It would be fair to say that I've been to a lot of conferences. My first game industry related conference was CGDC 1998 (back before GDC took the "Computer" off the front of their name). So, I guess that makes it 9 years now I've been attending (and sometimes even speaking at) industry conferences, on two continents. I reckon I'm entitled to an opinion or three.
I have a big beef, but it is, in most cases, not with the conferences, themselves. No, my beef is with the myriad parties that inevitably pop up at these events. Don't get me wrong -- I'm grateful for the parties. I'm an extrovert, and I love a good party, honestly. I've had some fun times.
Now, I'm going to make a radical statement, which would seem to defy the expectations of every party organizer who has ever organized a single party attached to any of these conferences: Most people come to these parties to talk. Yeah, I know, geeks aren't supposed to be social, but it's true. You look around at any of these parties, and people are talking. Or, at least, they're trying to.
You see, the trouble is that it feels like most of these parties have been organized for 21-year-old club kids from Amsterdam, only with less drugs.
Now, dear party organizers, you should understand: I love dancing. I was dancing at industrial clubs when DJ WhoeverTheHellYouHired was learning his ABCs. I was at illegal raves under bridges, back before the US club scene discovered techno. I have even been known to dance at some of these conference parties -- but I must tell you, it's because it was too goddamn loud to talk to anyone, and I was honestly getting rather bored.
I have seen parties where every single person at the party was trying to shout over the music, and inexplicably, someone turned up the volume. Why? This makes no sense! I have seen friends and colleagues lose their voices from these events. I have heard people complain of their ears ringing after leaving a conference party. Ears ringing! That's hearing damage, people. I'm sorry, but your party is not worth anyone permanently damaging their hearing.
So, I'm making a plea: Turn the music the hell down. Stop making us miserable. Pay attention to your party-goers, and what their needs are. If we want to talk, then by all means, let us talk.