The Casual Observer
By: Gen Katz, Editor
Topic: The 2009 Casual Connect Conference
Date: Jul 2009

I've been attending E3 since 1998. This was my first Casual Connect conference - it was like coming home. In the vestibule I got my press badge for 2009, a large Big Fish tote bag with a clever side pocket that I discovered only later; a slick conference program and I was ready to "do" the conference.

On the lobby floor, people were talking, everyone, almost everyone was drinking coffee and munching on breakfast pastries. Arranged in a semi circle against the windows were desks with 2 or 3 people sitting behind them. Reminded me of voter registration tables or a job fair. Mostly people were talking. They were right to name the conference Casual Connect because that what people were doing - connecting.

The press room at E3 is huge - sofas, lockers, computers, printers and lunch. Lunches supplied at CC noon lectures were good and in some instances exquisite. The press gets a desk and four chairs in a cubicle. It is all very egalitarian here. Regardless of how important and large your place is in the casual industry - you get a table and 3 chairs. This not only makes everyone approachable but makes the space very compact. You don't have to walk around the sixty foot square mega installations to find the person to talk to. I didn't miss the booth babes either.

I mentioned talking. Since E3's inception, it has essentially been impossible to talk to anyone on the show floor. Competing producers are all trying to out shout, out shoot their neighbors. The small private conference cubicles are claustrophobic and the special mic-to-earphone setups don't work well either. Talking is what goes on at CC. Deals were clearly being negotiated, but there was also a friendly sharing of information, not only at the lectures but in face to face conversations. Exhibitors were called "Sponsors" and they were classed as Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze and were arranged from lobby floor to third. It took some getting used to. Clearly there was money being spent on the conference - and I did get my year's supply of pens.

What we really appreciated was that the conference was so female-centric. We are very much a female-centric site, focusing on girls, women and grandmothers. We started back in 1998 when a Nintendo rep's answer to my query, "So where's the Nintendo Game Girl" was, "Girls don't play games". After a brief Barbi flurry there wasn't and hasn't been a definite focus on the female player. The rule still goes that girls will play boy characters but boys will not play girl characters. We would wend our way through the games on the E3 Expo floor looking for games to review on our sites but producers didn't want to break their bloody mold. International games were a little better, but the picking were still slim. A conference where the game market was focused on females is a "pinch me I must be dreaming" experience.

Lest I sound too elegiac about the conference, I want to mention an omission in CC's info pack. It would have been helpful to have a public transportation map for out-of-towners. But aside from that, I'll be back next year.