Joystick Junkies Unite
It doesn't have the cultural cachet that indie movies or music have (or had, depending on how you look at it), but the hope is that some folks outside of the insular circle of indie gamers and designers will recognize where a large amount of the original ideas come from. The Fantastic Arcade could go so far as to convince some nongamers that one doesn't need to spend 40 hours shooting impeccably rendered aliens to be part of the club. Now is your chance to spend time with the cool kids of game design, because they'll all be drinking and high-fiving one another in the back parking lot of the HighBall. That is, when they aren't putting on their professional faces for the panels, game demos, and screenings.
Those professional faces will be lit up by the glowing screens filling the HighBall ballroom, transformed into an old-timey (read: Eighties) arcade replete with games placed in those mammoth cabinets of yore. Spotlight games will be playable and vying for your audience award vote. If voting isn't your thing, the showcase games also run the gamut from art games (like Superbrothers' Sword & Sworcery EP) to message games (Operation: Pedopriest has a message, right?) to polarizing titles (Super Columbine Massacre RPG!; self-explanatory) to locally made titles (e.g, Canabalt, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor).
The campus-area video-game emporium Arcade UFO will host daily gaming tournaments, including a Left 4 Dead 2 killing spree set in the virtual Alamo Drafthouse of your nightmares.
Need a break from the inundation of pixels? Check out the real-world panels on gaming's present and future, starting with indie poster child Jonathan Blow and others talking about game design sans endless bureaucracy (see our interview with Jonathan Blow on the Screens blog at austinchronicle.com/pip). Other questions to ponder at the panels: why so many games involve elves, why movies based on video games can't be good, and why Texas is lousy with program-it-yourself game designers. Any remaining questions will be drowned out in the bleeps and bloops nearby.
The Fantastic Arcade sets up headquarters at the HighBall, 1142 S. Lamar. Get a VIP pass to all four days of shenanigans for $60, or buy single-day passes for $20. For the cheapskates and starving programmers, there's a $10 single-day pass to only the game demos and arcade portion of the fest.