As the event rolls into the Valley for its third visit on Thursday, July 21, at The Venue of Scottsdale, Ringel jovially notes that since last year, this unhappy game boy, who rants anonymously on Game Riot forums and message boards, has been on a crusade, writing relentlessly to Ringel and crew, demanding they grant him a rematch and blaming faulty machinery for last year's loss. Ringel swears by his team of technicians, and also by the spirit of good gaming fun; so he proposes that this grumpy Gus give up the ghost of the 2004 event and haul his ass to Scottsdale for a brand-new game.
Even if angry boy fails to show, it's quite all right. Last year's event drew 125,000 people nationally, and promoters say they expect around 350,000 people this year. Visitors will include serious gamers responsible for showing us better living through stronger and even more opposable thumbs, families, spectators and those who just want to take home a whole lot of free swag.
"Everyone is going home with a ton of free stuff," says Ringel, whose event has been gaining momentum since it debuted at Lollapalooza two years ago. No-cost goodies are a small part of the grand vision that Ringel began with. "A few years ago, you couldn't turn on the television, especially during certain programming, without seeing something game-related, whether it was in an ad or a character in a show playing a game or talking about gaming," Ringel says. "I was able to see the great growth in social and competitive gaming and wanted to create a fun and interactive event."
Interactive? Yeah, that's a mild statement; kind of like saying it gets a little toasty here in the summer. Game Riot is a full-on, jam-packed sensory overload. You can play your gaming heart out at one of more than 70 stations featuring new and unreleased games. You can meet the aforementioned "Zyos," and you can also take a stab at beating him. In fact, doing so could net you a cash prize and a Major League Gaming contract.
With a list of sponsors that includes MTV2, you bet your sweet eardrums that Game Riot comes complete with a Battle of the Bands tournament-style music contest. Two local acts compete in each city, and the winner advances to the finals. The grand-prize winner will walk away with some killer exposure, including a song in the College Hoops 2K6 video game and an MTV2 video. "It's another way attendees and fans can impact the outcome," says Ringel. "They are able to vote locally at the events, and then a MySpace.com page will be devoted to the finalists, for listening and voting."