The GDC has always been intense and exhausting (a point which was particularly driven home at the wonderfully laid-back Imagina, where there was time for good conversation), but this year it was more so than the previous years. I was already feeling the over-stimulated on Monday and Tuesday, whereas these are normally the calm days before the full onslaught of Wednesday to Friday, when the Classic Pass hordes break through the gates. There were definitely more attendees, and the general buzz was a lot less subdued than last year.
If I didn't schedule time for talking to people, it was highly unlikely I would be able to sit down and talk with them. I would see them walking by, and assumed I would see them again later when we would both have time to talk, but often this never happened. Luckily, I did schedule time and did get to talk to many friends. It is always strange to meet friends from Europe in the US, but it's nevertheless a cool thing.
Good lectures (and round tables and panels etc.) can inspire, entertain and give interesting information about how other people approach things, or practical knowledge you can apply immediately or in the long term. Even if they do not do this, at least you get a feeling of where you are relative to others. Many of the lectures I saw were entertaining. Some that should have been interesting weren't, for some reason. I can practically not think of any practical knowledge I picked up (although I did get inklings of things to follow up). And I was not really inspired.
Perhaps I was not relaxed enough to absorb things, because of the general intensity, and because this was the first GDC where I actually had a fair number of meetings. I missed some of the lectures which I later heard good things about.
My reasons for attending the GDC are: meeting old friends and making new ones, getting a feeling of being part of a larger community, and learning new things. I definitely met a lot of people and had fun. I even went to some of the parties, something I've never done in the past, although I can't say it was worth it. I got the community feeling - I even joined the IGDA. But I don't feel I've learned a lot of new things, at least not from the content of the conference.
I wonder what it will be like in the future, in a new location and with even more people. I will miss San Jose. People are already discussing what is going to take the place of the Fairmont lobby. If I can attend again next year, it will be interesting to see how things develop.