02/05/06 — 'Gamers' flock to try latest

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'Gamers' flock to try latest

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on February 5, 2006 2:12 AM

Hundreds of video game enthusiasts packed the floors of Wayne Community College to get the chance to play their favorite games and to learn about the technology that makes those games possible during the inaugural Goldsboro Gaming Expo Saturday.

The event, organized by Wayne Community College business fraternity Phi Beta Lambda, lasted from 1 to 10 p.m. offering visitors food, prizes, arcade games, console-game tournaments, speakers, round-table discussions and exhibits.

By 3:30 p.m., lead adviser Michael Everett said attendance had reached 500.

The amount of video gamers at the expo surprised exhibitors and gamers alike.

"This is good to see," said Gary Davis, owner of visualZ LLC. "There's a broad range of ages, and it looks like everybody's having a good time."

Once visitors entered the expo, many made their way directly to the second floor to begin playing games and try their hand at a few tournaments.

A.J. Gills and Brandon McCarter, both 12, from Goldsboro said they couldn't wait to start playing in the Madden 2006 tournament. Other older gamers were anxious to begin shooting their opponents with battle rifles during the Halo 2 competition.

"We're here to win," said David Templeton, 15, of Goldsboro. "We're just here for Halo."

Templeton said he and his friends went to the event together hoping to play the tournament as a team. If that didn't work, he said they would still enjoy the day playing any console they could get their hands on -- whether that was an XBox, XBox 360 or Playstation 2.

Chris Kinlaw, 18, and his girlfriend, Jessica Stokking, 16, both of Goldsboro, also decided to spend their day at the expo.

"I'll be in a Super Smash Brothers tournament here in a little while," Kinlaw said.

Ms. Stokking, on the other hand, said she would probably just stick with Super Mario on the Super Nintendo, if she could find it.

Walking through the halls of the second floor, the uneducated visitor might have been a little puzzled by exactly how to describe the event.

In one area, participants shuffled their feet and jumped up and down as they played Dance Dance Revolution, while across the hall, high-fives and yells erupted as one player scored a touchdown in Madden 2006.

Around the corner, an eerie quiet took over the hall as every person involved in the Halo 2 tournament let their fingers do the talking.

The only common bond the players said was their game.

Although many gamers spent their time playing, others used the exposition as a way to learn more about how a game is created.

Robert Whitmore, 21, of Goldsboro, said he is interested in possibly pursuing a career in 3-D animation.

"I'm interested in the background work of the gaming industry," he said. "I'm here to get an idea of what it would be like to have a job in the field, how they do their work and what kind of people they are looking for."

Many of the expo's exhibitors were glad to provide that information, offering tips on job opportunities in graphics, animation and digital filmmaking.

"It's beneficial not only for us, but we get to share information about the program," said Kwame Hawkins, animation instructor for the School of Communication Arts at Digital Circus in Raleigh. "Hopefully, this will help bring in more jobs to this area, and we can give them more awareness of the field."

As Whitmore walked around the exhibits on the first floor, he spoke to Davis about the digital advertising services his company provides for clients such as Lockheed Martin, Wilson and Universal Studios.

Davis explained to Whitmore the benefits of the field, the technology he uses and how to be successful with digital animation.

But the most important factor in pursuing a career, Davis said, is the passion to stick with it.

"What I do doesn't feel like work. I've been doing this for 14 years -- since I got out of college. To me, it never gets old," he said.

The event's keynote speaker was Jerry Heneghan, founder and chief executive officer of Cary-based Virtual Heroes Inc.

As an executive producer behind the America's Army game, his speech examined the more serious games available and their effect on the gaming market.

Other discussions involved story writing, 3-D animation, female gamers, game production and marketing.

Halfway through the day, Hawkins said he was more than impressed with the turnout and the activities available for the gamers.

"I hope they have this again next year," he said.