Burn After Reading

ScreenBurn at SXSW Arcade

Burn After Reading

Common South by Southwest wisdom holds that the Music Festival is the keeper of free stuff: swag, samplers, day shows, parties, etc. Inter-active, meanwhile, has a largely badge-only policy. One of the few exceptions is the ScreenBurn at SXSW Arcade. Free and open to the public, the gaming arm of the festival offers a glimpse into how the credentialed live.

Perhaps the most interesting booth at the arcade will be courtesy of the Rock Band Network. Maybe you just want to show off your ability to nail both solos in "November Rain," but the RBN offers creation tools to the general public. That means even if you're in an unsigned band, you can download software that will allow you to turn your songs into playable nuggets of awesome. The Rock Band track-creation process is not for the faint of heart or scant of funds. The necessary subscriptions and software will end up costing you, and you'll need an Xbox and a copy of Rock Band 2 if you want things to go anywhere near smoothly. On top of that, the conversion process is said to take nonprofessionals between 20 and 40 hours per song. Check out the RBN booth and decide for yourself if it's worth it.

Weigh your educational options with tables from the game design degree programs at Austin Community College and Texas State Technical College. For the kids still in high school, GameCamp! reps will ensure they don't laze around with their feet dangling in the lake this summer. High school students learn the industry from professional game developers. No tan, but they might start on a path toward a lucrative career.

The civic-minded can get informed at the Video Game Voters Network booth. Honestly, if you're going to vote with your controller, Rick Perry might be your man. I know that sounds strange coming from the Chronicle, but that dude has done right by the gaming industry. But there are arguably more important criteria to be basing your voting record on.

Heatwave Interactive will be showcasing its upcoming release, Platinum Life, for Facebook. I imagine it will be like Mafia Wars, except you'll need to expand your entourage and add more karats to your bling until you're the Lil Wayne of social networking. And while these games always play like pyramid schemes to me, at least Heatwave has hip-hop karaoke at its booth.

Of course, the Austin arm of the International Game Developers Association will be repping the hood. However, the national IGDA Game Accessibility Group booth will have the more interactive table with controllers and modified games created to help gamers with disabilities of all kinds. This is an underserved market in the gaming world, and here's hoping this booth draws the attention of industry bigwigs.

Massive Black and Into the Pixel do their part to establish design in video games as a fine art, with the latter offering live digital art throughout the day.

In addition to all of this, there will be games to play from local studio Twisted Pixel Games, a myriad of iPhone apps developers showing their wares, some LEGOs if you want to play with something a bit more tangible, and a few beanbag chairs that are apparently "designed for an urban lifestyle" according to the manufacturer's website. Now anyone can sit like a gamer.

ScreenBurn at SXSW Arcade runs Friday-Sunday, March 12-14, and is located on the first floor of the Austin Convention Center. For more info, visit www.sxsw.com/interactive/screenburn/arcade.

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ScreenBurn at SXSW Arcade, Rock Band Network, Austin Community College, Texas State Technical College, GameCamp!, Video Game Voters Network, Heatwave Interactive, Platinum Life, Mafia Wars, International Game Developers Association, IGDA Game Accessibility Group

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