ScreenBurn Burns All

Arcade awesomeness

This is where all the action is. Day one at SXSW Interactive was simply a teaser to the events that happened today. The panels were more mentally engaging, the speakers seemed more alert and prepared, but most of all, the ScreenBurn Arcade 2008 ignited.

I started the day early hitting panels and book readings. The only thing weighing on my mind was ScreenBurn, but I knew as soon as I walked in there I wouldn't go anywhere else. The panels were great; I mostly enjoyed the ones that were kept to 30 minutes or less, because any time beyond that was spent answering the crowd's questions or filling empty air with fluff and BS. I also tried to hit the panels and book readings that might have more of a unique cut than a typical "how to make your online business better" type theme. Core Conversation: Adult Conversations: Sex, Intimacy and Online Relationships was particularly interesting, on account of basic similarities and differences between in-person dating and online dating that were discussed. As was Book Reading: The back of a napkin, in which Dan Roam broke down the visual basics of icons and taking a visual approach to building process methods.

I felt the most content, however, with Book Reading: The making of Second Life by author Wagner James Au. My personal satisfaction was based mainly on his delivery and stage presence. Wagner didn't hide behind a podium – he had a distinct and clear voice, and the rhetoric of his book had a wandering yet informational flow, and made me want to read more when his time was up.

After I had my fill of panels, book readings and the like, I headed downstairs to the Screenburn and satisfied my guilty pleasures. The arcade setup was open and inviting, easy to roam, with plenty of giant hi-def screens stacked in rows. I was surprised to find not only video games, but a section of board and role-playing games bulked in the back of the room, like Star Wars, D&D and Magic the Gathering. Every video game system was booted with flat screens and badass hardware like Alienware and tricked-out Dell systems. There were games of all genres competing for attention, the top contenders were Blackbird 002 on HP systems, Voodoo Racing, Crysis on Alienware, Dead or Alive 4, Forza Motorsport 2 and a few others. But the one game, that was featured on almost every system, and had the biggest circles around the consoles, was (big surprise) Guitar Hero III. Dell was even hosting a Guitar Hero III contest, were the highest scorer on Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Pride and Joy" could win a Dell Riffmaster Peavey Guitar and Guitar Hero III on PC. The only real competitor that Guitar Hero III had was Forza, which featured a fluorescent-lit staged stacked with rows of consoles, with players racing against each other and a live announcer blasting the race stats over a p.a. system. There were crowds of hyperactive gamers, video cameras interviewing and really really badass games on badass systems with badass graphics, I even saw a little boy no older than ten kicking ass and taking scores with a plastic, five button guitar in his hand. Besides that thunder of Forza's virtual wheels grinding against the digital pavement, Guitar Hero III was king.

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