Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RALEIGH, N.C. – , an annual festival in the capital city designed to celebrate the Triangle’s creative spirit, is adding the region’s growing videogame industry to the mix this year.

Call the new effort — and it should be fun with games, as well as emerging technology on display.

In addition to music and food along reborn Fayetteville Street, the public can discover in person some of the excitement that is being created globally by companies such as Cary-based Epic Games (“Gears of War”, “Unreal Tournament” franchise) and many others.

Megan Wood, business development manager at Themis Media in Durham, is the driving force behind gamingSPARK. The action begins tonight with an emphasis on locally developed games and is capped Saturday by a “Gears of War 2” tournament. "Gears" in both editions is a global hit, selling millions of copies while spawning books, toys, action figures, a movie and more.

“I work for Themis, and I am the organizer of the event,” Wood told The Skinny. “However, this is something that I took on as an individual then brought it to the attention of the president of the company, Alexander Macris.

“I explained what SPARKcon was, as well as asked him if he wanted to get involved. He liked the idea and wanted to support me in my efforts. He felt the best way to do so was to be a sponsor, so the , which is a Themis Group property, has sponsored the event.”

Wood realizes that much of the attention will be paid to the Gears tournament, and she hopes that other participants can benefit.

“When they come for the tournament, they can check out the local games, allowing for exposure on a level that students and some of the smaller game companies wouldn’t normally be able to receive,” she explained.

GamingSPARK begins at 5 p.m. Friday at the Urban Design Center, which is at the intersection of Fayetteville and Hargett streets.

Alex Lian of Duke University plans to demonstrate what he calls “Alii Motion,” technology that turns a standard webcam into a motion controller. (Think Wii?)

Wood also has lined up a series of presenters on games from student development to serious (educational, instructional) titles. The program:

Serious Games:

• “DARTT: During Action Review Tactical Trainer” Submitted by: Chris Hazard of Hazardous Software Inc.

• ”Virtual Peace” Submitted by: Patrick Herron

• “Neotokyo” Submitted by: Studio Radi-8

• “Venuegen” Submitted by: The Venue Network

Casual Games:

• “DQ Tycoon” Submitted by: Spark Plug Games

• “Creeper World” Submitted by: Virgil Wall of Knuckle Cracker

Student Games:

• “Alii Motion Technology” Submitted by: Alex Lian of Duke University

• “Spectral Assult” Submitted by: PiRadical Studios (A group of 9 NC State students)

• “Quark” Submitted by: Mitch Johnson of Wake Tech

Mobile Games:

• “StickWars” Submitted by: John Hartzog

• “Aya Go” Submitted by: Spark Plug Games

• “Witch’s Workshop” Submitted by: Spark Plug Games

• “Hyper Word” Submitted by: Bee Appi

Wood is receiving plenty of support for GamingSPARK. In addition to the Escapist, other supporters include the Triangle Game Initiative, GameFrog, Integrated Audio Video at Southpoint, Spark Plug Games and Funcom (developer of the massively multiplayer Conan game). Individual backers include Macris, Christy White, Steve Greene, Troy Knight, Jeff Palumbo, Jason Sponaugle and Meghan Murphy.

The Triangle can take great pride in its emergence as a video-gaming industry cluster. GamingSPARK will demonstrate that more companies, more entrepreneurs with great ideas, and more games are on the way.