RTX 2014 30,000 Fans Descend on Austin Convention Center

By LESLIE ANNE JONES
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Rooster Teeth Convention, Photos by Leslie Anne Jones

Rooster Teeth Convention, Photos by Leslie Anne Jones

Thousands formed a line that snaked through the convention center foyer Friday morning, awaiting the beginning of the three-day RTX conference that included game designers, purveyors of Internet-culture miscellany, and most importantly appearances by the well-loved Rooster Teeth crew.

RTX started in 2011 as a fan event for Rooster Teeth, the online entertainment production house made famous by Red vs. Blue, a web series that combines video game play and voice over animation. The show is now in its eleventh season, and Rooster Teeth has diversified into new web series, podcasts and branded merchandise.

The first RTX event had 600 attendees, the following year it was 4,000. Last year saw 10,000 attendees, and this year tripled that – some came from as far as England and Australia. Attendees tested out new video games and attended panels like “Top Strategies for YouTube Gaming Creators” and “VFX: Digitally Blowing Stuff Up for Fun & Profit.” Some came in costume, as storm troopers or Bat Man villain Bane and also as Ruby, the super hero with a red cape who stars in Rooster Teeth’s most popular recent creation, RWBY. Many attendees were teenagers, the convention center lobby area had a parents lounge for chaperones.

Frank Motomochi and Katie Cates from San Antonio, photo by Leslie Anne Jones

Frank Motomochi and Katie Cates from San Antonio, photo by Leslie Anne Jones

In some ways, RTX is similar to the much bigger Comic-Con events that happen around the country, but on a more personable scale. RTX booths hosted lots of indie game companies, and the designers were present at many booths. Plus, Rooster Teeth founder Burnie Burns was spotted walking through the exhibition hall on Friday, mingling with fans – a more authentic interaction than the autograph tables of Comic-Con.

In the exhibition hall, I was invited to test Chariot, a game for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One made by Frima Studios of Quebec, Canada. The main character is a princess. Player two is her fiancé. “He’s there to help,” game designer Alex Van Chestein explained. The mission is to haul a chariot carrying the coffin of the princess’ dead father to its final resting place. The dead king is a ghost, and he pipes in with banter, but the patriarch has no agency, no one will play him. It’s up to the princess and her partner to shoulder him along.

“I really wanted the female character to be a badass,” Van Chestein said. “It goes against convention, but it felt right.”

panel watchers 2The gaming industry has been roundly criticized for its boys-club culture, even though research shows about half of gamers are women. At this year’s RTX, inclusivity seemed to be on the mind of industry workers.

During a panel introducing Sunset Overdrive, an open-world shooter loaded with referential humor, presenter Brandon Winfrey noted that character choices came in male, female and gender neutral. “If you want to be a dude in a skit, that’s fine. It’s fun.”

People waited patiently for a chance to play Titanfall, a product of California-based Respond Entertainment, which was created by the makers of juggernaut-game Call of Duty – when Call of Duty: Ghosts came out in 2013, it had sales of $1 billion on its first day.

Abbie Heppe is Titan Fall’s community manager – a job title that encompasses marketing, voiceover work for the game, and a lot of playing time in order to relay feedback to the development team

Heppe, who is 32, has been gaming for almost two decades. Back in the nineties when she played Quake and Doom, a gamer who was female didn’t have to reveal her gender, whereas now with voice-chat enabled play, things are much less anonymous.

“Companies are aware of it,” Heppe said of sexism in game play. “We think about it a lot too: How can you make the gaming experience better?”

Friday evening events were cancelled due to a bomb threat, but things were rescheduled and the rest of the weekend went smoothly.

The speedy rise of RTX is no surprise to those familiar with the trajectory of Rooster Teeth.

Exhibition hall square head

Exhibition hall square head

The company recently moved into a much-bigger space at Austin Studios and also announced plans for its first feature-length, live-action comedy. According to crowd-funding website Indiegogo, Rooster Teeth met its initial funding goal ($650,000) in 10 hours. To date, more than $2.2 million has been raised for the project, making it the most-funded film ever through Indiegogo.

In its early days, Rooster Teeth’s fans were predominantly male, but that too is changing. Achievement Hunter, a comedic series where staff demonstrate game play and make jokes over it, garners a mixed audience. And RWBY, Rooster Teeth’s Americanized anime that follows four girls with super powers and big weapons who battle evil, has really tipped the scale

At RTX, Rooster Teeth announced its expansion into video game development. RWBY will be its first show to become a game. Conference goers were able to play a demo version of the game created and presented to Rooster Teeth by 19-year-old fan Jordan Scott. Scott is now working at Rooster Teeth to develop the full version.

Scott’s story echoes that of Rooster Teeth’s founders. The company is sustained by a passion for gaming culture parlayed into new products delivered to a fan base that has continued to grow.

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