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E3: The Gang’s All Here!

Electronic Entertainment Expo

Last week I made my annual visit to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big trade fair in Los Angeles for the computer and video games industry presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Unlike other video game trade fairs that are open to the public, E3 is an exclusive, industry-only event. Persons who apply to attend must provide proof that they have some professional connection to the electronic entertainment industry. In my own case, I scanned and emailed the proper credentials to the E3 folks weeks prior, and my badge was waiting for me at the door when I arrived at 8am on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it was a busy week for me, and I had only one day to attend the show this year.

My interest wasn’t so much in seeing the latest games — although I did manage to visit every booth, large and small, in the North and West Halls and waited in line to attend demonstrations of some of the bigger games — as it was in meeting up with old friends and colleagues. I wasn’t disappointed. Very soon I ran into a a group of my former coworkers from Jet Morgan Games, and we spent a few minutes catching up. Later on, I also ran into old colleagues from THe 3DO Company.

My boss from Say Design was at the show that day, and he sent me a text message to meet up with him that the L.A. Marriott down the street for some business meetings. When I arrived at the Marriott, I found the place even more packed than the convention hall. As I wound my way through the hotel lobby and bar, I ran into my old boss from 3DO, a client for whom I had done some consulting, and a former colleague from Spin Master. They were all there conducting meetings, and some had not even stepped foot into the convention center yet. This is where all the Cool Kids were.

Eventually I met up with my boss. After a couple of hours of meetings, we decided to head out to the parties. First up was the Women In Gaming International (WIGI) party, which no less of an authority than Forbes describes as “one of the most popular E3 after parties”. I’ve attended the WIGI party at both E3 and GDC every year, and I’ve found it to be consistently the best party to attend.

This year did not disappoint. I ran into a fellow LA Film School Program Advisory Committee member as well as members of the schools faculty, and we talked long into the evening. I somehow lost my boss and never did make it to any of the other parties. But it was worth it to strengthen some of my existing connections for some things we may be working together on in the future.

If you are attending a game industry trade show for the first time, here’s my advice to you:

  • Find out ahead of time where all the parties are — you can usually find out from the event’s official website or Facebook page — and RSVP for as many as you can.
  • Hang out at the bar of the event’s “official” hotel. That is where all the people you are probably most interested in meeting are hanging out.



Educational Games are Now a “Hot Topic”


I recently joined game developer Say Design as a full-time consultant, and one of my responsibilities is to help them expand their reach into the educational market. I actually began my career developing educational software, first as head of development for educational software publisher Edu-Ware Services and later starting my own company, Electric Transit, which developed serious games (long before they were called “serious games”). But that was many years ago, and I am very interested in learning about developments in the educational space since I last worked there.

Last week Say Design sent me to San Francisco to attend the “SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit, which describes itself as ” the nation’s leading education technology conference.” This year the conference’s focus on “Navigating Next”: review what’s coming next in the teaching and learning process in a post-PC world. The conference schedule identified the following as “hot topics” for this year: Game-Based Learning; Distribution and Implementation of Game-Based Learning; and Going Global, Going Mobile.

Towards the end of the conference, I attended the Education Technology Awards Luncheon, where awards were given out to educational technology innovations that were “most innovative” and “most likely to succeed.” To my surprise (although I voted for it), both awards were given out to a game — SimCEO, a multiplayer serious game that teaches kids how to run their own business.

Actually, the entire conference was a bit of a shock for me. Back in my Edu-Ware days, it was a tough sell getting our educational tutorials — let along educational games — into the school market; most of our sales were to home consumers. The problem back then was there were very few computers in schools. Few schools even had a computer lab, where teachers could take their class for an hour each week.

I credit the iPad for now getting schools to embrace educational software in general and game-based learning in particular. Schools across the nation are starting to bring the iPad and other tablets into the classroom, and they need content — both ebooks and elearning software — to integrate them into their curriculum.

I suspect I’m going to become very busy.