The SXSW Gaming Expo is a 3-day event which takes place in Austin’s Convention Center. It features a wide variety of events and showcases, including the Indie Corner, where up-and-coming game developers can show off their latest projects, the Esports Tournament, where competitive gamers vie for a $20,000 prize, and so much more.
The king of this year’s expo was Nintendo, which had a massive display where fans could stand in line for upwards of an hour to get their hands on their brand-new console, the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is a hybrid of sorts, combining traditional console gaming with the option of using it on the go as a handheld.
Even some of the smaller developers were using the popularity of the Switch to coerce gamers into playing their demos, such as this virtual reality climbing game game called To the Top which awarded the highest scoring player with a Switch of their own to take home with them.
Several companies came to the expo this year to show off their virtual/augmented reality experiences. One such company was Cyan, more famously known as the developers of the classic PC game, Myst. Their new game, Obduction, takes place on an alien planet where the player must solve puzzles to discover the mysteries they will uncover along their journey. I got the chance to try Obduction out for myself using the Oculus Rift headset and its motion-tracking controllers.
“The biggest challenge for VR is also the most exciting thing, frankly, and that is that it’s the wild west…it feels like we’re defining the medium, which, how often does that happen? There’s only a few times in history where there’s these monumental moments where there’s an uptick in technology or creativity where you feel like I’ve got a chance to define this, and VR feels like that.” –Rand Miller, Co-Founder of Cyan, Inc.
Catan Studios presented the Tabletop Experience, an area where people could play a variety of over a hundred board games with friends. These games included classics and new releases alike, including an innovative new game called Klask which harnesses the power of magnets to move game pieces from beneath the board.
Alongside these non-digital games were other analog gaming experiences, such as this Twilight Zone themed pinball machine, which earned the rank of the number one electronic pinball machine of all time on the Internet Pinball Machine Database.
The San Marcos based company Arcades4Home provided a plethora of classic arcade cabinets to the Convention Center for gamers of all ages to enjoy some nostalgic 8-bit fun.
This kid got so excited while playing the Gamer’s Voice award-winning indie title Arena Gods that he just couldn’t keep still.
VarDragons is a smartphone app in the same vein as the smash-hit Pokémon Go, which allows users to hold their phones up to the sky and see dragons into a live image from their phone’s camera. The dragons appear when airplanes are flying overhead, and players have the opportunity to capture them, raise and train them, and even battle other users’ dragons as they fly past each other in the real world.
Crowdfunding sources such as Kickstarter have always been a popular way for independent developers to gather the funds they need to pursue their passions and share their projects on a large scale.“The game’s actually not out yet, but we’re growing our subscriber list, and as soon as we get to 5000 subscribers we’ll launch our Kickstarter campaign, and anyone that’s in the first 5000 people to sign up will get special access. You’ll get special skins in the game, you’ll get a free beta key to play the game before it goes public this summer, so yeah, check us out!” –Jason Keasler, VarDragons Narrative Designer
Audio story by Elizabeth Parrish
Video story by Max Schirlo