The Austin Chronicle

Players' Guide

By James Renovitch, June 25, 2010, Screens

• Local casual game developer Challenge Games – creator of online games and Facebook titles such as Gridiron Live and the awkwardly named Ponzi Inc. – was recently purchased by Zynga. That name might not be familiar, but Zynga's games (Mafia Wars, FarmVille) likely are. The maker of these widely popular and wildly insidious Facebook games will make Challenge Games its satellite office in Austin and call it, obviously enough, Zynga Austin. We're told that there will be minimal restructuring, but the recent tension between Zynga and Facebook has us a bit worried. For now, we're taking it as good news.

• We mentioned on our blog that Fantastic Fest was including video-game fantasticness this year. Now it's been released that the four-day Fantastic Arcade will include a film competition, art installations, music performances, and screenings, all video-game-themed, of course. Lightsaber dance party? Not sure what that is, but we'll be there. The HighBall is said to be the headquarters for all the pixel jamming, which runs Sept. 23-26. You can buy tickets starting July 1. One-day passes can be had for $15. See for more.

• It might sound like a standard Austin party, what with the outdoor cult movies and live bands, but Hargrave Arcade ( features two unique attractions. First off, the $10 cover for this monthly multimedia throwdown goes to a good cause. Secondly, Trey Baker, who has been hosting philanthropic parties in Austin for more than a decade, empties his house and restocks it with 14 game stations playing classics like Pitfall, BurgerTime, Narc, and newer titles for the less nostalgic. Last month, $696 went to Family for Life. How much will go to Sea Shepherd's Gulf rescue campaign is up to you. Hargrave Arcade, June 26, 10pm-3am, 1185½ Hargrave St.

• Local indie developer Adam "Atomic" Saltsman and Canada's Chevy Ray Johnston have joined forces and pretty much locked in the tag-team title of angels to the amateur coder. Their new website, Flash Game Dojo (, claims to take the uninitiated (me) and turn them into gamemakers (we'll see). I'll be trying my hand at this over the next few weeks to test just how idiot-proof these tips and aids really are.

• If you prefer your video games backed by massive corporations, then you've likely kept up with the E3 conference. Long story short, everybody wants to get in on the motion-sensing and 3-D technology. The PlayStation will get its Move controller in September at $50 while the Xbox gets the motion-sensing technology of Kinect (formerly Project Natal) in November for an undisclosed amount (most certainly more than $50). Nintendo, which has had a motion controller for a while, unveiled its Nintendo 3DS, a handheld system in 3-D with no need for glasses. Is that the collective sigh of the neglected hardcore gamer I hear?

This Week's Waste of Time, James Renovitch's online column devoted to free browser games, appears online most Thursdays at

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