GDC 2023 organisers respond to drink spiking allegations

Organisers of GDC 2023 have released a statement calling alleged drink-spiking and harassment at both on and off-site events 'unacceptable.'
GDC crowd

GDC has ended for another year, but with it has come a number of allegations of assault and drink spiking occurring at off-site events, as well as claims of harassment on the show floor. Organisers of the conference have responded to these reports, calling the behaviour ‘outrageous and unacceptable’ in a statement provided to Kotaku.

In the statement, organisers say they are ‘very upset to hear that some people, especially women, reported concerning experiences during the GDC week…including assault and drink spiking.’ 

‘Everyone has a right to feel safe,’ the statement continues. GDC says they ‘severely condemn’ the behaviours and ‘support the victims,’ reiterating that everyone’s safety at the event is taken ‘very seriously’ through the enforcement of a strict code of conduct, a secure environment-onsite, and various other measures to assist anyone ‘experiencing unacceptable behaviour to feel safe for the duration of the conference.’ 

GDC (Game Developers Conference) is an annual industry event held in San Francisco, drawing in developers and media from across the globe for talks, business meetings, and events. Unofficial networking events are generally also held in the city to connect international developers, however, it appears that it was at one such event that drink-spiking was alleged to have occurred. 

Guy Blomberg, vice president of games-focused PR agency Stride, International Game Developers Association board member, E3 Business Development Director at Reedpop, and Studio Director at RiffRaff Games, posted to Twitter to address the situation. Blomberg claimed that a number of GDC attendees had informed him of alleged drink spiking at the unofficial event held at a karaoke bar in San Francisco, Pandora. He said that those impacted by the incident were looked after by friends and were safe in the aftermath.

In an update retweeted by Blomberg, Director of developer Quantum Astrophysics Guild Ty Taylor said he had been contacted by a number of people who also claimed to have experienced instances of drink spiking at a handful of other GDC week events. The incidents are being investigated, but to date, no further information has been provided about a perpetrator. 

Attendees have been calling for more measures to be put in place to keep them safe, including more stringent upkeep of attendee lists for both official and unofficial events and more security presence.

Other veteran developers have also highlighted incidents of harassment and misogyny during the event, including Leena van Deventer, Creative Producer and Writer at Reuben Games (Dead Static Drive). In a tweet, she said that while ‘so much is improving for women in the games industry’, women at GDC were ‘belittled and undermined in their roles…[and] hit on relentlessly,’ on top of other allegations of drink spiking and assault.

Read: Maybelline New York launches campaign spotlighting gender discrimination in gaming

This isn’t the first instance of a GDC event being on the receiving end of abuse allegations, with the 2022 Women In Games International event (sponsored by Activision Blizzard) said to have been a ‘men’s preying ground’ with a number of ‘predatory’ attendees, according to others who attended the event.

Given the games industry has a fraught relationship with its treatment of marginalised communities, all eyes will be on GDC and other industry events going forward to see whether changes are put in place to keep attendees safe, or whether the condemnation of these claims are purely lip service.

Emily Spindler-Carruthers is a journalist interested in writing about diversity and accessibility in gaming, and the ways in which video games can impact communities. You can find her @Sagef0xx on Twitter.