Cosplay & Panels & Demos, Oh My! The SXSW Gaming Expo

SXSW Gaming Expo
Friday, March 8 – Sunday, March 10
Palmer Events Center

SXSW Gaming 2013
SXSW Gaming 2013, courtesy of SXSW

Calling all gamers! This is your chance to revel in the many, wonderful free activities that will be offered at this year’s SXSW Gaming Expo. Year after year, the Expo has gotten bigger and better. And this year is no different.

Gaming Expo Organizer Matt Crump gave us the inside scoop on the many things one can expect to enjoy at Palmer Events Center at this year’s SXSW festival.

“We have a lot of things going on this year, but the major thing is that everything at the Palmers Events Center is free to the public,” Crump said. “Last year, the top floor was for badge holders only. This year, everything in the building is free. The top-floor panels are about everything, from upcoming comic books to anime movies.”

The gaming panels on the second floor of Palmer Events Center will be held in a fashion similar to the SXSW Interactive panels. These sessions will feature discussions led by companies, executives, and actors and actresses that tie in to the gaming industry. A couple of recognizable names in the gaming realm that will be in attendance are the makers and representatives of Minecraft and Tomb Raider.

“There will be two panels about Minecraft,” Crump said. “One will be from the company that produces it, and another will focus on using Minecraft as a game of change. They’ll be looking at how playing games like Minecraft can help balance our lives and our health.”

The upcoming release of a Tomb Raider reboot will also be discussed at the Gaming Expo.

“The latest version of Tomb Raider will have a March 5th release,” Crump said. “There will be a panel about how they use music to tell the story, and another with the actress who plays Lara (Croft), and the producers who will talk about the new features in the latest version of the game.”

Aside from the panels available for free to the public this year, the popular features from last year’s Gaming Expo will make a reappearance.

“The professional gaming tournament by IGN was really well-received last year, so we’re continuing it this year,” Crump said.

Cosplay SXSW, image courtesy of Evil Pastry
Cosplay at SXSW, courtesy of Evil Pastry

In addition to the traditional forms of gaming representation, the Cosplay factor of the Gaming Expo will also be returning in full force.

“A popular feature from last year was the Cosplay competition,” Crump said. “It’ll be on Sunday (March 10) this year.”

Another recurring feature available to check out this year is the GEEK Stage, sponsored by GEEK Magazine.

“That’s where a lot of the superstar content and big announcements take place,” Crump said. “The GEEK Stage is really for viewing cross-convergent content. You get to see how gaming converges with TV and movies.”

This is Crump’s first year working at the SXSW Gaming Expo.

“I’ve spent the last 17 years as a designer and a producer in the gaming industry in Austin,” Crump said. “Last year, I was taking a break and this job just came up. It kind of fell into my lap.”

Though he’s new to the SXSW entity, he has already been immersed into the natural networking culture of the festival.

“My favorite part of working the Gaming Expo is meeting everyone and networking with the companies and speakers,” Crump said. “I like understanding the panelists and facilitating what they want to talk about.”

“It’s about driving the great story of what we’re trying to do here at SXSW Gaming,” Crump said. “Just thinking about what’s important to people this year, and the best way to present those subjects. Helping them is how I can give back to the Austin gaming community.”

Crump had a few words of advice for anyone who’s a bit apprehensive about what to tackle first at Palmer Events Center.

“Hit the arcade floor,” Crump said. “The are lots of cool booths, lots of great games. Then, make your way up to the second floor. Go to the panels. Meet people in the lounge. Come meet me and I can point you in the right direction.”

Whether you’re a gamer at heart or a newcomer to the realm of the gaming industry, Crump believes that you’ll find something that resonates with you.

“I think you’ll really see that there’s something for everyone. There are toys, comics, games and geek culture,” Crump said. “And it’s only going to get better.”