On Sunday I flew to Cologne to represent GameFounders and participate in two conferences: GDC (Games Developer Conference) Europe and GamesCom. GDC is the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers, focusing on learning, inspiration, and networking. Gamescom is the World’s largest games event with more than 275 000 visitors already in its third year (2009). GDC runs from Monday to Wednesday and GamesCom from Wednesday to Friday. Both events are held in Cologne Messe.
On Monday I had an early start in GDC. This was the only day when I did not have any meetings scheduled thus I could just hang around, visit sessions and generally speak with people. In the evening there was a party in a (reserved) restaurant at the shore of Rhein river, with a magnificent view on the most important attraction of Cologne – Dom – at the other side of the river. The party was great with free drinks all night long. It also seemed that all of the people from the conference actually showed up. I met some great people and then called it a night relatively early for having some early meetings the next day. Sometime after midnight when I left, the party was still at full swing.
On Tuesday I had mostly meetings with a chance to visit one sessions in between them. At the evening the people from facebook invited me to facebook drinks party where I arrived late because my last meeting. A bit after 8 PM when the party was already almost over, we left to another party, thrown by GameConnection. In this event I met Olivier – a French composer now living in Silicon Valley and now working as a freelancer. When he heard that I’m from Estonia, he became really excited. Estonia – this is where his favourite composer is from – Arvo Pärt, obviously. Olivier told me that he has a 1,5 month old daughter and he plays her Arvo Pärt’s music every single night and used to play that also even for months before she was born! The passion that Olivier felt(feels) for Arvo Pärt made me really feel proud of being estonian and also made me understand why he (Arvo Pärt) is the most famous estonian in the world. It was really great feeling to meet somebody so passionate about one of my countrymates!
As of parties – they are really actually a core of the conference. In the parties I made a lot of more connections than in the conference itself. The parties (except the one on Monday) are not in the official schedule. They are thrown by sponsors/exhibitors of the conferences and meant to their partners/customers/friends. You hear about the parties by talking with people and then perhaps getting invited. Whenever you go to one of those multi-day conferences, be sure to find out about the parties!
GamesCom began on Wednesday, just next to the GDC premises. In terms of size, it is a magnitude bigger than GDC and it actually takes hours to walk through the whole venue. It is basically the event where game developers show their products to the public and people can play them. It was already pretty crowded on Wednesday, when supposedly 15 000 people attended, but on of the organisers told me that they expect 100 000 on the last day. Well, on Thursday there were already so many people that it was virtually impossible to move. After trying to enter the hall nr. 9 (unsuccessfully) I gave up and left. Those youngsters are just so much more motivated in making their way to those games! 🙂
There’s not much business networking at GamesCom. I did have a bunch of meetings on Wednesday, but then again, this was also the final day of GDC. Most of the people I spoke to had their flights leave on Thursday. So I took some time on Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon to see a bit of Cologne, too. It is a nice and vibrant city and I totally understand why it also attracts regular tourists.
Now I’m back home and the preparations for GameFounders first batch continue!