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[February 16, 2014]
Nerd is the word: PAX '14 is sold out [Boston Herald :: ]
(Boston Herald (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 16--The annual PAX East extravaganza is still two months away, but the Massachusetts video game industry already is gearing up for the largest convention of its kind in the United States.
The sold-out event, which will be held April 11-13 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, promises fans a glimpse of the newest video games and offers independent developers the chance to score big in a $67 billion industry.
"While it remains primarily a venue to host the world's latest video games, it has quickly become a major economic engine in the commonwealth, with venture capitalists and major gaming companies scouting for the latest creation from ... small gaming companies," said James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. "When PAX East is in town, Boston is the epicenter of the gaming world." There are as many as 150 video game companies in Massachusetts, many of them small, independent developers, or "indies," for whom the greatest challenge is how to create "buzz, a following," said Monty Sharma, managing director of the Massachusettts Digital Games Institute, or MassDiGI.
"Having PAX East in their backyard suddenly makes it feasible for them to reach tens of thousands of people," Sharma said. "The industry is all about connecting with players. If the players aren't having fun, there is no industry." Erik Asmussen, who is both his own boss and sole employee at 82 Apps in Cambridge -- one of the dozens of indies who've applied to share the Mega Indie Booth at PAX East -- hopes to unveil "Robot Rollerderby Disco Dodgeball," the game he's been working on for the past six months.
"You're playing dodgeball in real time against other players in a state park that's also kind of a dance club," Asmussen said by way of explanation. "There are so many games made these days that you have to find ways to make yours a little more exciting." Hank Howie, vice president and chief operating officer of Disruptor Beam, said the Framingham studio will be exhibiting its current product, "Game of Thrones Ascent," as well as a new game, which he declined to name.
PAX East owes its success to the fact that it is the only event on the East Coast that caters to the game industry, Howie said, which is why fans come out in droves, many dressed as their favorite characters.
"It encourages people to revel a little bit in their nerdiness," he said.
Call it what you will, but all of that nerdiness has paid big dividends not only for the game industry, but also for the local economy. As of last week, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority was projecting that 11,227 hotel rooms would be booked for April 11-13, contributing to an overall economic impact of $22.2 million.
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