Senior Conference Producer for the Game Developers Conference Ashley Corrigan has told us about the upcoming GDC 2023, explained how the event organizers work with developers and artists, and shared some thoughts regarding the future of offline events.
80.lv: Please introduce yourself to our readers. How did you join the GDC team?
Ashley: I'm Ashley Corrigan, Senior Conference Producer for the Game Developers Conference. I've been with GDC since 2016, starting as a coordinator on the content team. My entire career as an event professional has been dedicated to the Game Developers Conference. When it comes to organizing events, I like to say I was raised by game developers.
I've helped produce various in-person and virtual events by GDC, including GDC Masterclass, GDC Showcase, and XRDC. Aside from GDC, I helped launch Informa's new event in the media and entertainment space called the Media & Entertainment Leaders Summit (MELS), which took place on November 2022 in London, England.
Game Developers Conference
80.lv: How would you describe GDC today? Who is it meant for?
Ashley: GDC is a week-long event devoted to the advancement and celebration of game development. It's where developers come to recognize achievements, lend expertise, solve problems, and foster relationships.
GDC is for everyone who contributes to shipping games, as well as those who want to pursue a career in games. The GDC community is like an ecosystem, and each person plays a part in the great machine that powers the industry.
80.lv: When do you usually start preparing for the next year's event?
Ashley: planning GDC is basically year-round. We begin strategizing in May, solicit session proposals over Summer, begin finalizing sessions in Fall, then tie all loose ends and firm logistics through Winter until show time in March the following year. We have a short period for post-conference analysis before starting the process all over again.
The core team behind the event is constantly thinking of how we can better represent and connect the game development community. Organizing GDC is truly a labor of love.
80.lv: What do you have planned for 2023 so far? What should attendees be excited about?
Ashley: GDC 2023 is going to be an exciting year with sessions on many incredible games from the year before. Folks can look forward to hearing from the devs behind games like God of War Ragnarök, Horizon Forbidden West, Cult of the Lamb, and Immortality, just to name a few. We'll hear about what Wordle has been up to and a classic game postmortem on the iconic Tamagotchi. I might even learn how to keep one alive.
The overarching theme this year is the "future of the industry". We'll be exploring where the games industry is headed, what it can look like, and how we can get there. Games are influential and have a special power to shape culture in a way that other mediums can't. We hope that the conversations sparked at GDC will help developers craft a future with care and intention.
We're also working closely with our sponsors and partners on cultivating an interactive atmosphere – lots to look forward to!
Cooperating With Creators
80.lv: How do you work with developers and artists? How do you collect feedback and find out what they need right now?
Ashley: Integral to GDC's planning are our advisors, who program the agenda and give us feedback on how we can continuously improve. We're extremely grateful to have a group of talented and knowledgeable developers to help shape the conference. We also comb through a lot of data in post-event surveys and session evaluations for attendee feedback.
Another way we learn about the industry is through the State of the Industry survey we launch with Game Developer every year. The SOTI survey gives insight into the current state of game development and what developers are most interested in or concerned about. The team creates a really neat report from the data that is free for anyone to download.
Devs attending GDC can benefit from an array of opportunities to make connections and acquire information via attending sessions, roaming the expo floor, participating in a roundtable…the list goes on.
80.lv: What makes you proud at the end of the day when you close the event?
Ashley: To be honest, the only reason I’m in events is because of the feeling I get when I experience GDC come together. There are so many moving pieces that go into it – the lively expo floor, inspiring talks, general sentiment of folks enjoying themselves – that make it all worth it. I’m so proud of what our team accomplishes.
As for the memorable moments, one of my favorites was when Media Molecule devs performed a musical set solely through Dreams on the Main Stage. There was also the time Yoko Taro gave a talk on NieR: Automata in his helmet-mask thing – that was fun figuring out how to best mic him. And then, there was the first time I went to the ceremonies for the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards. That was when it really hit me how impressive and cool games are.
The Future of Offline Events
80.lv: How do you see the future of offline events with all the things happening? Do you see a need for change?
Ashley: We’re experiencing a special time in the evolution of events. The last few years have opened the door to exploring virtual formats and discovering different ways of bringing people together from afar.
As we transitioned to in-person again, we’ve experienced how difficult it is to seamlessly combine two experiences into one. The needs of a virtual audience can differ from those of a physical audience, and vice versa. I think we as organizers have a responsibility to design and deliver positive experiences in both formats to serve our wider audience, which may mean having more virtual events available going forward.