February 20, 2024

3 min

Video Games

Juan Jimenez

Marketing Manager

What is a video game convention?

If you love the video game industry as much as we do, you're probably aware that GDC 2023 took place last week in San Francisco, USA. Many of us are still blowing our minds at the State of Unreal Showcase 2023 — we recommend you watch it if you haven't already — or celebrating the Game Developers Choice Awards received by John Romero and Mabel Addis.

Still, for newcomers to the industry, navigating the complicated and intense annual calendar of events and conventions can be an odyssey. From venues open only to developers and formal industry members to massive public celebrations of what it means to be a gamer, there's an event for everyone.

Considering that some of these dates are not only great for catching up on the state of the industry but for networking and forging alliances that can lead to a new job or the start of an exciting career, we decided to make this our subject of the week.

A gathering of minds

A video game convention is an event where anyone interested in this form of entertainment meets with other fans and creators who share the same passion. These frequently take place in hotels, convention centres, or university campuses that can accommodate large crowds. Some even have specifically designed headquarters for their organisation and hosting.

As video games are a hobby often shared with other forms of entertainment - board games, collectable card games, and miniature strategy games, among others - it is not uncommon to see some events including one or more of these hobbies. It is common to find events devoted entirely to one of these activities and organise competitions and tournaments, with prizes depending on the event's attendance, size, and sponsorship.

However, some conferences focus only on game development and creation, with a more professional character and attendance reduced or limited to employees, leaders, and industry notables. These events tend to focus more on conversations around the latest paradigms and trends in the business, the newest technological advances and tools to facilitate game development, and sharing experiences or "war stories" that serve as lessons for junior and mid-career creators.

While these events tend to have mass attendance and similar audiences, which one to attend will naturally depend on your interests. We compiled a short list of three conventions and conferences under two main criteria: their usefulness from a work perspective and the level of entertainment you will find there.

Playing is not working, but the reverse can be true

Game Developers Conference (GDC)

Inaugurated in: April 1988

Average attendance: 27,000 (2019)

GDC is the industry's largest professional event and one of the most formative for game developers of all levels. First organised in 1998 by American game designer Chris Crawford - creator of the Atari strategy classics Eastern Front 1941 (1981) and Balance of Power (1985) - GDC has been held since 2005 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California.

GDC typically features tutorials, panels and interviews with industry leaders throughout its five-day run. Mini-events like the Independent Games Festival and the Game Design Challenge allow newer or less-recognised developers to flex their muscles and showcase their ideas to their peers. And the Game Developer Choice Awards - the only open, peer-nominated, International Game Developer Association (IGDA) member-nominated award in the industry - are seen as a badge of honour.

And that's, of course, not counting the awards honouring mythical figures in the industry. If you're looking for a fantastic place to network or learn insider-level facts about your job, this conference is a must-attend destination.

Develop: Brighton

Opened in: 2006

Average attendance: ≈3,500 (2022)

Although the difference in attendees compared to mega-conferences such as GDC is notable, Develop: Brighton has nothing to shy about when it comes to its content and prestige. The three-day event brings together the UK and continental European games development community annually at various locations in Brighton, England.

Similarly, Develop: Brighton's panels, interviews, and keynotes bring the best of the experience and knowledge behind game development to the fore. Develop: Brighton also has an in-house award, the Develop: Star Awards. Nominations for these awards usually begin as soon as the current year's conference is over, and end two to three months before the awards take place.


Opening: 2019

Average attendance: 370,000 (2022)

With good reason, Gamescom is currently the largest video game convention in the world. Founded in 2009, it has been hosted since then at the massive Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. Gamescom usually consists of two parallel events: the eponymous one, primarily focused on the entertainment and marketing sides of the industry, and Devcom, a portion of the event dedicated exclusively to developers and industry professionals.

As Europe's largest convention, Gamescom has served as the stage for some of the industry's most treasured announcements. In its inaugural year, Sony announced the PlayStation 3 Slim. In 2011, the first Dota 2 International - the most prestigious championship of Valve Software's popular MOBA - was held inside Koelnmesse, with the largest prize money of any video game tournament in the world at the time.

In 2017, the then Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was the first incumbent German leader to open Gamescom. In 2018, Nvidia unveiled its successful and innovative RTX 20 GPU series to the world at Gamescom. And, since 2019, Geoff Keighley has hosted Opening Night Live in a format that's quite similar to his renowned Game Awards.

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