By Dolly Rairigh Glass

There’s no doubt that 2013 was one of the most challenging planning years for GameTech organizers, with sequestration and a hard stance on any government travel. But knowing the importance of bringing together the involved areas in serious gaming and its translation into so many training arenas, the National Center for Simulation (NCS) and Team Orlando pushed forward and in the end, were very happy with the success of GameTech.

Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell was the industry keynote speaker for GameTech 2013.

Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell was the industry keynote speaker for GameTech 2013.

More than 225 attended GameTech and participated in this year’s event that included, not only an impressive list of keynote speakers, but hands-on tutorials and opportunities for continued learning and networking. Additionally, GameTech had the support of many companies who exhibited at the event to share their latest and greatest products.

And although the overall numbers had declined from last year, something the organizers were expecting due to the military’s inability to attend, the strength of the content did not decline and among other key industry speakers, GameTech featured Department of Defense Director for Training Readiness and Strategy, Frank DiGiovanni and Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell, who both shared their thoughts and insights on the future of gaming.

Lt. Gen. Tom Baptiste, president and executive director of the NCS, emphasized that although their military partners are very important in the big picture, they represent only one of the customers for serious gaming. “We see emerging opportunities in many areas, including medical simulation, transportation, homeland security, digital media, entertainment, and, of course, in the gaming industry,” said Baptiste. “There’s a lot of business-to-business work being done at this conference.”

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs thanks the speakers and guests at GameTech 2013: Thrills to Skills.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs thanks the speakers and guests at GameTech 2013: Thrills to Skills.

DiGiovanni kicked off the conference, commending those in attendance. “There are no tourists here,” he said. “You’re dedicated, you’re serious and you want to make things happen.”

And in discussing the expected upcoming challenges as budgets become smaller and less flexible, DiGiovanni said, “I encourage you all to dialogue and talk about what tipped the scales for your leadership to allow you to be here and take part in this event.” You need to share those best practices with each other.”

Bushnell followed DiGiovanni and entertained the group with not only his thoughts and predictions for the future, but with his charismatic personality and storytelling. He even poked fun at himself multiple times, sharing one story about Steve Jobs, who at one point worked for Bushnell. “I had the chance to own one-third of Apple Computer for $50,000,” said Bushnell. “I said no and I regret it,” he chuckled.

“We’re in the middle of a perfect storm,” said Bushnell. “They’ll be more change in the world in the next three to five years than ever before in the history of man, and it’s going to be around education. We’re going to know more about education and learning than any other time, and for the first time, we have the tools.”

Winners of the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge, sponsored by The Army Research Laboratory's Simulation and Training Technology Center in Orlando, were announced on the final day of GameTech.

Winners of the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge, sponsored by Orlando’s Army Research Laboratory’s Simulation and Training Technology Center , were announced on the final day of GameTech.

Other industry keynotes took center stage as well, but one of the most anticipated events of the event was the announcement of the winners of the Federal Virtual Challenge Awards Ceremony.

The winner in the Critical Thinking/Adaptability category was Virtual World Activities, “Compound” by H2IT Solutions, Inc., and in the Navigation category winner was “VIPE Holodeck” by Virtual Immersive Training Team Northrop Grumman Technical Services.

With 2013 under their belts, the group is already turning its attention to 2014 and the expected challenges they’ll need to work through and overcome, like the probability of several years of an austere budget environment in the Department of Defense.

“You can also look at this as an opportunity for this industry,” said Baptiste. “There’s an opportunity for new and innovative ways for training at home station and simulation is part of the answer.” GameTech speaker presentations can be viewed on YouTube.