you never know where you’ll both be ten years from now.
Advice for meetings
- Absolutely no meetings in hotel rooms
- Weather permitting, have your meetings in Yerba Buena Gardens
- Schedule meetings in hotel lobbies and nearby cafés but…
- Don't organise meetings too far from the convention centre
- Be mindful of discussing private business details in busy areas
Wren Brier: For the love of god, just don't try to arrange meetings in your hotel room, ESPECIALLY if you're a man and the person you are meeting with is a woman.
Victoria Tran: The best place to arrange meetings is wherever you feel comfortable and safe – some prefer cafés, some will simply hang out in the Yerba Buena Gardens, in the convention centre, and others might meet in the W [Hotel] bar. I wouldn't worry too much on the "best" place since you're there for the company, not necessarily the destination. My biggest advice is be decisive and make it easy for the person you're meeting with to know where to go. As for what you should avoid... DO NOT BOOK OR ACCEPT MEETINGS IN HOTEL ROOMS. Especially if it's just one-on-one. Even if you know the person well, it's better to avoid weird optics and be safe, just in case.
JC Lau: Depending on the meeting, I would suggest something outdoors or otherwise in a public place for safety reasons. There are three Starbucks around Moscone and while I don't think they're the best place for meetings, they're quite common and accessible. Other places I enjoy are the top level of Yerba Buena Gardens which overlooks the actual park, as there's a decent amount of outdoor seating. If you need a power source or to be indoors for some reason, the lobby of the Mariott Marquis usually has space and is walkable from Moscone.
"Depending on the meeting, I would suggest something outdoors or otherwise in a public place for safety reasons"JC Lau
Chase Bethea: I personally think the best place to arrange meetings is in the Yerba Buena Gardens. It’s outside, it has a lot of space and it does not get too loud. If the weather is unfavourable, the second best place to meet is on the third floor of the West Hall of Moscone. It’s fairly quiet the majority of the time, unless a talk has ended or is beginning and the space is plentiful. I would avoid meeting in loud places like the bars nearby and, of course, far from Moscone and in the Tenderloin.
Caroline Miller: Have a base – the show floor is small and a bit shit but it’s good to have quick meetings. Have your schedule planned out in advance but leave room for drop-ins. The hotel lobbies are the place to have meetings and bump into people. The Jewish Museum has an excellent deli to the right when you go through the entrance that no one thinks of going to for private meetings (check opening times). If you want to have a lunch meeting near the show, book a restaurant (I went to Fang and loved it).
Simon Carless: Don't overschedule yourself. Meetings are great, but if you end up pingpong-ing across San Francisco between one every half hour, you'll quickly get overwhelmed. Also, if you can base a majority of your meetings in one location, that will help – though that can be difficult to arrange.
Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam: This might get me in trouble, but I’ve held many interviews in ballrooms and balconies on the second and third floors of surrounding luxury hotels that aren’t being used at that time of day. Avoid restaurants or anywhere sunny if you’re trying to present something on a laptop – avoid anywhere you’ll face interruptions from colleagues or friends, or anywhere you might be overheard divulging confidential information. Yerba Buena Gardens is great for friend hangouts but not so great for professional meetings with someone you don’t know on a personal level.
Kate Edwards: If [you're meeting] a decision-maker of some level at a company, you should be flexible to meet them where they are, mainly because it's unlikely they'll be able to break free and go elsewhere. Hotel lobbies are a good place to meet up, but then I'd recommend finding somewhere quieter and less trafficked so that your meeting can be without distractions. As much as you can, aim for places in or around Moscone Center or the main hotels like the W, Marriott Marquis, and Intercontinental. But as you try to find somewhere a bit quieter, also don't set the meeting too far away or else it's less likely the contact will make the trip.
Advice for first-time visitors from marginalised communities
- Find an extroverted buddy and/or talk to other attendees
- Find your people
- Check the #WhatAGameDevLooksLike hashtag on social media
- Join roundtables
JC Lau: I would recommend finding a buddy and teaming up to explore GDC. It makes it a bit safer and easier to cover the conference. As an introvert, I definitely appreciate having an extrovert buddy who can introduce me to people if I'm not feeling up to it. In addition, find your people! There are several networking events for people from various underserved communities, including roundtables, the Gay Gaming Professionals social events, the Xbox Gaming for Everyone Networking Lounge, etc., and those are great opportunities to meet devs. Also, #WhatAGameDevLooksLike will be running again on Twitter (and other social media platforms) to celebrate and elevate the face of marginalised game developers, so if you ever need a reminder that you're not alone in this industry, that is it.
