Wednesday, July 06, 2016

RTX 2016 Review

This past weekend I was in Austin attending RTX, the now annual expo where the internet meets reality and weird stuff happens. It began not to long ago under the watchful eye of internet media production company Rooster Teeth and grew into the beast that it has become today. Since acquiring other groups such as Screw Attack, Game Grumps, and FunHaus, RTX has become a multi-media event worthy of attending while keeping things casual for the fans.

It's difficult for me to summarize exactly what RTX is. There are panels with internet celebrities from Rooster Teeth and other gaming groups. Meet and greets and autograph sessions with said internet phenoms. There are also multiple gaming developers in the midst, mostly indie, pushing their wares onto the audience at large. Twitch sets up shop to stream content all weekend live from the floor, including a painting session (that was kind of cool). Gaming tournaments took place in the main Expo hall on the big screen all weekend, and around the corner in smaller booths for prizes ranging from free games to $5 grand. And among the bevy of geeky shops there is the Rooster Teeth experience where you can see, touch, and pose with props from various show sets; including a broken down Warthog from the Halo franchise. With the inclusion of Screw Attack, one hotel was able to offer 24/3 programming with a retro arcade, a "dance" (read that as rave), and late night internet celeb panels.

As far as the age-range...this is the weird part. All of these personalities are over 21. They swear and drink on occasion on their channels and shows. Their content could be considered juvenile, but they hit that 21-35 adult male crowd that advertisers dream of: the ones with disposable income and ready to buy anything that looks cool. The people that showed up were mostly from this target group. But there were also young teenagers, kids, women, adults over the age of 40 without kids. It was a little bit of everything and everyone. Nice to see. Weird to experience. My first time attending RTX in 2012 it was a heavily male dominated space. That's not to say that I felt isolated. Everyone was kind and I had a great experience. But it was obvious that I was the odd duckling being one of the few women in a setting of young adult men. In those 4 short years, Rooster Teeth has changed the face of internet content by providing shows like RWBY and Immersion that would appeal to a broader audience. Now the halls are filled with an all-ages, all-gender group of people all enjoying the love of video games. Though I should caution parents about the panels: most of them are for adults due to language and sometimes the content. Nothing perverse, but could ruffle a few feathers if you aren't aware of the Rooster Teeth videos.

The difference between the years that I've attended is astounding. For one, they opened up the entire convention center (something they needed to do in 2012 and realized their folly even back then). Lots of walking space, lots of things to see and do. I felt myself constantly busy, but not in an "oh I'm so tired there's too much to do" kind of way. I was able to walk around and do things at my own pace and didn't feel bogged down by much.

The only thing that I missed out on, that I really wanted to do was their Five Nights at Freddy's Haunted House. It ended up being promoted on their podcast early Sunday morning so the line was astronomical for the rest of the day. Oh well.

Overall, if you are a fan of Rooster Teeth or any of the gaming groups they own, there is something for you to like. If you're a gamer, there were plenty of old and new school games to try out. And if you're there for a convention scene, well you're in the wrong place. This isn't like a typical anime or comic book convention. This is an expo, meant to showcase games and internet celebrities. If you don't have an interest in either, then you don't want to be there.

RTX has a weird, cool kids club vibe that's easily accessible to anyone who may be interested in their antics. You feel special for having an "in" to the event and understand the jokes. But it's also very easy to get "in" if you want to learn more. The only barrier is yourself and how much you want to dive into their culture.

Lots of improvements from my first time attending, including the autograph lines (I like the concept, though Guardians should have been a little more active on the speed of said lines. And maybe extend the signing times by 30 minutes so everyone has an opportunity to talk to said internet celebs). This year they made it a ticketed event that you received for free with the purchase of your badge. There were several signings each day, broken into pairs and you could choose one. The line to get in was made extra long by security - not only a bag check but a metal detector. I'm just grateful that they didn't dump out my purse contents. That would have made it take 500 timers longer! RTX also now offers a cosplay contest (though I would recommend moving the room next time - that one was packed), a quiet space for chilling out and getting away from the noise, and 24 hour programming at an adjacent hotel (as mentioned earlier).

Some of the games I tried out: Butt Sniffin Pugs. The game is just as it sounds. You and a partner roam around a level, sniffing and barking at things to unlock special powers. The controller is a giant tennis ball with a Pug butt to sniff stuff. It's as weird and cooky as it sounds.

Brawlhalla was back again, this time showing off some of the new character skins and abilities that will be releasing over the next few months. The game is still free to play and gaining a lot of traction on Steam. We talked to their social media manager on Sunday and he was really pumped for what the game has available. Couldn't give much details, but said that the core fans will love it.

Dub Wars is an EDM driven game that focuses on the music beats to progress through levels. Very Tron meets Flower and Asteroids. With music. Your goal is to use music as your weapon in this top-down shooter to clear levels and beat the bad guys/aliens. Great visuals and very striking music. Easy to jump into and not feel overwhelmed by the sounds.

I only have one major gripe against a Guardian that went on a power trip, but I've already sent in my concern about that. But that's really my only complaint! Everything ran fairly smooth. We were able to get into the panels we wanted to see, big and small, with less then an hour of wait time. Overall, I enjoyed it and hope to return!

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