SXSW Gaming was a wonderful three days filled with gaming, drinking, and so much eating. I had loads of fun which is why I’ve been using the last few days to recover from the festivities. But, most of this fun came from hanging with friends, not necessarily attending SXSW Gaming.
To give you some background: I bought a three-day wrist band and attended all three days. So, I think I can definitively say that SXSW gaming is just not a large enough convention to excuse buying a three-day wristband; one day is sufficient. Now, I did go to SXSW gaming last year and I did notice that this year the convention was much larger (in the sense that the vendor/con floor was larger and contained many more booths). But, it still wasn’t large enough. I believe that one factor that can be attributed to this is due to the lack of panels.
Now, SXSW Gaming did have a few panels but I’m used to conventions where there are too many panels available to attend. In fact, most of the time I have to decide between two or more panels due to time conflicts. It’s all well and fun to wander the convention floor and waste a few hours looking through the vendors and entering a bunch of free raffles. But, eventually, you’ve seen all that you can see. And, since the vendor floor doesn’t vary from day to day, you have to cure your boredom some other way. With other conventions, the cure is panels. For this convention, the best way to cure this boredom is by hanging out in downtown Austin (which you can do without buying a wristband…).
But, enough complaining, here are the things I did enjoy about SXSW gaming:
The Indie corner! They had a corner for just indie games. Many other conventions have booths showcasing indie games but this year there seemed to be more indie games available to demo. It’s always fun to have your favorite large game companies attend a convention (I’m a sucker for anything Bioware or Ubisoft puts out) but the most inventive and imaginative games seem to be created by indie companies. These games are refreshing and a good break from the main stream games large companies push out. Therefore, a good part of my time on the third day was swallowed up by testing out indie games.
One of my favorite games I saw that weekend was Aer: Memories of Old. This game originally caught my attention with its art style. The art was excitingly similar to that of Journey and Rime (two absolutely amazing games) but had its own unique mechanics that made me stay and demo the game. The premise of the game is that you play as Auk, a young girl who can shape-shift into a bird. The world you explore is fragmented into floating islands and, because of this, you are the only person who can journey between them. This game is beautiful in its simplistic graphics and the flying mechanics are so easy to master that it creates a pleasant experience as you soar through clouds and swoop in-between islands. The plot of the game is not immediately pervasive and requires a decent amount of exploration to discover. But, as an open world, you aren’t required to progress through the story to appreciate the game.
Outside of gaming, I was pleasantly surprised with how many booths and companies were giving out and raffling off free merchandise. I’m not sure why more companies that have booths at these conventions don’t do more of this. A small button or sticker can be enough to make people flock to your booth and give you free advertising by spreading your logo.
Speaking of free stuff: One of the best moments during the convention was that I won a Nighthawk Pro Gaming router (specifically the XR500). Given that my previous router was ten years old, this was a huge update to my internet. Both my boyfriend and I play video games and use streaming services quite often. With this new router, we saw a huge decrease in latency issues and streaming is now seamless. The dashboard is also beautiful. It is extremely user friendly and is extremely customizable. With this router, you can eliminate lag and guarantee local connections using the geo-filter feature. You can prioritize your gaming traffic, monitor live game ping, monitor your internet utilization, and monitor what devices are using your bandwidth. Given all of the capabilities and applications you can utilize, I would highly recommend investing in this router if you are a gamer or a streamer. For the $300 you are going to spend on it, you get so much out of it.
Another fun booth was the Soylent booth. Soylent has been on my radar for a while now. Given that I’m on the go a lot and I often don’t have time to cook, a meal in a bottle seems like a good idea to me. But, I was a bit daunted about buying Soylent online because I didn’t want to waste money if I ended up not liking the taste of the product. Thankfully, the Soylent booth had three flavors to sample. The chocolate was the best. If you like chocolate protein shakes, you’ll like this flavor. The chai flavor wasn’t my favorite but it wasn’t unpleasant. It was slightly sweet but did not have a strong flavor. The coffee was the worst flavor. However, I attribute my aversion to the flavor to it being extremely bitter (it tasted like black coffee which I can’t stomach).
Overall, SXSW Gaming is a fun convention but not one I would recommend attending all three days (yet!). It seems to be growing so I have high hopes that things will only get better. Austin is also a fun city to visit so taking a day to explore the sights is definitely something I would recommend. There are plenty of free events going on during SXSW so there’s more to do than just attending the music festival or the gaming convention.