Last year, when Game Developers Conference Online organizers announced they were leaving Austin for Los Angeles, the local video game community immediately started organizing a replacement.
But the new Captivate conference, Sunday through through Tuesday this week at the Palmer Events Center, isn’t just about video games. It will also encompass music, film and education, organizers say.
That’s because they wanted to include the full range of tech-driven creative industries — and the startup scene — that Austin is known for.
The conference will include keynote speeches and panels by creative industry professionals, as well as workshops and demonstrations of content-making hardware and software. There will also be a strong entrepreneurial component to give attendees tips on starting their own companies.
For more on the conference and the current state of gaming in Austin, the American-Statesman chatted with Jennifer Bullard, Captivate’s executive director. (Some answers have been edited for length.)
American-Statesman: How did Captivate get started? Why was important to keep a conference in Austin after the departure of GDC?
Bullard: Captivate was started by myself and several others who wanted to see Austin continue to have a conference in the fall for the 11th year. Many of the Board of Advisers had consulted on the original Game Developers Conference. The original goal was to develop a conference that would suit the needs of our ever-changing industry. After some lengthy discussions we came to several conclusions. First, games, film, music and mobile industries are overlapping in ever-increasing ways. From business models to development techniques, all industries share much in common. The next thing we realized was more studios in Austin were going independent, and this meant a higher level of entrepreneurs and freelancers. Combine those and we came up with the concept for Captivate. The primary theme is supporting yourself through your art, a topic that many creative people can relate to. The second is opportunity that comes from convergence and technology.
A conference in Austin for digital entertainment is important to give local people, not just from Austin but all over Texas, an opportunity to meet, do business and expand their career opportunities. Getting out to the West Coast for a similar conference is often cost-prohibitive, and having Austin host a conference shows the large support of the community. This can attract new businesses, either looking to relocate or expand.
Why time it around the ACL festival?
We wanted to find a time that complimented ACL’s move to two weekends, showing support for an important touchstone event in Austin. This also allows us to capitalize on people visiting Austin who are looking for some interesting events in between their weekends. Next year we will fit more smoothly in between the two weekends, space was limited this year.
The broadening of Captivate is interesting, incorporating not just gaming but a number of other creative fields. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that decision to incorporate other creative fields, like music and film, into the conference.
For so many in our industry they already cross over. A friend of mine in the music field complained he had to have a “Film” resume and a “Game” resume because the two industries often do not acknowledge the body of work from each other. Finding this a bit ludicrous, we decided it was time to point out the obvious: many people cross industries regularly. Some of the most obvious ones are animators, artists, musicians, producers, tools and app developers. Our business models are extremely similar, and how each industry goes about funding is nearly identical. All of us are in highly hit-driven industries that rely on large consumer support, a very common business problem for games, film and music industries. With the rise of mobile applications, there are new opportunities for these creative industries to have greater reach, better monetization and adjust more quickly based on data.
Who are some speakers you’re excited about?
We have loads of great speakers, and I am excited to hear from all of them.I know our keynotes are going to be amazing, Warren Spector, William Hurley and Gary Hoover all have excellent track records. Ed Hemphill is going to discuss the data behind a successful Kickstarter campaign, Bears Fonte and Paul Alvarado-Dkystra from Austin Film Festival each have great talks. Guy Forsyth, Troupe Gammage, Brian Satterwhite and Wendy Collona will be speaking on how to be more creative.
Currently, the Austin gaming industry is going through a bit of an upheaval, with larger out-of-town developers laying off staff and more efforts to nurture independent development locally. It strikes me, that’s a bit similar to how Captivate got started, with the departure of GDC. Is that an accurate comparison? What can be done to help further grow indie gaming in Austin?
One of the continual problems Austin faces is the lack of a large investment organization, i.e.: a publisher’s headquarters, the local ecosystem will be at the whim of people who do not live in Texas. To help grow the indie gaming community in Austin can be done in a variety of ways. First, go local! Many local indie studios from games, film & music put their projects up on Kickstarter and Indie GoGo. This not only means you will receive some great entertainment, but also support local artists. As more studios find success they will hire more talent and build a stronger ecosystem that can better support the community.
About this series: Statesman Sunday Interview
There are many interesting and insightful people in the Central Texas business community. On Sundays, the American-Statesman business team brings you in-depth interviews with some of them, focusing on topics that matter to our community. To nominate someone for the Statesman Sunday Interview, email Statesman business editor Barry Harrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.