The Games Begin at PAX East, A Seattle Transplant Uniting Gamers and Developers

3/25/10Follow @wroush

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gamers interacting with games, not about celebrities and personalities. That’s their prerogative—they’ve been doing this for six years, and they’re trying to keep a certain feeling—but we felt like if we didn’t have a standout for Quick Hit at a show dominated by bigger developers and publishers, it became less interesting.”

Quick Hit will, however, have a table at tonight’s “Made in MA” party. While it’s certainly part of the pre-PAX festivities, the Microsoft-hosted event also will be something of an anti-prom.

“All of the local companies are going to be there—it’s a chance for all of the people who aren’t exhibiting at the show to exhibit at tables,” says Schupbach, whose office supported MassTLC’s work—along with the MIT Enterprise Forum’s New England Games Special Interest Group and the Boston Post Mortem game industry association—to organize the event.

Participating in the free MassTLC event was a “no-brainer” for Quick Hit, says Smith. “We want to be seen in the community as one of the up-and-coming developers and to have an audience of our peers, so we signed right up for that.”

The party at Microsoft is also a chance to build up the region’s vibe as an exciting hub for gaming activity, says Schupbach. “We were talking about organizing panel discussions or appearances by the governor or the mayor, and the community said, ‘Nope, we want to have a party,’” he says. “We need to have people feel like there is something special going on here. That’s how the entertainment business works.”

One of the big local game companies that will have a major presence at PAX East is Turbine, maker of the online role-playing games Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online. The company is renting a 20-by-40-foot booth on the exhibit floor—the same size as the Microsoft Xbox booth and the 2K Games booth—and will send 250 employees over the course of the weekend (almost 80 percent of the company) to staff the booth and roam the exhibit floor.

“We’ve always been a big believer in PAX, because it allows us to get in front of our players and potential players,” says Adam Mersky, Turbine’s director of communications. “GDC and E3 are important conferences, but this is really the most important. I can understand the concern about feeling crowded out—there are some big players there—but we have been up against some of the biggest companies in the world, and our booth always fills up.”

Immerz, a Cambridge startup developing a gaming accessory called Kor-fx (it’s essentially a wearable woofer, as I explained in an October 2009 profile) will also have a 10-by-10-foot booth. Immerz showed off the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, but PAX East will mark the first time that gamers will get some hands-on time with the device.

And perhaps to counteract perceptions that PAX East will be dominated by the gaming giants, the expo’s organizers have set aside a portion of the exhibit floor for the Boston Indie Showcase, a collection of small local gaming companies, individuals, and organizations that have developed new or experimental game titles. These include Dejobaan Games (which makes a game called AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity), Firehose Games (Slam Bolt Scrappers), the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Lab (Dearth, Waker), Keith Morgado (Turba,) and Marc ten Bosch (Miegakure).

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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