It’s easy to pick on the madness that the annual SXSW Interactive/Music/Film conference creates — for visitors and locals alike. The crush of conferences, panels and parties is overwhelming, while making employees of downtown businesses dread their daily commute.
While the conference has become so massive, it really does offer something for anyone. The Interactive portion, usually associated as ground zero for hot apps (Twitter, Foursquare), has spun off a selection of topics that anyone from age four to 94 can get into — games.
The Gaming Expo, sponsored by Nintendo, offers weary attendees the opportunity to escape downtown for some gaming fun. Also, this is one of the few official portions of SXSW that doesn’t require a badge. Anyone who wants to get a taste of the conference is invited into the Palmer Events Center March 8 - March 10 for a leisurely look at what’s hot in the gaming industry.
Think of this expo as a conference mashed up with San Diego Comic Con and a real-world LinkedIn Group. For people looking to break into the gaming industry, there are panels with top game designers and publishers, as well as social situations for networking. Cosplay is in abundance, as are showcases for comics, toys and traditional board and card games. It’s for hardcore and casual gamers, no matter if you’re into Assassin’s Creed, World of Warcraft or Yar’s Revenge.
Just like SXSW Interactive, there are insightful key panels. Go into the back story behind the rebooted Tomb Raider game in the Tomb Raider - Rebirth of an Icon session. Austin-based Rooster Teeth and Machinima team up to present Blood, Sweat, and Online Videos: How to Achieve the Digital Dream”. Geek and Sundry’s look into board games, Inside Table Top, will discuss their success, and reveal plans for Season 2. Comic fans won’t want to miss Marvel: House of Ideas, to hear how they’re bending print and digital to make reading comics a fresh and interactive experience.
The crush of SXSW can be overwhelming for even the most experienced conference-goer. The SXSW Gaming Expo is manageable, even laid back compared to its bigger sibling up the road. The core themes of this expo — gaming and fun — can even run counter to the sometimes saturated feel of start-ups and apps blitzing you from every direction.
Games are no doubt big business, but escaping into them for a few moments is the break from reality any convention-goer will appreciate.