This Developer's Life: SxSW

This week we venture back to the wild land of Texas to judge the indie games competition at SxSW...

Welcome back to This Developers Life…

For this week’s adventures we’ll be taking you to South by South West.

Part the First:  The flight


Part the Second:  The Taxi Ride


Met up with the people from Little Dizzle (great indie flick!). You know in the film world people get grants to make film because they’re art‽‽‽

Maybe we should do that…


Part the Third:  Game Salad

At last, twenty-six hours after arriving at the airport in Seattle, I stepped into the South by Southwest Convention Center.  The place is a swirling milieu of “the beautiful people” from every part of the entertainment industry.  


Mike throwing up a peace sign with F-Day

After knifing my way through several throngs of people who vaguely knew me and wanted to say hello I finally made it to Screenburn – the game focused portion of SxSW – and, more importantly, to the Gendai Games booth, where Michael Augustin and Joshua Seaver were awaiting my arrival…with aprons on.

Before I explain that sentence I should probably disclaim that I got my Master's with both of these men.  

Now that that’s out of the way, Gendai makes a fantastic product called Game Salad (hence the aprons).  Game Salad is a game creation tool for the masses that lets non-programmers make flash/facebook/iphone games with a simple graphical interface.  I believe it’s still in beta, so it’s free to download here.  Unfortunately it’s only for Mac right now.  We PC users will have to wait a bit before we start crafting games without the rigor of years of education.

Parties 1-10

After that it was off to the Saturday night parties.  Honestly I can’t even remember what all we went to.  Most of it’s lost in whirl of noise, booze and men in dresses (no that’s not getting explained).  All I can say is that people need better marketing departments.  I have no idea who’s parties I was at, even though I believe I went to ten of them.  C’est la vie.



Kain, Harvey Smith, James Portnow

After some small hours of unconsciousness I wandered back to the convention center to hide in the speaker’s greenroom which is equipped with a most wonderful and most spectacularly free masseuse (game conventions should consider picking up this practice…).  While being kneaded in ways both divine and excruciating, Kain Shin and Harvey Smith arrived.  Kain would be moderating the Casual Game Design Competition and Harvey would be judging it with me.  For future note, Harvey is a fantastic fellow.  I recommend you all bother him at conventions.   He has excellent insights into design and in general is an amiable fellow to chat with.


The Finalists

Eventually, after about an hour of plotting how to use our panel to make the audience and contestants see the utter meaningless and futility of life, we took the stage.  The entries were excellent, with a game called Sloppy Ice being so good that I couldn’t find any questions to ask them that wouldn’t bias the audience in their favor (except to ask why their game’s name conjured obscene and bizarre imagery in my mine - which is something that I had enough sense not to ask in public, though apparently not enough to disavow on the internet).

Shortly after the panel I ran into Blake Rebouche and Nicole Lazzaro and, after an hour of chatting in the halls of the convention center, decided to wander.

Our first stop was Dorkbot, an event where we got to see electricity generate music (or music generate electricity…I couldn’t entirely figure it out but it certainly involved techno and lightning) and the ex-head of Game Cock (who’s a riot by the way).

Next it was off to the Hilton to steal hors d'oeuvres from the web awards and then to PF Changs (yes, I went to a PF Changs in Austin...) to discuss game design.  For those designers amongst you who haven’t, catch Nicole when you can.  Her thinking on designing games from the ground up as a social experience is worth hearing for any modern game designer.

Frog Design


I was then swept off to the Frog Design party (this may be a lie, my internal timeline actually says that that was Saturday).  Which was a phantasmagoria (+2 journalism points for using phantasmagoria in an article…DING!) of strange, luminescent bicycle critters.  Bleh, I can’t do it justice…

Digg Party

Ok, WTF is up with Neil Diamond meets Radiohead bands???

(And that’s all I have to say about the Digg party)

Ok, I lied.  I also have to say that I met Scott Porad, the ICanHasCheezBurger guy at the Digg party.  He’s awesome.  We got to ramble between talking about the strange nature of technology startups (and the fact that he puts cats on the internet for a living) and the sheer unmeasureable awesomeness of the Lolrus (who is actually a seal and not a walrus…).

Massive Black


Me and Blake Rebouche

Hot like Fire


The ever charming Lindsay Muse; without whom none of this would have been possible…

The Flight Out:  Web Games Dude

On the flight out of Austin I was seated next to Gary Rosenzweig, arguably the first man to talk about web games in a high profile way in the industry.  If you are in Denver join the IGDA just to meet him.  He’s got some fascinating thoughts.  Oh and he’s running Macmost these days, go flame him and tell him to get back to making games…


If you don't want to wait until next week to check out my GDC coverage you can find it in the blog section of, and, as always, mail me at [email protected] if there's anything you'd like to see.

(Big thanks to Ryan Chahanovich for the glorious SXSW imagery!

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