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GDC: A first timer's survival guide

Unity Technologies' Liz Mercuri reflects on her first GDC experience

Editor's note: This was originally published last year prior to GDC 2016, but it's worth revisiting for those of you new to GDC

I'm sat in the airport, terrified of flying but equally excited to be attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) for the first time. I've heard a lot about it from people who have been before and the articles I've read and, despite scouring the website a million times in case I missed something, I still don't feel prepared.

It's a massive opportunity to get to the heart of an industry that I am working super hard to be a part of, so the pressure is on. If only there was some sort of Survival Guide that I could turn to, to help me make the most of the show having never been before. Not to mention being on my own in a foreign country. And being a student...

Well, there wasn't one to read, so I wrote it instead. What follows is the ultimate guide to what to do, what not to do, where to go and where to avoid for a GDC First Timer/Student. You can thank me later...

For context:My name is Liz Mercuri. I am a Prince William Scholar supported by BAFTA and Warner Bros. (as part of Warner Bros. Creative Talent) and am studying Computer Game Software Development at Sheffield Hallam University. My scholarship means that I am super fortunate enough to be supported by both BAFTA and Warner Bros. whilst I study.

I attended GDC 2016 as part of Microsoft Women's Game Changers - an annual initiative held by Microsoft. It brings together men and women working in interactive entertainment to network, learn from one another and reward each other for successes in the industry. It does so by awarding a number of women an 'All Access' GDC pass along with an invite to the Xbox Women in Gaming Luncheon. For me, my GDC adventure wouldn't have been possible without Microsoft Game Changers and the generous sponsorship of Sheffield Hallam University.

GDC Diary: The best bits

This year GDC brought along its virtual reality sibling, VRDC, with enough VR to shake a motion-tracked stick at. As a big horror fan I was really eager to give the Paranormal Activity VR demo a try, but despite this it never happened, so here's the first thing I learnt about GDC: no matter how good your plan or perfectly you prioritise, you won't be able to do everything. Instead of the PA demo I had the eerie pleasure of trying out PlayStationVR with Supermassive's Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.

The potential of horror in VR is ferocious. On the plane over, I'd been reading an article on how far developers should push horror elements in VR, but I felt Supermassive hit the tempo and content perfectly, attaining enjoyable scare levels with the occasional shriek and recoil in terror thrown in.