Wren Brier: GDC gets a lot easier once you know some people. Talk to the people around you. Introduce yourself to others and they'll introduce themselves to you. People come to these events expecting to connect with new people, so it's not at all weird to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Just be mindful of other people's boundaries, and your own. And if you already know some folks online who are going, make plans with them! I find going to the parties much easier when you have a friend with you, too.
Kate Edwards: Probably the best thing I can recommend is to take advantage of the various roundtable discussions that will be happening during GDC. Beyond roundtables focused on functional areas (narrative design, etc.), there are many of them focused on underrepresented groups within the industry and it's a great place to meet others from these groups. The roundtables are open discussions about whatever topics the attendees bring to the session and can be a great way to share and learn from others. The IGDA publishes a helpful list of them on this page.
Chase Bethea: It’s imperative to do your homework before landing in the city. Look online for Discords that may have GDC channels, or specifically non-official GDC Discords. Ask who is attending, try to make the connections online. Some time ago, GDC used to have an app where planned attendees around the world would communicate about who they were, what their plans were and their interest in meeting new people. Now, I think Discord has taken that place, so maximise it before you arrive. Hopefully the people you connect with are nice and share other events that are healthy and fun to enjoy.
Marina Díez: It felt really useful to attend the IGDA events in 2019 when I went there as a student and I didn't know lots of people. I also tried to join events by social communities focused on marginalised folks. Some on the top of my head: the Latinx gatherings, Women in Games rally (I attended this in 2019 and it was the absolute best!). Lots of attendees are also going for the first time and also feeling socially awkward, so don't be afraid of sticking to a group and introducing yourself!
Advice for Ramadan
Nazih Fares: GDC’s timing coincides with the start of Ramadan (projected for March 22). While you may believe that not eating in front of your coworker, business partner or acquaintance who is fasting is being considerate, you may be doing more damage than good, as it’s supposed to be a challenge, and "apologising" might make them feel awkward. Just be sensitive about their fasting, and wish them a holy month by saying "Ramadan Kareem” or "Ramadan Mubarak."
(Nazih Fares also shared the advice below for Muslims fasting while at GDC)
- Fasting is not required of all Muslims. If you are sick, pregnant, nursing, or physically or intellectually incapable of fasting, you are free from fasting, as are travellers. The main thing to remember is that it is always polite not to inquire why someone is not fasting if you know they are Muslim.
- You will probably get asked to attend a breakfast or lunch meeting, which is most probably demanding. You will have to be understanding of their request and be honest why you can't. It's better than being there uncomfortably sitting and watching people eat and drink, while they question why.
- Avoid scheduling meetings in the afternoon when people's attentiveness is required. Do it in the morning while you are still somewhat fresh from Suhoor (the meal eaten early in the morning before dawn).
- Like with every conference, there will most likely be several parties including alcohol. Do not be afraid to decline invites, and resist peer pressure. People should recognize that your nights are dedicated to meals, prayers, and community meetings. After all, fasting for 14 to 15 hours a day is difficult.
- During GDC, sunset will fall between 7:20 pm and 7:26 pm in San Francisco. This means that it would be wise to not book any meeting from 6-7 pm and give yourself a long break away from the crowd, in preparation for breaking your fast.
Remember we're still in a pandemic
(A reminder that all GDC attendees are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result to be allowed at the Moscone Convention Center. Please, for everyone's safety, do not attend gatherings if you're ill, and wash your hands regularly)
Wren Brier: Usually I try to attend a party most GDC evenings, but this year I've arranged a lot of smaller meet-ups with friends and acquaintances instead, to be more COVID-safe.
JC Lau: We’re still in a pandemic, and even without that, attending a huge conference like GDC is immensely stressful on your body. Keep your immune system strong by getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated and taking vitamins. I usually bring those little packets of Emergen-C and buy some zinc gummies. The Emergen-C packets also make good networking tools and a conversation starter in a pinch. Pace yourself and make time to just sit, relax, and enjoy the experience.
Simon Carless: It's really nice to go to parties and other soirees, but with my 'boring' hat on: the more crowded and loud the party, the more likely you will either a) blow out your voice or, b) get exposed to 'conf crud' germs and/or COVID. So try to balance risk and fun, depending on how busy your agenda is. Or if you want to go 'full-on' – just power through and leave a lot of time for recovery later!
