This week marks the 30th edition of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) here in San Francisco. But unless you’re an avid gamer, you may not be familiar with it. That’s because this conference doesn’t typically feature any major game announcements or flashy, over-the-top booth spaces. Instead, the focus is on the game developers themselves. This is where programmers can swap tips on optimizing code, artists can find out about the latest modeling software, and people eager to start a career in the industry can forge new connections.

That doesn’t mean any self-respecting pop-culture fanatic should just ignore it, especially this year, with the virtual-reality revolution ready to break through and game developers leading the charge.

Here are five reasons to pay attention to GDC this week.

1. Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift

The certifiable number one this year is virtual reality. VR hardware from Sony, HTC, Samsung, and Oculus is due out over the next couple of months, and despite pie-in-the-sky prognostications about how VR will transform every aspect of our lives, it’s entertainment — and gaming in particular — that will first feel its impact.

This year, GDC organizers have set up an entirely new event within the conference halls called “VRDC,” comprised of twin session tracks focused on entertainment and gaming. They will feature nearly 40 panels and talks covering everything from building 3D user interfaces to VR journalism. On top of that, tons of hardware makers and game developers will be demonstrating their latest VR offerings for press. Expect the brunt of mainstream coverage around GDC this year to focus on the future of virtual reality.

On top of that, tons of hardware makers and game developers will be demonstrating their latest VR offerings for press. Expect the brunt of mainstream coverage around GDC this year to focus on the future of virtual reality.

2. Unfiltered Insights

It’s no secret that the games industry is a secretive group. You’re more likely to convince the government to declassify Iraq War documents than learn about the problems behind developing the latest Call of Duty. But that heavy curtain of secrecy gets pulled back just a little bit during GDC. Developers are speaking to their peers here, and, freed from the talking points of a marketing campaign, speakers are often more introspective and forthright. If we’re lucky, we may even end up with a shocking sound bite or two.

3. Classic Game Postmortems

rez

I know, the phrase “classic game postmortem” sounds about as exciting as a VR experience about watching paint dry, but trust me, these postmortems are consistently one of the best parts of GDC. Every year, a handful of influential gamemakers take the stage to offer the straight dope on the making of a classic game. GDC 2016 features talks on Ms. Pac-Man, Diablo, and Rez. If you’re a fan of any of these titles — or frankly, even if you’ve never heard of them — watching these talks via the GDC Vault is well worth your time for the unique perspective they provide.

4. Game Developers Choice Awards

Since this game awards show is the last one to look back at last year’s games, it’s a helpful reminder of the fantastic games that came out last year  that you still need to get around to playing! Although the winners won’t be announced until Wednesday, you can peruse the list of nominees now and start updating your Amazon/Steam wishlists. There’s not a bum pick in the lot. We’ll have our predictions up tomorrow.

5. Independent Games Festival

fez

The Independent Games Festival (IGF) is the forward-thinking sibling to the more retrospective Game Developers Choice Awards. Here, the focus is on sussing out the Next Big (Indie) Thing — whether it’s a game that will go on to sell millions like Fez or Minecraft, or an indie developer that will push the industry in surprising new directions.

The IGF pavilion is one of the few places GDC attendees can get hands-on time with games, and as such, it’s a great opportunity for indie developers to gain word-of-mouth buzz. There’s also an awards show, which will award winners up to $30,000 to see their games to fruition.

Check out the finalists for this year’s festival here.

Stay tuned to Fandom for a full week of GDC coverage.


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