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01/15/2006 - East Meets West at GameFest Spokane

GameFest Spokane, an event to showcase the cutting-edge Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) phenomenon and allow hundreds of players to play together simultaneously, will be April 14 and 15, 2006 in the Spokane Convention Center. This event was the brainchild of the Terabyte Triangle board and is being implemented by the GameFest Spokane coalition spearheaded by Robin Toth and the Spokane Area Economic Development Council.

Along with a variety of game competitions for gamers from beginner to expert – using handheld, console and PC devices – there will be a trade exhibition and a job fair. Perhaps most notable is the roster of speakers for the event.

Jason Robar is the keynote speaker. Robar worked for Microsoft, helping develop Microsoft Windows as a gaming platform. Robar is currently the studio manager of Secret Lair Studios, a game developing company whose primary development office is in the Seattle area. Founded in 2005, Secret Lair Studios' goal is to produce world-class, on-line games with boldly innovative game-play content for the global gaming marketplace. His talk will be "Washington State as the Center of the Gaming Universe."

John Swiderski founded Mean Hamster Software in 1985 after the video game crash of 1984. Mean Hampster produced dozens of titles for the Commodore 64 and Amiga from 1985-1990. Mean Hamster Software took a hiatus until 1999 when they began supporting the up and coming Retro Gaming circle. Writing new software and support for old time systems was something of a new concept at the time and Mean Hamster Software pioneered in this field with the release of several titles for the aged Atari 5200 system.

Mean Hamster Software decided to move on to yet another pioneering medium, the Hand-Held Computer. They now primarily focus on development of titles for a variety of development platforms. They work with well known companies like Cyan Worlds, Inc., First Star Software, Inc., Fossil, and others to bring players the best of yesteryear today.

Kristina Erickson, Program Manager, Washington State Film Office. The Washington State Film Office, Seattle Film Office, and 35 film liaisons statewide stand ready to assist with film makers’ location needs. The Washington State Film Office works with all types of productions to facilitate their needs from project conception through completion, including: script breakdown, location scouting, liaison referral, accommodations, permits, and troubleshooting.

Jen Sward, Chair of the Game Software Design and Production Department at DigiPen Institute of Technology, aka SuperFly Zak McKrack-Who. Sward brings 15 years experience in the video game industry as a manager, project leader, producer and designer at companies such as LucasArts Entertainment and Westwood Studios. Now Sward is Chair of Game Software Design and Production at DigiPen Institute of Technology, a college located in Redmond, Washington, which has a focus on art, computer science, and computer engineering with emphasis in creating video games. DigiPen is a high-profile college well-known in the game industry for producing capable graduates.

In May 1996 the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board granted DigiPen the ability to award Associate and Bachelor of Science Degrees in Real-Time Interactive Simulation and an Associate of Applied Arts Degree in 3-D Computer Animation. This made DigiPen the first university in the world dedicated to teaching how to create video games.

Wistar Kay, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Business Development Manager, International Trade Division, Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. Wistar Kay assists Washington State software and telecom companies with finding partners and making sales in Asia, Europe, Canada, and Mexico. She works closely with the technology associations in the state, including WSA (formerly Washington Software Alliance) where she serves as the leader of the International Special Interest Group. She has also been involved with the interactive media industry and took a group of game software developers to China in the fall of 2005.

The event Web site, is now live. Pre-registration is available, with a $5.00 discount for those registering by March 1. Registration after March 1 will be $40.00, with registration available at the event for $45.00.

GameFest Spokane 2006 is designed and produced by the GameFest Coalition, a group of organizations involved in local technology, education and economic development. Members of the group include:
City of Spokane
Downtown Spokane Partnership
Eastern Washington University
Gonzaga University
Liberty Lake Internet Exchange
Pentad Systems
Spokane Area Economic Development Council
Terabyte Triangle
Velocity Communications
Virtual Possibilities Network (VPnet)
Washington State University
Whitworth College

Billie Moreland
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