Game Developers Conference brings thousands to downtown SF, slow to recover from pandemic

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
24K visitors expected in SF for Game Developers Conference 2023
The Game Developers Conference 2023 this week has brought thousands to SF's Financial District, which has struggled to recover from the pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's been heavily publicized that San Francisco's Financial District has been slow to recover from the pandemic. Monday though, you wouldn't have known that. Thousands of tourists could be seen outside San Francisco's Moscone Center, and in nearby areas for the Game Developers Conference 2023.

A long line could be seen for as far as you can see outside the GDC 2023 in San Francisco.

That several-block line went down the street Sunday and Monday.

"It feels big. When I was standing in line trying to get my badge I was like, 'it's a lot of people here,'" said CJ Peters who is in town from Austin, Texas and involved with his gaming company called Konsole Kingz.

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"Today I stood in line like 90 minutes to get my badge in the morning and I missed my talks so it seemed a little more crowded and people are coming back," said Thi Detert of Piedmont.

Yes, crowds of people in the City by the Bay's Moscone Center Monday are no figment of the imagination. Last year this conference saw 17,000 participants according to the San Francisco Travel Association.

This year more than 24,000 people are expected.

"A lot of people asked me, 'You coming do GDC? Let's meet!' And I'm like, um yeah I'm coming!" said Peters.

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But while that is great news for a city that has been slow to recover from the pandemic, many say we're not yet where we need to be.

"We're not at pre-pandemic, especially for regular business, but I do feel like convention business is getting stronger and stronger and stronger as we go," said Don Harbison of B Restaurant and Bar.

"It's office workers, it's tourists, and it's this conference activity and without all three you can't really have a full downtown San Francisco recovery," said Jeff Bellisario of the Bay Area Council.

We talked with several people at the Game Developers Conference who told us they had never been to San Francisco but they didn't think twice about it.

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"I think San Francisco is such a beautiful city and you know I'm from Canada so this is my first time in the US and I feel so safe here and welcomed," said Franchesca Silva who lives in Canada and works on Disney and Netflix projects for Bardel Entertainment.

Those are some of the many positive words heard about San Francisco on Monday. All coming from out-of-towners who are eating out, staying in hotels, and enjoying the city, gamer style.

"I worked on the original Halo games. I love Halo and I'm still a Halo geek so if I have any time to actually play games and not help make them it's usually Halo," said Kate Edwards of Seattle, Washington.

"There's just that comradery and that connections you get where it's just not the same over a screen right," said Detert.

The Game Developers Conference 2023 goes through Friday at the Moscone Center.

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