Developers, artists, game enthusiasts, and industry leaders united Sunday afternoon for a battle of the minds at the ScreenBurn at SXSW Game Design Competition sponsored by USA Network. The competition for both categories was both heated and intense, creative and inspirational. While all of the finalists would make any game company proud with their imaginative and awe-inspiring creations, the judges and audience agreed upon two winners: Lance Myers in the Casual Game Design category for “Escape from Planet Zoo” and Patrick Cunningham in the AAA Game Design category for “Shadow Wars.”
"This was simply amazing,” Myers said. “It’s surreal.”
I’m super stoked right now,” Cunningham said. “I’ve been trying to get into the video games industry and just having all these game companies come up to me with their cards is just a dream I’m living right.”
The next step for the two winners will have them marching onward to Studio SX, SXSW’s onsite interview studio, in a conversation with a video game industry professional. But onsite interviewing started early with conversations currently in question in the video game industry: “Can casual and AAA titles coexist? What makes a game, well, a game?”
“The division between Casual and AAA titles is huge, and it shouldn’t be,” Cunningham said. “There are things that can be learned from one another; it can be very synergistic if we allowed it to be.”
Kylan Coats, runner-up of the Casual Game Design competition with his game, “Paper Balloons,” believes AAA title-producing game companies can take a lesson from the casual market.
“It feels to me that the gaming world wants to fracture our art into categories when we really should be learning from one another,” Coats said. “There is elegance in simplicity.
Simplicity is one of the keys that makes “Paper Balloons” work, available in the iTunes store now, in which individuals claim an floating island for themselves, attempting to then communicate with others from other locations through messages sent by balloons. Sometimes silly drawings, sometimes therapeutic cries for help, but all messages are sent to random strangers in the hopes of opening a new type of experience.
“It’s really inexpensive therapy,” Coats said. “The idea came when I was in grad school and I had all this emotional baggage. I would write long emails to friends but then I would beg them ‘Please, don’t read this!’ I’m hoping this really does help people out there.”
Inspiration and motivation were free flowing at the competition with Fredric King and Ryan Doyle, runner-ups for the AAA Game Design Competition, exploring bike culture for their game “BikeClub Games ‘Tall Bike Joust,’” and semi-finalist Borut Pfeifer exploring political issues in Iran with casual entry “The Unconcerned.”
It took courage, strong ideas, and an awesome amount of passion to make it to the ScreenBurn at SXSW Game Design Competition. The amount of developers and industry insiders who approached the winners was staggering and ScreenBurn at SXSW could not be more proud of them.
Congratulations to Lance Myers, Patrick Cunningham, and the rest of finalists who have proven that the game industry is fully alive and kicking with great ideas!