By Katie O’Donnell
Calling all geek, nerds, and gamers. PAX East is back in town!
The annual Penny Arcade Expo is nirvana for East Coast nerds. The convention is a celebration of gaming and the gaming community. It’s also the place to show off the newest in industry technology. The Massachusetts gaming industry has been on the rise for the past few years, and the PAX East convention is a place where smaller local companies can show off their stuff next to the likes of Microsoft and Nintendo.
The drive to develop new ways for people to interact with technology has pushed game makers to create more innovative ways to let people connect with their products.
Tobias Drewry of Mesa Mundi, Inc. was on his feet for almost an entire weekend showing off his company’s toys. Well, it’s not really a toy, but it does help you play. The Sharon, Mass.-based company has produced a frame for a television screen that allow it to become a touch screen. The idea behind it was to allow gamers to come together in a way they couldn’t before.
“We produce multi-touch technology,” said Drewry. “Things to enable multiple users on the same screen device or on a table on a larger scale. From 32-inches to hundreds of inches.”
The idea of virtual tabletop game is not new. Players from various locations can already join others in RPGs to defeat the bad guy. There are usually two groups that play, local players and remote players. Drewry says his company’s product evolves the experience for both into something more intimate. That’s the new part.
“This type of technology allows the local players to play in one space and have the remote players digitally join in on the exact same game, basically allowing gaming groups to play across vast spaces and still have the tabletop experience,” said Drewry
Closer to Boston is Moonshot Games, which calls Somerville its home. The company had been given the honor of being part of the PAX East “Indie Game Showcase.” Every year the convention picks a handful of games that demonstrate potential and style. This year, all seven games in the showcase are for mobile devices.
Christian Baekkelund from Moonshot Games was ecstatic when he heard his company’s swipe game about a psychic private eye was chosen. The goal was to give players the opportunity to play a few levels, feel good about their progress, have a few laughs, then put the game away. “That just works really, really well on something nice and handheld like a mobile device,” said Beakkelund.
Mobile gaming has become the hot new thing, relatively speaking. It’s cheaper and just as portable as most handheld devices. A new game for the Nintendo 3DS could cost upwards of $40, while a game app for a phone or tablet could run up to $5.
Penny Arcade co-creator and PAX founder Jerry Holkins (aka Tycho Brahe) said he can’t believe how far technology and gaming has come since he was younger. “I tried to explain to my son that the computer that I had when I was a boy was a piece of garbage compared to this stupid phone,” said Holkins. He’s a proud owner of the iPhone 5, which he says is the new standard in industry tech.
Holkins and his partner Mike Krahulik (or Gabe, as fans know him) make it their business to know about the gaming industry (while lampooning it in their popular web comic “Penny Arcade”). They also see the potential mobile games have to offer. Holkins says that’s why they give indie mobile developers like Moonshot games, a chance to show off their goods. The hope is that the kids who see the new tech will someday be inspired to create their own.