The Game Designers Workshop is a group of experienced game designers who meet annually, for one weekend, to discuss game design issues away from the throngs and madness of big conferences such as the GDC. The date of the workshop is selected to be approximately half a year away from the GDC.
The format is similar to a GDC roundtable, except that the attendees are the creme de la creme of game designers, instead of the random motley crew who assemble for a typical roundtable at the GDC. We divide the weekend up into blocks so that each attendee can lead a session on the topic of his/her choice. The focus of the GDW is on the story-telling aspect of games, although people bring up plenty of other design-related topics as well. The focus is also on practical as opposed to "blue sky" discussions.
In other words, it's a time for designers to help each other solve problems they're currently facing. Past session topics have included:
We meet from around 9am until 6pm on both Saturday and Sunday, then usually dine and drink and keep talking game design into the wee hours. For many of us, it's our favorite professional event of the year, and we come away with our batteries recharged, and our passion renewed.
Noah Falstein (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bob Bates (email@example.com)
Steve Meretzky (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Gordon Walton (email@example.com)
September 2000, Gerstle Park Inn, San Rafael CA
October 2001, Lakeway Inn, Austin TX
September 2002, University Park Hotel, Cambridge MA
August 2003, Embassy Suites, San Rafael CA
October 2004, Edgewater Hotel, Seattle WA
October 2005, Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club, Redondo Beach CA
October 2006, Westin Casuarina Hotel, Las Vegas NV
October 2007, Hyatt Regency, Weston VA
October 2008, Edgewater Hotel, Seattle WA
September 2009, Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco CA
September 2010, Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor, Baltimore MD
September 2011, Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego CA
September 2012, Embassy Suites SFO, South San Francisco CA
September 2013, JW Marriott Union Square, San Francisco CA
September 2014, Le Meridien, San Francisco CA
September 2015, Hyatt Place, Austin TX
October 2016, Marina del Rey Marriott, Marina del Rey CA
October 2017, Edgewater Hotel, Seattle WA
September 2018, Sir Francis Drake Hotel, San Francisco CA
Occasionally Asked Questions (OAQs):
Q. Do you guys (Bob, Gordon, Noah, Steve) make money from running the GDW?
A: Nope, not a penny. The registration fees are set to just cover the meeting room costs, meals, snacks, beverages, and incidentals such as power trips. Strips. I meant power strips. That was just a typo.
Q: Why is the workshop in a different city every year?
A: One reason is that our attendees are scattered all over the country -- all over the world for that matter. By moving around, we increase the chance that the GDW will be in your city (or at least easier to get to) some of the time. (Yes, Paul, we'll have the GDW in the Northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula once every 138 years.) Also, we think it's just more interesting to try new places, instead of being in the same city and the same venue every year. We think that people like traveling to a city they've never been to, or at least don't get to very often. We know that a lot of people combine a trip to the GDW with sight-seeing, visiting friends and relatives, and so forth.
Q: How much time will I have to direct the discussion at the workshop?
A: It depends on how many people show up to a given workshop, as the length of the day is fixed, but it's generally about 35 minutes. We usually also have some shorter sessions, for people with topics that don't seem like they're going to need as much discussion.
Q: Do I have to prepare anything before coming to the workshop?
A: Nope! One of the goals of the workshop is to be casual and hassle-free. You might want to give some thought to your topic before arriving, but even that's optional -- many people don't think of a topic before-hand, and are merely inspired by a topic that comes up earlier in the weekend.
Q: I want to talk about a pretty super-secret project; how can I make sure the other people at the workshop won't blab about it?
A: We've always had a really strict rule: "What happens at the GDW stays at the GDW". Someone might say, "It's okay to talk about what I'm about to tell you." Otherwise, everything said at the GDW is considered to be under the strictest confidence -- and as far as we know, that confidence has never been broken.
Q: Can I bring a spouse or a friend to the GDW dinners?
A: Because we don't want the design discussions to end when the formal roundtable ends, we prefer to keep the dinners restricted to workshop attendees. The one exception is the Sunday dinner, with the workshop behind us, when significant others are permitted. And spouses/friends are certainly welcome on any night of the weekend to join in the after-dinner schmoozing, drinking, and board-gaming. Of course, very few of us have spouses whose idea of a fun evening is hanging around with large groups of game designers.
Q: The workshop is often in October. Doesn't that make it hard to follow post-season baseball games?
A: Yes, but don't worry -- Steve will provide frequent updates.
[Back to Home Page]