South by Southwest is almost a month of interactive, film and music shows, held annually in Austin, Texas. The festival is known for emerging music, launches of innovative tech startups, professional development sessions, and A-list keynotes, as well as for daytime drinking by attendees. This year, South by Southwest is adding two new conferences SXSW Eco, with a focus on green technology and sustainability, and SXSW Edu, focusing on innovation in learning and educating.
In previous years, SXSW Interactive has included a strong gaming element, both with game-related technology on display and with sessions focused on game development and distribution. In 2011, South by Southwest’s Interactive festival included the first Independent Propeller Awards, for excellence in independent games.
But this year, SXSW’s gaming section really came into its own, with so many gaming panels, presentations, and sessions that it was moved out of the Austin Convention Center and into the Palmer Events Center, across the river. This includes space for a show floor of game demos, from introspective indies like Cave! Cave! Deus Videt! and Ephemerid, to virtual reality games PaperDude VR and Classroom Aquatic. Outside was live-action Mario Kart (OK, it’s go-carting with bonuses, but still) on a racing track.
This was also the first year for the SXSW Gaming Awards, with a ceremony on Saturday night at the Long Arts Center. . Two YouTubers, iJustine and SMOSH, hosted the 2014 SXSW Gaming Awards. The biggest winner overall was Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, winning in four categories, including Game of the Year, with a nod to indies Nidhogg and Papers, Please.