Our first post-pandemic GDC was one for the history books.

That’s a wrap on GDC! This past week, game developers, journalists, and fans returned to San Francisco in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to celebrate the biggest developments in the gaming industry, and to discover what kinds of innovations we can look forward to during the coming year. Here are three things we learned at GDC, and a few things we’re excited to experience for ourselves.

Back to Basics
The gaming industry boomed during the pandemic, with more people were stuck and home and looking for ways to connect remotely. Globally, we saw the gaming population soar to almost 3 billion users, with over $150 billion spent on gaming in 2020 alone ( a number that’s set to surpass $200 billion in 2023), and the industry has reached a level of cultural ubiquity we previously could only have dreamed of. But we know that the circumstances of that growth can’t be replicated, as many of us return (at least tentatively) to something like a normal routine.

GDC’s more intimate setting this year, with a relatively modest 12,000 in-person participants and 5,000 virtual spectators, allowed us to address this uncertainty in a more focused way. While some of the more spectacular press launches and conferences were missing this year, this gave us the opportunity to focus on in-depth discussions and panels that reminded us of why we started building games in the first place.

VR in the Spotlight
Unsurprisingly, virtual and augmented reality gaming was in the hot seat this year. We explored how gaming is already a key pillar in the metaverse, and how companies both inside and outside the industry are taking lessons from gaming in how to build UX for a fully virtual environment. We also saw VR tech becoming more diversified and accessible, with PSVR 2 being showcased this year. We also learned how VR is opening up new opportunities for mental health and therapeutic practitioners

Gaming for Good
The pandemic has offered the gaming industry a chance to look at its social impact. From the ways gaming can bring attention to humanitarian causes around the world to designing games that help fight climate change, the current generation of makers and innovators are focused on exploring narrative and immersive ways to bring these topics to life, and exploring ways the industry can support socially conscious developers and studios.

If you missed GDC this year, you can explore any of the events we mentioned, and literally hundreds more, with on-demand video from the GDC Vault.