As Moledina guided my elbow through the doorway and into the hall, he offered an olive branch, in the form of an invitation to a later event, the Level 99 speaker's party. I agreed and went to get some sleep: I had a keynote to attend in the morning.
The next night, I did make it to the Gamespot event and spoke with the site's founder just weeks before he would leave for Yahoo. He told me a number of stories from the old days, as well as a droll anecdote about a dinner in France with John Romero, Will Wright and Sid Meier.
Any good story should make you feel like you missed out on a certain time and place. I realized that, when I walked through San Jose's empty streets late that night. The game industry used to have E3, and there's nothing left of it. And the game industry used to have the lobby of the Fairmont in San Jose, but GDC organizers refuse to return as long as the show is growing larger and larger. And so the game industry is now without institutions. Things change too quickly to keep up, but by stepping back, I can still recall the conferences I have known.
All Over the World
Dean Takahashi once commented that I seemed to be doing a good job of showing up at all the right places. And once, at an executive golf tournament (I don't golf), Insomniac's Ted Price said, "It's like you're embedded."
Which was true enough, because I never thought of game journalism in terms of reviews, and God help me, I never wanted to take part in the Lester Bangs debate. My model was Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent from some 65 years before.
Landing in Tunisia, he wrote a daily column about the war, the front and the soldiers themselves. Pyle's material was equally interesting to those on the home front and the combatants, which is why intelligent writing about games can appeal to both the game developers (in a free exchange of ideas) and the players (who get to see behind the curtain).
Conferences are a great place to look behind the curtain, though internationally speaking they have a tendency to take on regional tones. The Montreal International Game Summit gives a good window into the life of developers in that city. It also serves excellent croissant each morning.
And you get to see convention centers - normally modern, designed by craven architects and a mess of glass and chrome. But the most interesting venue I set foot in was Janskerk during the Nederlandse Gamedagen. The Dutch Game Days held their developer's conference inside of John's Church, built in 1040. Discussing the future of games in a 1,000-year-old sanctuary is quite striking.
When I covered the inaugural GDC in Lyon, France, I found that the concurrent Game Connection was the place where international buyers come to sign games. It is an event no one knows about, but is important to the development cycle because it lets independents meet with major publishers. And in several years, that Game Connection week in Lyon will be like the Cannes Festival for films. Or better.
In San Francisco, there is a bar called the Fluid Ultra Lounge. Because it happens to be near the convention center, someone always books the after-party there, despite the fact that it's a venue trying too hard to be hip (the floor, for example, changes colors throughout the night).