The magnetism of bustling crowds at a convention contains a charge strong enough to draw enthusiasts across the country; although smaller conventions are inherently less populated by big-name developers, they are easily accessible and offer benefits unobtainable from larger masses, namely: community. Small conventions are a perfect target for local development houses to recruit industry youth -- anyone serious about getting into the games industry should be on the lookout for nearby conferences similar to Carolina Games Summit (some well-known conferences are the Global Game Jam, PAX, and MLG). CGS and other small gaming events often dedicate themselves to recruitment (or education) and entertainment (like local tournaments).
The annual Carolina Games Summit has grown to around 1200 in the past six years; it's not huge, but it attracts enough industry talent to educate those who want to work within the games field. We briefly visited our friends from Fallen Earth (one of the best booths at the event) and heard two exchanges between recruiters and applicants; as is recommended at GDC, show up to any vendor-staffed gaming events with a resume in hand -- it could be that face-to-face contact that scores you a job in the industry.
Speakers commonly attend gaming conventions and conferences to discuss the intricacies of development, design, art, and other current topics. In another article, we shared advice from a panel of indie devs -- Jorge Rodriguez, the Digitanks developer, had an interesting comment about the advantages of learning from veterans: "I learned more in my time at GDC than I did in an entire year on my own." He's right - it's much easier to pinpoint interest-specific discussions, bring in a question you're dying to know the answer to, and learn from someone who is established in the industry. This is where CGS, ECGC, and GDC excel.
CGS did a fantastic job at giving competitive and casual gamers something to do -- there were tournaments for most major games on the market, a costume contest, a handful of booths with open consoles and computers, and a miniature free-play arcade. The come-in-and-play frame of mind promotes friendliness among con-goers, and talking directly to the PR people can put a face on the game you love (hey, they might even give out codes for DLC).
Perhaps more appealing to the general gaming populace are the nerdcore bands; PAX has Paul & Storm, Metroid Metal, JoCo, and more -- in the case of CGS, BitBrigade was scheduled to entertain the crowd with new compositions of old school music (a video sample is above). The day was overall a fun and unique experience, and serves as a host of opportunities for industry prospectives and competitive gamers alike. As stated above, anyone serious about games needs to prove dedication by traveling to every event possible.