out in California they held this little expo, you might have heard of
it... E3. For those unfamiliar with it, its one of the biggest
video gaming and technology expos in the world, displaying new
hardware as well as upcoming titles available for playing and
reviewing before they hit the marketplace. But for those unable to
make the trip and pay the fee, fear not, we've got our own
--- GEEX started up in 2008 as a localized offshoot of other expos, presenting material from Utah based companies and others who were able to make the trip, including gaming tournaments and panels from other geek-related areas. The event couldn't come back in 2009, but made efforts to return this year with double the information and activities, and moving from the Salt Palace to Southtowne to include more people. I got a chance to chat with three of the people involed: Kurt Beckstrom, LeGrande Jolley and Josh Jones. Talking about the expo itself as well as their thoughts on gaming. All with some pictures from 2008 to give you an idea of what you'll find.
Kurt Beckstrom, LeGrande Jolley & Josh Jones
Gavin: Hey guys! First off, tell us a little about yourselves.
LeGrande: I'm a web developer with MediaOne. Working for MediaOne, I've been involved with GEEX from the beginning.
Kurt: I am an accountant at MediaOne. Yeah, I know, accountants don't play video games! Well I do and I am passionate about making sure this years edition of GEEX is better than last time. I had limited involvement in the last GEEX but this time around I am much more involved.
Gavin: How did you each get into electronics and video gaming?
Kurt: I got into gaming and electronics after my first grade class received a computer and my teacher didn't know how to set it up. After that I got into writing simple games in basic for my first grade class. Ever since then I have had a passion for electronics and gaming.
LeGrande: When I was three years old, my dad had an Atari 800 with “Pac-Man”, “Defender”, “Missile Command” and the like. I remember playing them as a child and eventually graduated to the NES, SNES, etc. I used to program in basic on the Atari 800 and that helped out a lot in my obsession with games and technology in general.
Gavin: What were some of your favorite titles to play over the years?
Kurt: The first actual games I remember playing as a kid was either “Commander Keen”, “Kings Quest”, “Number Munchers” or “Pioneer Trek” then it branched out to the SNES games like “Final Fantasy III”, “Earthworm Jim”, and “Super Mario World”. All of these early games were great and fun and helped me gain an appreciation for gaming but those games can't hold a candle to the games that are being developed today. Now I am mostly playing “World of Warcraft”, “Warcraft III”, I really loved playing through “Portal”. I am just getting into “Track Mania”, “Mass Effect”, “Half Life”, “Bio Shock” ..all the great titles I missed out on because I never had a gaming PC or console that could play them.
LeGrande: My first game was “Pac-Man” on the Atari 800. I still love it to this day. My first really serious case of Nintendo finger came the night that “Street Fighter 2” came out for the SNES. Today I'm obsessed with all sorts of shooters and RPGs as well as “Super Street Fighter 4”. I love an epic RPG like “Oblivion”, “Mass Effect” or “DragonAge”. I'm also a huge fan of “Bioshock” and the “Unreal” series.
Gavin: How did the idea to start up GEEX come about?
Kurt: Most of us involved with GEEX are big gamers. We were probably hanging around talking about the latest WoW raid and thought wouldn't it be cool if there was some sort of gaming event in Utah? We started brainstorming from there and working with the MediaOne event team we made it a reality.
Gavin: What was it like setting up and planning the first event, and how much of it did you model off of other gaming expos?
Kurt: It took a ridiculous amount of planning and support from local businesses and communities. A lot of it was just thinking about what we would like to have at a gaming event. A lot of the focus for the first GEEX was the tournaments and LAN party. This year we are really focusing on creating an event that appeals to the masses. We've worked hard to get people and businesses there that everyone can enjoy and not just the hardcore gaming crowd.
Gavin: What was the response like to the first one back in 2008 and did you know you'd be back for a second or was it still unknown at that point.
LeGrande: The response was for the most part very positive. The community really liked what we were doing and wanted to see more of it. We knew that the event needed to grow to be successful and our aim was to do just that.
Gavin: Last year you had to skip doing the event. What exactly happened?
Kurt: There are a lot of factors that led to us having to cancel the 2009 show. A lot of it stemmed from the weakening economy among other factors. As things started to improve, we knew that we would be able to have a successful event in 2010.
Gavin: You're back this year, and this time at the Southtowne Expo Center. Why the move from the Salt Palace?
Josh: The Southtowne Expo Center is a lot more central for our demographic. With close proximity to Trax and the free parking offered by the expo center, we think that more people will be able to come out and enjoy the event.
Gavin: What companies and products will you have on hand for exhibitions?
