RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – InfoTech is expanding this year to include a showcase of gaming and technology companies.

The addition of a “Game Night” is recognition of the fact that the Triangle region is home to a rapidly growing interactive industry. The event is part of the closing session for the 17th annual Council for Entrepreneurial Development conference, which is set for Thursday at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

The fact the CED wants to include the gaming and simulation sector is a very good idea.

Epic Games, with its mega hit “Gears of War,” certainly has drawn attention to the area. The Cary-based company continues to add people and is up to around 100 on staff.

Red Storm Entertainment, the company once owned by Tom Clancy, is also well known. Virtual Heroes, which has moved to a new headquarters from Cary, continues to do a great deal of contract work for the federal government. Emergent, the buyer of Chapel Hill-based NDL, is based in California but is growing its Triangle presence.

Merscom, another Chapel Hill firm, is positioning itself as a leading player in the casual games space. And Funcom, the developer of a highly touted Conan the Barbarian multiplayer online game, has a major operation in Durham.

3DSolve remains in Cary after being acquired by defense industry giant Lockheed Martin. It is now called Lockheed Martin 3D Learning System. Before the acquisition, 3DSolve spun off a game development unit.

And that’s just a few of the companies.

Meanwhile, on the more traditional technology front, some 30 companies from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia will be touting their technology and products. Their specialties range from nanotechnology to plastic muscles and voice-to-data software.

The “Demo Pavilion” where the companies will be displaying their expertise has always been my favorite part of InfoTech. It’s a great opportunity for potential investors and the media to meet and to learn about emerging companies that could be the next big thing.

Adding games and simulation training companies is a perfect fit.