LEGOs, Competitive Gaming, Electronic Music, Trading Cards and Tech Startups came together at the Tilt Expo and Music Festival September 5-7 in downtown Durham, NC. Tilt is the first event of its kind for the area, combining two separate festivals into one weekend-long extravaganza. 

The Expo was my event of choice—it featured three jam-packed days of programming, including: Podcasting 101, My First Indie Game, Women in Video Games, live taped podcasts, and so much more. Panels ranged from serious to hilarious, showcasing the 5 Worst Geek movies of 2014 and How to Be a Nerd For a Living. Panelists included industry veterans, local celebrities, and notable guests from the video- and tabletop-gaming industries. 

All demographics old and young were represented in conference attendance, and I noticed there were more women than men. Tilt Expo catered to all types of folks; many came in costume, cosplaying a favorite video game character or franchise.

The most popular panel was “Mating Habits of the Modern Geek”, a popular Raleigh-based podcast and social club focused on getting techies out of the house to help them gain experience in dating by teaching them to be brave and to know their audience. Host Kelly Hightower is a local legal professional who has been running the podcast for several years. She held a speed-dating booth during Tilt as well, to huge success. 

The Tilt Music Festival took over the Durham nightlife scene, with both indoor and outdoor concerts. Notable DJs and artists from all over the country came to perform. Some notables include: The White Panda, Kevin Focus, Aylen, and DJs from Mars. Over the course of the three-day festival, over 20 artists played to a packed audiences at the Expo. 
The biggest attraction for Tilt Expo was Competitive Gaming. A Chattanooga-based startup, Iron Gaming, set up several different gaming competitions for the duration of the Expo. Iron Gaming caters to mostly Tilt-style conferences and tournaments for the hardcore competitive gamer. They serve the competitive gaming space by bringing all of the peripherals, tournament needs, and—most importantly—caffeine a gamer could possibly need for a long gaming session. Iron Games offered a sponsor’s dietary supplement called “Effectve: Neural Gum”.

After doing a bit of research, I found that “Effectve: Neural Gum” is designed to create a state of relaxed alertness that puts you “in the zone”. The major components of the gum are L-theanine and Ashwaganda Root, two herbs long-used in Ayurvedic medicine   Check out Iron Games and Effectve here and here, respectively. I personally used the gum during the writing of this article to see how “effective” it is as far as getting me “in the zone”; I must say I felt more relaxed and focused.

In addition to music, technology and video game startups from across North Carolina made a showing at Tilt Expo. Several had showcased at E3 or similar conferences; there were now out to demo polished products to locals. BlueWire Games demoed its in-beta game Sledge—players attempt to escape an island by building a boat using pieces collected over several platforming levels. Also in attendance was local indie game developer Relevant Games showcasing its new educational tower defense game, Fat Chicken. Fat Chicken teaches players about a real world industry—agriculture and meat processing. In the few, quickly-addicting levels that I played, I learned how chickens are actually taken to be processed—including a visual of chemicals going into food. It was a cute, unique take on an age-old gaming trope. Fat Chicken is currently on Steam Greenlight; please click here to vote for Fat Chicken and show your support!

Microsoft was also in attendance, with Xbox One and product offerings available for hands-on demos. Microsoft is showing a lot of support for the local community these days—it opened a store in August at The Streets of Southpoint in Durham. Publisher Funcom, which has an office in Durham, was celebrating the open beta of its new Massively Multiplayer Online LEGO Game called LEGO Minifigures Online. Funcom’s new offering was a delightful free-to-play experience, in which you control a LEGO figurine through a series of quests and adventures. 
Overall, the Tilt Expo was a huge success. Filling the shoes of last year’s Escapist Expo, the new conference certainly made its mark on the local scene. Events like these shine a well-deserved spotlight on all the local talent in video game and tech startups in the Triangle area. The local community is currently overflowing with job opportunities at local publishers such as Red Storm and Epic Games.  
I can’t wait to see how the conference grows in coming years.