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Great news! We are presenting The Choice VR at GDC in San Francisco this March!

We have some big news. Did I say big? Well, it’s HUGE! 😀

Spoiler alert: you saw the title. We are invited to talk about The Choice VR at GDC this year. We will be talking about our process, technology, and how creative decisions are connected to technological challenges.

Some of you might not know what GDC is, and to be honest: me myself didn’t know it really until last year. Last year I was there for the first time, and OMG! Really! Absolutely one of the best conferences EVER. And I used to run 3D Film Festival, so it was part of my job to go to Beijing here, Cannes there… (yes, I liked that job a lot 😎). And GDC is in the top. Why?

Let’s tell the whole story.

Last year, thanks to Dames Making Games (DMG, Toronto arts organization that creates space for genderqueer, nonbinary, femmes, Two Spirit people, and trans and cis women to create games freely) and the scholarship they gave me, I went to the event I didn’t know much about, other that it’s huge and it’s for game developers, and everybody wants to be there. I saw the VR track at the conference’s website, and it looked amazing, both very technical, and also lot’s of creative aspects discussed. Then I looked at the price… And kind of fainted 🤣 It was over $2000 (yes, three zeroes) and VR was $400 on top of that, if I remember correctly. Now, count it in Canadian… Yep, goes up 😫 But DMG was offering scholarships, and even if I am not a game developer, but VR artist, I applied, as the VR track looked really impressive. And few weeks later I received an email: I’ve got the scholarship, yaaaaay!

Now, what is this event, you are asking? I was asking myself the same question 😎 You can only see this much on paper/website, and of course I checked everything. It looked great, actually it started looking intimidating a little. Almost 30000 attendees. Yep, again I didn’t put too many zeroes, it’s thirty thousands people there. About 750 lectures, panels, tutorials. And if you think you have nothing to do for a split second - go to Expo floor, to check 550 companies there, their games and other tools.

Yes, this is GDC: Games Developers Conference, San Francisco. San Francisco - be sure to wear those flowers in my hair

I started preparing for this great experience, and again DMG was very helpful with their “GDC convoy” - they made trello board (did I mention that I LOVE trello?) with all people from Toronto going, so if we are lost or just want to grab lunch with fellow-Torontonian while there, we have each others contact info. Made me feel better instantly. Yes, I travel, sometimes with people, sometimes alone. Did I tell you about this time when I was alone in Yogyakarta in Indonesia, to meet some great people who work with Orang-Utan conservation - for my next project - and I was so lost whenever I had to cross the street? Crazy traffic that absolutely never stops, yet people there are able to cross without any issue. And I was standing there, like a pole (or a Pole? 🙃), not able to move… And then: every single time after few seconds someone would grab my arm, give me the biggest smile ever, no words needed, and just walked me through this traffic. Often it was some older person. I was laughing that in my country it would be the opposite - I would be helping some grandma lost on the fast traffic to make it safely to the other side 👵🏼

Anyway, back to SF: trello board, our contacts, information about the city, and the conference, and a glimpse of what was there to come: list of surrounding events, growing list… List of Canadians speaking, list of great talks not to miss, list of accompanying events to make sure to sign up for, list of hostels to stay, list of people looking for roommates, lists, lists, lists, so many things!

Ok, I will speed up and let’s move to the moment when I arrived to San Francisco.

Having some experience with conferences and festivals I expected usual mess, chaos and decided to go much earlier to register, pick up my badge and orient myself. When I found the place, some people were there, but no lineups at all. No lineups? I am for sure in some wrong building, 30K people and no lineups? Someone approached me and asked if I need help. Yes, I am looking where can I pick my badge, can you show me which building is it? Oh, it’s here - this laptop. Laptop? Few rows of laptops were there, and literally all I needed to do was to go to one of them, type my name, and somebody was already waving at me from the “badge office”, asking: Joanne? Joanne? Where is Joanne? They would look for me, not the other way around! Wow! And my freshly printed badge (or whatever is the process of making high-tech badge with inside chips) was already waiting for me. 3 minutes, the whole process. This was the beginning of GDC, and this is GDC. Bazillions of people, yet top notch organization. Bazillion lectures, yet you know everything, even if you are there for the first time.

And they have an app

Many festivals and conferences try to make apps to help people orient what’s where and when, and usually those apps… Those apps just give you another headache. But GDC app… Let me just tell you: I still have it in my phone. Cuz I LOVE it! Remember those 750 lectures and panels? The app lets you scroll through them, mark the ones that are interesting for you, and then you see them in your personal calendar, within the app. So you can see for example that there is Amazing Talk #1 in room A001 at 12:15, and then Amazing Talk #2 in room X002 at 13:00, and room X002 is 15 minutes walk from room A001. So to make to that talk, you have to hurryyyyyy! Or, if the Q&A after Talk #1 is super interesting and you really want to talk to the presenter - well, you will miss the beginning of Talk #2. You will always miss something, obviously, but with this app it’s much easier to navigate through everything, plan, adjust your plans, truly helpful, and extremely well done.

And how is GDC itself, the talks and people? The talks I found both very professional, but also - approachable. After every single presentation I was able to stay for a few minutes after and talk to presenters, ask them questions that they would answer (instead of ignoring, like it happens elsewhere), and they would often patiently wait for everybody waiting in this line and answer all the questions. Guess what, we are all humans, even if some of us are some shining stars in game dev/VR dev 👍🏽🤝🙌🏿 And this is the definition of GDC for me. Being able to listen to truly great talks, being able to ask all the questions and hear lengthy answers, and then - go to Expo floor and play games, talk to more people, and have fun together.

Do you remember when I said it’s the Game Developers conference, and that I am not one of “them”? Here comes the greatest thing that happened to me at GDC. Yes, I did not know many titles that were there, I am definitely not playing a lot (or rather: I play much too rarely), and I used to describe myself as “not a huge fan of gaming”. So what I was doing there? After my amazing VR track was finished (it’s 2-days track) - what’s next? And I sunk in the games world… It was huge eye-opener how little I knew about this world, and how much does it have to offer. For me, specifically. And for The Choice VR.

I attended panels and lectures, choosing now less technical subjects, and learning about psychology, emotions, catching and steering player’s attention. Narration, language, creating compelling stories. And it blew my mind, how much there is to learn, how much there is to listen, and how much there is - to adapt to VR films language. And this - this is what The Choice is about, this is how we create it, this is how we slowly, step by step, design your experience, so it will be completely different from traditional movie, and it will take all those tools from the world that has been developing its language for far longer time. This is when I realized what’s missing in my narration, what’s missing in the story and how we put you - the viewer - in it.

And yes, those lessons, those conclusions, and challenges we met when decided to implement them - you will hear, as we will be presenting it. At GDC. This year. I still cannot believe that this is happening! So awesome!

If you are attending GDC this year, please be sure to let us know, and let's meet!

Here is the link to our talk (Tom is going with me, of course!)

And if you are not attending but will be in the Bay area - definitely let’s meet, let’s talk. We will have our newest demo with us (we are working now to have updated version with materials from the interviews we shot in December), and we are always waiting to meet you in person. No matter if you are reading it because you are VR-geek, feminist supporting our project’s idea, or just interested in documentaries in general, or maybe an old friend who is keeping fingers crossed 😉

Let’s meet, let’s talk!

- Joanne-Aśka


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