- March 9, 2013

Our Afternoon at the SXSW 2013 Gaming Expo


So, yesterday I may have taken my kids out of school early to visit the SXSW Gaming Expo.  They didn’t really need to play hooky, since the Expo will be at the Palmer Events Center through Sunday, but it turned out to be a pretty great 6-hour Spring Break adventure.  In fact, my boys enjoyed it so much, they’re asking to go back again today.  Good thing it’s free!

This year’s Gaming Expo is sponsored by Nintendo, much to young gamers’ delight.  The Nintendo booth invites players of all ages try new and unreleased games on the WiiU and on Nintendo 3DS handhelds. If you’re lucky, you may meet Diddy Kong or win a t-shirt. But Nintendo is not all the Expo has to offer. The entire exhibit hall is filled with video game consoles of all shapes and sizes.  From iPads to retro arcade games, kids can try it all.  I was impressed with how friendly the exhibitors were, as they cheerfully encouraged my kids to try their games.  They were so welcoming, in fact, I found it nearly impossible to get my kids to move from one booth to another. 

At the HitCents Booth, learning to play Draw a Stickman Epic

If you have a smartphone, it’s fun to download free apps that your kids enjoy, directly from the app developer’s booth.  My son was thrilled to be able to play Draw a Stickman Epic on the car ride home, after getting hooked on it at the Expo. (Confession: I did end up buying the full game for $1.99.)

Another neat aspect of the Expo is that several of the exhibitors are homegrown.  At Austin’s Notion Games booth, I met the artist behind Super Ubi Land, an adorable game being developed for WiiU.  He is one of four-person team designing games at Notion Games. (Confession #2: I bought Up Up Ubi for $.99 too.)

Edward Dennis, Super Ubi Land artist

If you plan to visit the Gaming Expo this weekend, here are some places you might enjoy stopping by.

  • Get your picture taken as a Transformer at the Mobage booth (#605).
  • Play at one of the kid-size BrickPix tables set up with LEGO. This app, still in development, will be like Instagram for kids who like to make and share their LEGO creations.
  • Stop by the Paper Hotspot, where “Paper Only Devices” are allowed.  It’s a cozy lounge with couches, where you can sit and read or draw.  The motto of sponsor Paperbecause.com is “Connecting people to paper, wirelessly.”
  • Play a tabletop game at BoardGameGeek (#213) to get excited about TableTop Day, coming up on March 30, 2013.
  • Sit down for a board game at the Mayfair Games booth (#115).
  • Play Minecraft at the Mothership Books and Games booth (#512).
  • Race a tablet-controlled sphero ball – you may win a t-shirt (#717).
  • Hang out at the Boy Scouts of America booth (#139) and play a game of Jenga or Twister.


  • Bring $7 for parking at Palmer Events Center. They accept credit cards.
  • When you enter the front lobby, from the Barton Springs entrance, look to the right to see restrooms and look to the left to see the LEGO Pit (actually more like a LEGO table this year).  You may want to remember these for later.
  • Bring a bag for swag. We left with gobs of cups, playing cards, coasters, notebooks, pens, pins, pencils, toys, candy, CDs, ear buds, stickers galore, comic books, stuffed animals, and more.  Check out the Digital Creative Job Market in the back of the events center if you’re interested in loading up on freebies (and learn about some cool businesses while you’re at it!).
  • Snag a free SXSW Gaming Expo guide when you arrive and check out the map of exhibitors on page 11.
  • The first thing you’ll see when you enter the exhibit hall is the Nintendo booth (#500).  This is the most popular booth. Don’t be discouraged by the crowd. As you venture further into the exhibit hall, people disperse and kids will have ample opportunity to play games.

When you’ve finished your Expo adventure, head out the back door of Palmer Events Center (behind the Digital Creative Job Market) to see NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

Around the corner from the telescope, by The Long Center, you will find a tent filled with interactive educational exhibits.  Get a free photo of your head inside the telescope, see what a tsunami looks like from space, and test a thermographic camera.  You can also find NASA swag (posters, a pin, and a comic book) and learn about downloading free NASA apps. For more information about interacting with the James Webb Space Telescope this weekend, click here.

For more information about the Gaming Expo, visit the SXSW website.

Hours of SXSW Gaming Expo:

  • Saturday, March 9, from noon – 8 p.m. 
  • Sunday, March 10, from noon – 8 p.m. 
Hours of the James Webb Space Telescope:
  • Saturday, March 9, from noon – 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 10, from noon – 11 p.m.