Nazih Fares: Parties are a great way to mingle but be responsible and reasonable. You might get excited to drink like a sailor with friends, but you’ll suffer the next day.
Visiting San Francisco
Guy Blomberg: Locals are weird about you saying 'San Fran' or 'Frisco', so if you want to avoid cringe, say 'SF' or the full 'San Francisco' (or just 'The City'). International folks note that it's generally cheaper to use a bank ATM than exchange currency at the airport, but check with your bank beforehand just to be sure. The homeless situation in downtown SF is confronting, especially if you're not from America and aren't used to it (sadly). You'll hear people suggest you should avoid the Tenderloin because of it, and it's true you should exercise caution, but also try to remember we're all HUMANS and don't be too much of a jerk about it. In fact, if you want to HELP, you can leave leftover food on top of trash/rubbish bins as a considerate way to pass on extra food without assuming/asking folks if they need it, and you can also find a list of relevant non-profit groups to contribute to here.
Simon Carless: If you have a little time spare during GDC, go to the SFMOMA, steps from Moscone Center. It really is a world-class modern art museum, and it's surprisingly large – it got a big expansion fairly recently that's crammed between buildings in downtown SF and some elements are 100% free. It'll help you relax and recalibrate!
Caroline Miller: I never go to Fisherman’s Wharf, so shit and touristy. If you have time, book the Alcatraz tour. Americans still like cash and sometimes will ask you for ID if you buy something! The weather is never great in San Francisco, check before you go (it’s coastal cold and damp). When you are walking somewhere, it might just be a mile away but check it’s not up a massive hill! Walk-in manis are cheap. The Castro is the gay district and has fun bars and shops. Hayes Valley has nice boutiques. And if you have a chance to see the huge Diego Rivera Mural in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, it's in the free bit downstairs and it’s gorgeous. Check out Mission Dolores Park – lovely views, very cool. Think London Fields but even more London Fields.
Where to eat and drink
(The list below only comprises restaurants, bars and cafes recommended by our interviewees, with extra special thanks to Caroline Miller. You can find more food/drinks advice below as well)
- Amber India
- Buckhorn ("The tri-tip sandwich is a taste bud tease that leaves your wallet in panic from being pulled out again to purchase another," says Chase Bethea)
- China Live
- Flour and Water ("best pasta of my life," says Caroline Miller)
- El Farolito
- El Gallo Giro Taco Truck ("The best tacos you’re going to have, they’re served out the back of a truck in a playground but trust me," says Caroline Miller)
- La Taqueria, in the Mission District
- Lemonade ("for quick and healthy food right next to Moscone," Wren Brier says)
- Mel's Drive-in
- Mixt ("good for a healthy salad for lunch," JC Lau says)
- Rich Table (family-style sharing)
- Super Duper Burgers
- Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, in Little Italy North Beach
- Tosca (opposite Vesuvio, the bar of the Beat poets which you also need to go to!)
- Z&Y Restaurant
- China Live's rooftop
- Smuggler's Cove
- Southern Pacific Brewing
- Tempest Bar (a "dive bar" for when you are "sick of slick hotel lobbies," says Caroline Miller)
Nazih Fares: Escape the boring food court of the conference, and for easy nearby locations, the Westfield Mall food court has free WiFi and a good selection of quick bites. Other than that, I highly recommend following the food truck scene which is a big thing in the city, especially around SoMa.
JC Lau: Even though there's almost a Starbucks on every corner around Moscone, I think the best coffee chain in San Francisco is Blue Bottle, and there are several walking distance from GDC. I also recommend the restaurants in Yerba Buena Lane for a nearby and decent range of meals. If you are a student or on a limited budget going to GDC, there are also quite a lot of low-cost food opportunities! Lots of companies do mixers/parties with free food, and failing that, there is a Trader Joe’s and a Target within walking distance of Moscone for some affordable ready to eat food. You can make a pretty decent meal with some fresh bread and Trader Joe's cheese bar.
Kate Edwards: I can recommend areas like Spark Social, a gathering of food trucks to the southeast of the Moscone area. Or the Mission District has a lot of great eateries which are just two or three BART stops away from GDC's proximity. The Food Court in the lower level of the Westfield Mall just a couple of blocks from Moscone West is also a popular choice with a variety of cuisines.
Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam: Leave downtown for dinner, if you can. The SoMa area is not a great representation of San Francisco – any local will tell you that. Get up to North Beach for great affordable Italian, hit up Chinatown for a great SF twist on traditional Chinese food. Real talk - I have heard the buffet at the strip club ‘The Gold Club’ right near Moscone is legit delicious but I have never tried it. I have heard this from several people. Maybe this will be my year. And if all else fails, just do what some of the games press used to do, which is hit up the local corner liquor store for a couple of six packs and sneak them into the IGF Awards. You know who you are.
(It's probably too late for this year but Stephanie Tinsley Fitzwilliam also added: "If you have the budget, research the hot new restaurants locals are loving and make reservations well in advance. For years now, we’ve made our dinner reservations for the week of GDC when we come back from winter break in early January!")
Ultimate secrets to surviving GDC
- Eat fresh food
- Drink water
- Wear good shoes
- Accept that you will miss things, and pace yourself
Alexander Sliwinski: First and most important, wear comfortable shoes. Yes, GDC prices are already extortionate, but an extra 20 quid for proper gel insoles will make the ridiculous amount of back and forth around the same four blocks worth it. Have an extra battery to charge your phone. No, wait. Have two! One that is ONLY for you so you aren’t stranded somewhere with 2% battery... and another for anyone else who needs a charge. It’s also a great way to organically start a conversation.
Caroline Miller: Get your pass early so you don’t have to queue. I walk and walk and walk, it gets rid of my jet lag and orientates me.
Nazih Fares: Eat healthy, stay hydrated and be prepared for lots of walking. While it might not feel like it’s going to be a physical challenge to attend the event and rush from one panel to the next, eating junk food and sugar-filled drinks won’t help staying energised for the trip.
Stephanie Fitzwilliam: Survive GDC in three steps:
- Wash your hands.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Say the person’s name you just met three times while you’re talking to them so you don’t forget it. Admittedly, I am terrible at this part.
Wren Brier: It's not really a secret, but: don't go too hard! Pace yourself. You can't party super late every night and then expect yourself to function well the next day. Have some early nights in your schedule. If you feel overwhelmed or tired, go rest, even if there is something cool that you wanted to go to. There's always something cool on. You'll always miss something. You can't do everything and that's okay.
Kate Edwards: Well, the basic answers to this question are easy: stay hydrated (seriously), and get enough sleep. I strive to get to sleep by midnight every night; I don't always succeed, but for me, I'd much rather be recharged for the next day than allow that heavy fatigue to get worse as the week goes on. So in short: pace yourself. Realise that you won't see everything or everyone you want to see; the week is typically just too overloaded for that. So strive to be satisfied with the meetings you do have, the random encounters you make, and the overall joy of being a part of this fantastic creative community.
"Strive to be satisfied with the meetings you do have, the random encounters you make, and the overall joy of being a part of this fantastic creative community"Kate Edwards
Marina Díez: During that week, I'm normally super jet lagged so I sleep little, but I make sure I eat plenty of fresh food (fruits and vegetables) as much as I can and nutritious meals. I also try to avoid caffeine and alcohol. Sometimes I also go back to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours and that's super valid too. We are not machines. The first year is always chaos and you feel you could be missing the opportunity of your life if you rest five minutes. But honestly, it probably doesn't work like that. So take care of yourself!
Chase Bethea: No matter what’s on my agenda, unless I’m giving a talk or meeting someone, if I’m tired then I retire to my hotel for a recharge or find somewhere relatively close to where I was going to go that is quiet. I also hydrate and bring snacks from home to last me the week. This saves me on lunch some days. If I do it right, I have snacks left over to bring home. If I plan really well, I will be fortunate to eat dinner, technically for free, due to some GDC parties that serve a plethora of hors d'oeuvres.
JC Lau: I never block out my calendar entirely. Every day I leave 30 to 60-minute buffers between events to account for travel time, long lines, accidentally running into a friend or getting absorbed in a conversation, etc. Ultimately, it lets you do the same amount of networking done without feeling super stressed and rushed. Also, bring a light jacket! It is forecasted to rain for the week, and San Francisco is not like the stereotypical ideals of sunny California even on a good day. It can get pretty chilly in the evening, especially if the fog rolls in.
Gordon Bellamy: You can either chase the dragon or BE the dragon. Make scheduled appointment times with yourself every day to recharge, and be sure you make time to eat and hydrate well. I'd also recommend creating a Discord channel with friends, so that it is easier to communicate and share the GDC experience.