The Issue of Blowhards Doing GDC Talks


By Harold Goldberg

While I think it’s a real honor to go to and cover the Game Developers Conference, I found one bothersome character trait coming through in personalities who led almost all of the education and narrative-oriented talks I was privileged enough to attend. It’s too much ego.

One of the tenets of the New York Videogame Critics Circle is a principle that jazz great and legendary producer Quincy Jones relayed to the superstars singing at the “We Are The World” charity recording sessions back in the 1980s. “Leave your ego at the door,” he urged. Break that rule a few times and you’re out of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.

I don’t know if it’s a social media “all about me” thing or an “I still need to climb the ladder to the very top” thing or an “I’m up here on the stage and you’re not” thing. But the sessions I attended were almost always more than half about “look how important I am because of what I’ve done” in addition to “this is how you can get things done if you follow some of the things I’ve done after trial and error.”

It was especially annoying to hear this kind of arrogance, sometimes in the form of humble brags, in the education and narrative sessions. I’d imagine it’d occur mostly at the sessions with games with big budgets. But that wasn’t true. I thought the education and narrative tracks would be, well, educational. Many weren’t because of a preponderance of blowhards. I felt I had to listen extraordinarily hard to glean of few moments of salient facts from each session. All this prevented the talks from being any more than ‘good.’ I found that, as I filled out the rating forms for the sessions, only once did I check the ‘excellent’ box.

Maybe I’m too touchy about arrogance. If you’re to get ahead in any business or art form, you have to endure a lot of doors slamming shut in your face and come-uppances when all you want to do is create your business or art form. So the result is often a cloak of overconfidence to shield the soul and to show the world how important you are because you’ve gotten ahead.

I understand arrogance even though I don’t like it. Yet the result was this: the time spent on flatly hyping or humble bragging your individual brand or your college or that amazing game reduces the time when you can actually say something helpful to the process of creation or education, something that can be put into action.

That loss is a sad thing.

Journalist/author Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards. 




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