Kurt: Epic has recently come on board with GEEX 2010. They will have developers from their local studio Chair Entertainment on hand offering demonstrations of the “Unreal Engine” as well as showing off some of the latest games coming out from Epic. Other local developers including SmartBomb Interactive and Wahoo Studios (“NinjaBee”) will also have exhibits showing off their products. HTC and Sprint will be there showing off the new EVO 4G phone on their new 4G service. NVIDIA will be demoing their 3D technology and their latest and greatest technology. We also have several local computer shops including GEEKBOX computers.
Gavin: This year you'll be doing a number of tournaments including a long LAN party. What games will people be competing in and what have you got for the winners?
Kurt: The PC tournaments are headlined by “Modern Warfare 2”. We also have tournaments for “Team Fortress 2”, “Trackmania United Forever” and “Starcraft 2” Beta. We have a lot of great sponsors that are providing some great prizes for our winners. The “Modern Warfare 2” competitors will literally be competing on the computers that are the prize for the winning team. Each member of the winning team will take home an $1800 computer put together by GEEKBOX computers. Other sponsors such as Intel, NVIDIA and Mushkin have lent their support in putting together some attractive packages for our other tournaments.
LeGrande: There are also a number console tournaments including “DDR”, “Super Street Fighter 4”, “Super Smash Bros Brawl” and “Halo 3”. A lot of the prizes for these tournaments are cash prizes made up of the tournament fees as well as prizes from other sponsors.
Gavin: On top of this you'll have events with Cosplay, making a game in a day, stuff for women geeks. Tell us a bit about the added activities you'll have going on.
Kurt: At the last GEEX, we were surprised (we shouldn't have been) to have cosplayers show up in costume just for fun. They were ecstatic to be at a local gaming event showing off their hard work. This year we knew we needed to make this a part of the show. The cosplay contest will be taking place on the main stage Saturday afternoon.
Josh: We also wanted to make sure that we had events for everyone interested. Budding developers or people interested in video game development are welcome to participate in the Game In A Day where they'll have the opportunity to work with video game professionals and others to create a video game from scratch in 24 hours.
LeGrande: The stereotype for gamers is the nerdy male sitting in his parents basement playing WoW until 4AM. But we know that there are plenty of normal people including women that are into video games just as much. We wanted to showcase some of the topics and women developers in panels and forums focused towards this very important audience.
Gavin: Are there any surprises you have lined up that haven't been announced yet? And do you need any volunteers for the event?
Kurt: There may be some surprises, but you'll have to come and see!
Josh: We have an army of volunteers helping out with GEEX, but if people are interested in helping out, they are welcome to contact us from the website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gavin: Branching out a bit, what's your take on the stuff released at E3 this year and the impact you believe it will have on the industry?
LeGrande: There is no doubting the impact that Nintendo has had on the industry with the Wii and it shows with the new hardware that Microsoft and Sony are bringing to the table. The reality that we sometimes don't look at is the fact that the majority of the video game purchases made aren't made by hardcore gamers, but by their mothers. Sony and Microsoft are obviously trying to get a piece of the market and my prediction is that the Sony's Move and the Microsoft Kinect will play a minor role in the console generation but will increase in importance during the next console cycle while Nintendo will continue to innovate and maintain their market share due to their family friendly image. I think that the Kinect will be the "must have" item this holiday season that will drive Xbox 360 purchases.
Josh: Personally, I'm really looking forward to the 3DS. The footage looks incredible and while I haven't seen it for myself, if it works as good as they say it does... I can't wait.
Kurt: I am also looking forward to the new 3DS but I am interested to see where the new Kinect for the Xbox is going to go over the next few years. I am not convinced that it is going to make that big of an impact yet but I am willing to give it time to see where it goes.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on some of the local game companies in town and what they've been contributing to the industry?
Kurt: Utah has a lot of really good talent as far as video game development goes. We are home to branches of EA, Disney Interactive and Epic as well as homes to Smart Bomb Interactive and Wahoo Studios. Some of the games coming out of these studios are fantastic and are being very highly received in the marketplace.
LeGrande: I recently finished “Shadow Complex” about a week ago and can easily say it's one of the best titles on Xbox Live Arcade. In addition, I was talking with one of the local developers today from Smart Bomb Interactive and their recent “Snoopy Flying Ace” sits on the Xbox Live charts at #4 in units sold. It really is a fantastic game.
Josh: I see the development coming out of Utah continue to improve and grow.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you the rest of the year?
Josh: We want to make GEEX something to talk about all year with continued promotion of the event with several other smaller events and continued community involvement with the planning of GEEX 2011. We want GEEX to be as much about the social aspect of the gaming community as it is about the games so throughout the year we will be hosting events to grow the community and keep GEEX on your mind all year round.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Kurt: We record a podcast and stream it live every Monday afternoon and we plan on continuing this after the event brining up to date news and announcements about GEEX as well as great guest interviews with local developers, celebrities and businesses. The podcast is also the best place to find out about other GEEX sponsored events throughout the year as well as opportunities for free swag. The GEEX podcast is sponsored by GEEKBOX computers.
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