Bank loan from Nigeria? Spam. Diamond inheritance from the Ivory Coast? Spam. Game summit invitation from Ghana? Spa ... huh, Ghana? Seriously, I was invited to speak at a game industry summit in Ghana last year.
There's nearly a game event going on somewhere in the world every day of the year. From the bursting-at-the-seams, 180,000-plus otaku fest that is the Tokyo Game Show every September, to the 20 nerdcore indie developers that stuff themselves in an Oakland barn to code experimental games over an Indie Game Jam weekend, there's just no shortage of expos, festivals and conferences that cater to all things game.
As a game industry professional, I pull about one major and one minor event per month, give or take an event. And that's when I'm trying to limit my travel! Quite literally, I could pack up my bags on New Year's Day and jump from one country/event to the next and not make it home for the following holidays.
That may sound crazy, but most folks are simply not aware of the range and diversity of events that take place in the game industry. For every consumer-facing Leipzig Games Convention, there are a hundred academic conferences where scholars present on the hegemony of play or the latest in AI research. For every all-encompassing Game Developers Conference, there are niche boutique conferences covering a single topic like leadership. For every QuakeCon gamer tournament, there are a dozen government-sponsored business development events.
With their popularity and number steadily growing, let a frequent flyer offer a guided tour of some standard event formats:
Expo: An expo is a large-scale event where primarily game publishers are showing off their upcoming game roster. While the classic E3 was "closed" to the public, the current approach is to restrict only the first day to trade and then open the floodgates to gamers for the remaining days. Some expos are approaching the 200,000-attendee mark over the span of a few days. Current examples of expos are: E for All and Penny-Arcade Expo in the U.S., TGS in Japan, Leipzig in Germany, ChinaJoy, G* in Korea, Game Convention Singapore, and Go3 in Australia.
Conference: Game conferences usually focus on lecture and panel sessions presented by industry professionals to share knowledge and expertise. Some conferences are quite large (e.g., GDC attracts upward of 15,000 attendees) and cover every possible aspect of the game industry, while other conferences will take a more niche approach and either focus on a specific geographic region, or a specific discipline. Some examples would be: Montreal International Game Summit, IGDA Leadership Forum, Nordic Game, CEDEC in Japan, Develop in Brighton and Game Connect: Asia Pacific.
Academic: Similar to the conference format, but with a more formal and rigorous process for reviewing content, academic conferences are likely the most plentiful format. Often focusing on very niche aspects of game research, there are countless small, academic conferences taking place throughout the year. SIGGRAPH and DiGRA are two of the exceptions that are larger in scale and are more cross disciplinary in nature. Other examples would be: FuturePlay, the European Conference on Games-Based Learning, University of Florida Game Studies Conference, State of Play and Ludium.
Tournament: Pretty standard game tournament style event or "con" events that primarily attract competitive gamers and the consumer-oriented brands trying to market to the gamer crowd. Main examples here are events like QuakeCon and BlizzCon, along with all the pro league-style events.
Biz-Dev: A more narrowly focused style of event for business development (kinda like professional speed dating) between game publishers and developers, these are often referred to as "game connections." The Lyon Game Connection was the first the take this approach, which has quickly spread.