An estimated 10,000 or more video game nerds  — including the Wordle guy — have converged upon Moscone Center for the return of the annual Game Developers Conference, though the event is projected to have only about half of its normal attendance.

When the scaled-down Dreamforce conference returned to the Moscone Center five months ago (seemingly with more paid staff than in-person attendees), it was not actually the first Moscone Center conference of the pandemic. That distinction went to the California Dental Associations Annual Conference, which happened there right after Labor Day 2021. But it is still healing to see the Moscone Center be a conference venue again, instead of the stunningly inadequate homeless shelter, or the mass vaccination site it was once the vaccines arrived.

Image: Official GDC Flickr account

And check out the scene above, as the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) returned Monday, and remains in town until Thursday. The long lines are presumably because they’re checking vaccination status pretty strictly.

Image: Official GDC Flickr account

Given the images we’re seeing on the official GDC Flickr account, this does not seem at all crowded for a major event at the Moscone Center. Yes, these images are from the event’s hired, paid photographers, so they may not accurately reflect the actual safety compliance (or diversity) of the event. And Monday and Tuesday are sort of warm-up “Summit” days, whereas the heavy hitter keynote speakers are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, like Wordle creator Josh Wardle.

So Wednesday and Thursday might be more accurate reflections, but to the untrained eye, this seems like a safe and repsonsible event.

“We are enforcing strict vaccine and mask mandates, which include booster shots for all those who are eligible to receive them,” GDC says of their COVID protocols. “The Moscone Center has enacted additional regulations, incorporating enhanced cleaning protocols, advanced air filtration, and an abundance of hand sanitizing stations available for all to use in their event space.

And of course it is a far smaller GDC than normal, even though games and gaming consoles boomed in popularity during the past two years. “Attendance numbers weren’t available Monday, but visitors booked over 12,000 hotel rooms,” according to the Chronicle. “Attendance is expected to be around 50% to 60% of pre-pandemic levels, which peaked at 29,000 people in 2019, said Katie Stern, vice president of media and entertainment markets at Informa, the organizer of the event. “ (That’s her above.)

And San Francisco could use the reputational upgrade that comes with people actually visiting here, rather than just watching an onslaught of partisan media coverage targeting the city during these years of shut-in COVID isolation. (The gaming industry has also suffered reputational damage during this period.) And even if clubs and venues are short-staffed, the city has to welcome those sweet tourist dollars.

And dollars are certainly required for this event. An Expo floor pass alone is $349, and an All Access pass costs $2,199.  

Related: Video: Fantastic Post-It Mural Welcomes Game Developers Conference [SFist]

Top Image: @Official_GDC via Twitter