Just like the movie industry from a year ago, the last twelve months have not been very kind to the video game industry. In contrast to the movie industry, where the pandemic single-handedly nearly ruined it with the “stay at home” order, video game sales spiked and reached unprescented highs, but soon plummeted as the pandemic slowly went away. Sales could not be sustained, which is why gaming companies had to make cuts in order to survive. Games in production were cancelled, studios shut their doors, as thousands of workers suddenly found themselves without a job.

Unfortunately, massive job layoffs started last quarter, with well over 10,000 jobs lost, and an additional 8,000 jobs were lost in the first quarter of this year. The industry has never experienced this much devastation ever. Even the big companies were vulnerable, as Sony Interactive Entertainment laid off 1,000 people in their last two quarters and Epic Games, laid off almost as many in just one day last year. As of today, layoffs still continue to worry the entire industry.

Even the prestigious E3 Conference, the most highly anticipated video game industry event in the country had to halt its operations a few years ago due to the the pandemic. It’s actual last live event was in 2019, the year before the pandemic hit. After the pandemic was over, the industry’s biggest names had pulled themselves out, such as Microsoft and Sony, two of the three biggest gaming console companies out there.

Indie games showcased at the IGF Pavilion at GDC2024 at the Moscone Convention Center. Photo by Marcus Siu.


This year, the Game Developer’s Conference, known as GDC, helped fill the empty void in the world of gaming conferences, at least in California and the West Coast. However, since the pandemic, companies continued to pull out conferences over the last few years. It became obvious that there just wasn’t a whole lot of new product to promote on the Expo floor compared to the pre-pandemic years.

Notably absent at GDC 2024 were Amazon Web Services and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Unity and Google were present, but did not have any product demos on the Expo floor. At least Epic – Unreal and Meta were at the show with their latest product demos.

One can easily make an argument that 2-D gaming that utilizes Unity isn’t as impressive as the heavy-weight large-scale advanced projects that Unreal Engine has or even the games coming from Meta using their latest Meta Quest 3 VR headset which is geared for Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the Metaverse.

Regardless of the turnout on the floor, this year’s conference held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco still registered nearly 30,000 attendees from all walks of life from around the globe, which was about 2,000 more than a year before. The 730 nonstop sessions, workshops, and roundtable discussions to kept game developers busy for the entire week.

The Expo floor still was quite active mostly with Indie games, where you can play them as well as meet with the games creators and developers. In addition, hundreds of exhibitors were showing off there latest wares and tools, depending on your project needs. There were also various networking parties at separate off-site venues scattered around the city in a more relaxing atmostphere, as well.

Attendees came to meet, learn, and connect…and they did.


Alex Crane in front of the entrance at Moscone Convention Center for GDC2024. Photo by Marcus Siu

Alex Crane, a 2019 graduate from the University of Kansas with a B.S. in computer science, was unsure what to expect at his first ever GDC. However, he was certain about achieving his ultimate goal; to be a game producer, project lead for a game company, or find another indie studio in the Midwest. He expressed what his intentions were while attending the GDC conference.

“My goals here were definitely to attend a lot of talks and learn a lot. I attempted to start an indie studio in the past…so attending talks about people who have done the same…figure out where we went wrong, what we could have done better…it would have been good attending talks at bigger companies and learn a lot about game development.”, Crane explained.

While an undergraduate, Crane’s background included a game project called “No Lives Left”, (much like the style of the classic game “The Legend of Zelda”), a meta imagining of what would happen if your games kept on going without you. Though he had regrets on not having completed the project during the three years he worked on it, he still gained tremendous knowledge in game design and its development, as well as having experience as a project lead for over thirty developers, engineers, and artists while using Unreal Engine 4.

    At the same time, he became the President and Events chair for the “KU Game Developers Association” for the University of Kansas and has hosted many hackathons and jam events, such as “Game Jam”, which he is currently the Midwest Regional Organizer overseeing eight U.S. states for the “Global Game Jam”, an event that spans the entire world. In addition to having the opportunity to connect with professors who teach game design, as well as IGDA (International Game Developer’s Association) members, Crane was an organizer for “Flyaway Indies” and “Amber Waves of Games”, which is dedicated to connecting and showcasing video game developers who live in the Midwestern United States all through a discord server.

    Even with all his Midwest connections, Crane was somewhat disappointed not having the opportunity to meet or connect with some of the bigger name game companies at GDC 2024, especially on the Expo floor.

    “There’s a few of the bigger names and then not much else other than third party software that assists with the development of games as opposed to companies that develop games or game engines”, Crane continued. “You’ve got Epic and Unity here, a couple of other bigger names but I was expecting a bit more of that…Microsoft has their thing upstairs but it’s just for swag. They don’t really have recruiters here or anything or any of that. I didn’t know what to expect though since it’s my first time.”

    However, as far as networking and connecting with other game developers from around the country, Crane found GDC to be quite useful. “I was surprised to meet so many people from the Midwest. I didn’t know there were so many developers in Wisconsin and Michigan. I wasn’t actually aware some companies have some campuses there.”, Crane remarked.

    Indeed, out of all the advantages that the conference has to offer, connecting and networking is a huge plus at GDC. Despite all the gloom and doom around the Gaming industry now even more vulnerable than ever with the threat of A.I. in the horizon, it hopefully won’t stop the 30,000 attendees who like Crane, have drive and passion to pursue their dreams as game developers.

    The world certainly needs them.

    Meta Quest demo booth at GDC 2024. Photo by Marcus Siu.