GDC love story culminates in conference's first wedding

Among the many panels, talks and debates at this week's Game Developer Conference is one unusual gathering; a wedding.

Game developers Heidi McDonald and Alex McPhearson are tying the knot at the conference this week, during an invitation-only event in the Conference Associates Meeting Room. It's an appropriate setting for a couple who met during the annual gaming event two years ago, while working as GDC volunteers.

Heidi tells the story...

"I was a student intern at Schell Games in 2012. I saw that everybody from the office was going to GDC and I thought I should go too. So I joined the conference associate program. I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet people and network. Never in my life did I think I would be meeting my husband there.

"We were both conference associates. The day we met I was sitting at a table looking at my laptop and I was wearing this black bow which has white skulls on it. He came up to me and he said 'I really like your bow' and we got talking. The next day I didn't wear the bow and he came up to me and he said, 'hey, where is your death bow?'. That was the coolest thing to say. He still carries it in his pocket.

"We spent this amazing last day at GDC, hanging out and eating together and doing expo things. It was a really perfect day. After GDC we realised that was our first date."

The couple kept in touch via Skype, and were soon visiting one another. Last summer, Alex moved in with Heidi. They decided to get married during GDC, because it's the one place where all their friends in gaming will be together at the same time.

Heidi sought out conference associate organizer Ian MacKenzie to see if they could hold the ceremony at the actual show. "I never thought he would say yes," she recalls.

"If anything I am surprised it took this long to have a GDC wedding," said MacKenzie. "I know many couples who met at GDC and the thought of getting married at GDC has come up many times." He said the wedding will "definitely fit in with the GDC atmosphere."

"We both have built our lives around games and gaming," Heidi added. "It's a wedding with serious stuff but we want to have fun with it too. It's a great honor to be surrounded by our game industry friends."

Heidi still works for Schell Games, based in Pennsylvania, which has produced games like Lionel Battle Train and Tunnel Tail. She is also a regular speaker on the issue of romance in games. "I played Dragon Age 2 three times just to make sure my romance worked out," she said. Alex is an animator who launched indie studio Catalina Games.

"I can't help but think about how lucky we truly are," said Alex. "A friend convinced Heidi to apply for a conference associate position at GDC 2012. If she had decided not to go or we weren't both selected as two of 400 CAs from over 1,400 applications, we probably wouldn't have met. While some may be convinced that video games have a negative influence on society, I can honestly say if it weren't for the gaming industry and community, we wouldn't have the love and life we share today."

The cake and the wedding party will be gaming themed and some of the ceremony has been gameified. Heidi's mother, a Unitarian minister, is presiding over the event. Ubisoft, PopCap and Schell Games have provided treats and gifts for the event.

Guests have been told they do not need to dress up for the wedding. "We don't want to force people to bring special stuff, just for us," she said, adding that she is happy for everyone to wear their usual GDC clothes. The conference associates this year are dressed in "traffic cone orange" tees. "It's kind of an unusual color for a wedding," she laughed.

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