Introduction, LAN Fest, Game Demos, Future of Gaming panel

Gamers take over annual film and music festival in Austin.


Check out our video coverage of the SXSW Screenburn Arcade!

The 19th Annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival kicked off on Mar. 9 and wraps up Mar. 12 in Austin, Texas. While most of the event featured interactive workshops and panels of experts from within the web development and social media communities, I focused most of my efforts covering the SXSW Screenburn Arcade at the Palmer Event Center. This is where most of the PC and console gaming enthusiasts attending SXSW converged to watch pro gamers from the IGN Pro League battle in League of Legends, Starcraft II, and check out several game demos like Lollipop Chainsaw for the XBox 360 and Quantum Conundrum and FireFall for the PC.


Intel LAN Fest

I also had the opportunity to visit the Intel-sponsored, non-profit LANFest where event visitors could jump on one of their Alienware systems and play a variety of PC games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Team Fortress 2, MineCraft, Half Life 2 Death Match, WArsaw, Alien Swarm, Portal, World of Tanks, and Left 4 Dead 2 . LAN participants paid a $5 donation to play, which helped raise funds that will be sent to the city of Bastrop, Texas that lost more than 400 homes because of wildfires last September. They also raffled off a new ASUS Ultrabook to raise money for the United Way non-profit organization.


Game Demos

The first booth Palmer Event Center visitors are greeted with is Red 5 Studios’ Firefall PC game. I first caught a glimpse of  Firefall when I covered the HardOCP FX GamExperience in Dallas in January. Firefall is a free, multiplayer action shooter puts a lot of emphasis on character progression. It combines vast open-world, co-op gameplay that can be shared by hundreds of players. They had one of the largest booths at this expo to help entice more gamers to play it when it’s released sometime this year.


One of the most engaging "booths" at this year’s event was the zombified, psychedelic school bus promoting Grasshopper Manufacture’s Lollipop Chainsaw. The main character, Juliet Starling, was very animated with her bloody chainsaw in hand as she posed for photos with expo visitors. Lollipop Chainsaw focuses on Starling who fights zombies in San Romero High School. She carries with her the severed yet still living head of her boyfriend Nick, who she decapitated after he suffered a zombie bite. The game is scheduled to be released June 12 for the XBox 360 and PS3.


Alienware was the premier sponsor for this year’s Screenburn Arcade and they showcased several game demonstrations that included Space Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ), Rusty Hearts, Bounty Hounds Online, and Blacklight Retribution. The vendor brought their X51 and Aurora gaming desktop systems and M14x, M17x, and M18x notebooks for people to evaluate while they were playing the new game demos. They also hosted several mini deathmatch tournaments throughout each day for players to try their hand at Quantum Conundrum, which will be released toward the end of the first quarter or early second quarter of this year.


Future of Gaming Panel

To go along with the Screenburn Arcade events, SXSW Interactive badge holders were treated to several workshops and panel discussions pertaining to mobile game development, cloud-based gaming, and future game development on multiple platforms. I attended the discussion on the future of games that featured Morgan Webb from X-Play, Jamin Warren from KillScreen, Ross Miller from The Verge, Matt Buchanan from Buzzfeed, and N’Gai Croal from Hit Direction. Most of the discussion centered around movement-based interfaces, adaptable artificial intelligence and game environments, and using games as interactive educational tools. While there were several technical difficulties with the panel’s microphones and projector, the debate was quite lively and the audience asked very specific questions regarding mobile game development and the dissolution of proprietary gaming platforms.

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