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Tournaments are fine and dandy, but when you’re looking for some serious advice on careers, tools, and game creation, then it’s time to hit the conference floor.

Tourneys and LAN parties are certainly swell, but every once and awhile, a good old-fashioned conference is in order. For anyone who does game creation, or wants to know what it’s like to swim in those waters, there’s no better gathering than the Game Developers Conference.

With around 10,000 attendees annually, the conference has grown from humble beginnings. The event started 15 years ago, with 25 developers hanging out in a living room. At first, it was focused on computer games, but as the industry has grown, so has the scope of the GDC. Now, it includes a bevy of platforms, such as dedicated gaming consoles, handheld devices, cell phones, and PDAs.

The event draws together every kind of game developer, including programmers, artists, producers, designers, and audio professionals. From March 22nd to the 26th in San Jose, the conference will feature over 300 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions. Like almost every other conference on the planet, there’s also an expo. This one has booths filled with game development tools, platforms, and services. Last year’s exhibitors were a dizzying array of companies, from AMD and Intel to the DigiPen Institute of Technology and LucasArts. For anyone yearning to break into the development realm or jump to a new company, the conference features a career pavilion, and many educational exhibitors.

Folded into the conference happenings is the Independent Games Festival, where indie games are highlighted and prizes are awarded for the year’s best game. If you want to see the talent coming up through the ranks, the student showcase is a non-competitive exhibition of games developed by high school and college students.

The game development industry is heating up fast, and even if you don’t have a title like “character creator,” conferences like the GDC can give you a glimpse of a planet you might want to land on.

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