All Work, No Play

Industry types converge on the Austin Convention Center

If while at the Cedar Door this week you notice an abnormally large number of people communicating via some high tech doodad, that's because it's the official bar of the Austin Game Conference. And with all the speakers and roundtables, not to mention the miniconferences within the AGC, it's certainly enough to lead a gaming-industry man to drink.

Running concurrently with the AGC is the Casual Game Conference featuring all you'll need to know about downloadable games and what they mean for everything from your cell phone to your still-shiny Xbox 360 (see "Throwback Throwdown," June 16). Probably not the sexiest track in the AGC, but as long as there are kids in school with cell phones, there is money to be made on games like Bejeweled.

The other miniconferences – the Game Audio Conference and the Game Writers Conference – deliver everything their names imply. A few surprises pop up in the GWC as head game-writing letch Al Lowe (Leisure Suit Larry) speaks, and local improv queen Shana Merlin hosts an interactive session called Improv for Writers. The AGC also features tracks for people in the multiplayer, next-gen development, business/production, and service/support sectors of the gaming universe.

The keynote speakers will no doubt please, but my money is on Daishiro Okada, president and COO of Square-Enix, answering the age-old question, Where Is Asia Going?, and UT-Austin's Jim Brazell dropping knowledge on Video Games and the Age of Science Nonfiction.

In the heart of the Austin Convention Center will be the Technology Pavilion featuring booths for heavy hitters (LucasArts, IBM, Microsoft, Sony) and somewhat lighter hitters (GoPets, St. Edward's University, Texas Film Commission). In this sea of promotional materials sits the Dell Precision ArtZone for the graphically inclined, the Machinima Theater for those looking for an entertaining way to pass the time before Michael Dell's keynote speech, and the ever-popular coffee for those who stayed till last call at Cedar Door the night before.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the conference (were they to make it a spectator sport) is LivePitch, a way for previously published game developers to meet, one-on-one, with reps from Capcom, NCsoft, Konami, MTV, and others. If only we could watch as the developers worthy of a second publishing contract do victory laps around the crushed spirits of the sophomore slumpers, because the only thing better than watching someone fail is watching someone who's already succeeded fail. I'm sure they'll be keeping the official bar of the Austin Game Conference busy.

Austin Game Conference, Sept. 6-8

Casual Game Conference, Sept. 6-8

Game Audio Conference, Sept. 6-7

Game Writers Conference, Sept. 6-7

Technology Pavilion, Sept 7-8

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Austin Game Conference, Xbox, Dell, Microsoft, Shana Merlin, Machinima

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