South by Southwest 2019


Back in March, six members of the Thrust family had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas for the South by Southwest Conference. From education to virtual reality to comedy, we made sure to take advantage of the broad spectrum of SXSW offerings, and brought all of our experiences back to share with you!


Members from our Management, Development, and Design teams were all able to attend: Jesse, Anna, Kyle, Tony, Khoa, and Adrian. With our broad range of backgrounds, skills, and interests, we each had unique things to take away from our SXSW experience.

“SXSW 2019 was amazing and inspiring – not only was it great to see experts pushing their fields but I’ve felt galvanized upon returning to tackle my work with more gusto.” – Khoa

Here are a couple takeaways we had from the conference, and tips we have for attending next year’s!

1. Take advantage of the SXSW EDU conference. With a focus on fostering innovation to impact the future of teaching and learning, there were so many amazing speakers and sessions. We definitely hope to have a bigger presence at the SXSW EDU festivities next year to share our game science philosophy and how we believe it can increase engagement and impact education.

2. Sign up early and get accommodations close to the center of the action. You won’t want to miss out on all of the fun events that happen early in the morning or late at night.

3. At the same time, take the opportunity to get out of the main SXSW area and explore Austin. While we stayed close to the conference center, we checked out amazing places like Ironworks BBQVoodoo DoughnutsVia 313Wu Chow (the Thrust favorite), and of course the Alamo Draft House Theaters, which happened to also be SXSW venues for film screenings.

4. Do your research on the different SXSW pass offerings (Interactive, Film, Music) to find the one that will give you access to the sessions and workshops you want to go to. And if you truly want to go to everything, get the Platinum pass to make sure you don’t miss out!

5. Check out the exhibitions! This includes various expos as well as the SXSW Trade Show. So many cool companies are there showing off the awesome things they’ve been working on, and it’s something you won’t want to miss. Here, we were able to talk to the Unity team, which we use in-house to develop games at Thrust!

Here are some of the SXSW sessions we went to that really captured our attention:

Making the Holodeck: Interaction in Room-Scale VR (Tony, Adrian)

We loved hearing Owlchemy – a company that’s made some of the best-selling games in the VR space – explain their process for developing VR experiences. We made sure to take note of all of the tips they had for developing in the VR space.

Cancer is Scary: How Animation and AR Can Help (Anna, Khoa)

It was really inspiring to see how the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s Imaginary Friends Society is helping kids diagnosed with cancer understand their disease and all of the scary things that accompany it.

VR/AR Healthcare Meet Up (Adrian)

We got to talk with a bunch of other companies who are doing great things in the healthtech space. Everyone we met also had great things to say about our game, Hemonauts, which we are developing with the goal to improve disease literacy in kids with chronic diseases, and it was wonderful to be able to share what we have been working on!

Fact or Fake: Using Games to Teach Ethics (Tony)

A SXSW EDU session, this one stood out because the concept they discussed was very similar to what we are trying to accomplish with Hemonauts. We are excited to apply some of their takeaway lessons.

Defining Awe: The Science of Cirque du Soleil (Khoa, Anna)

The Chief Creative Officer of Cirque du Soleil and a neuroscientist from the Lab of Misfits described what goes into creating and feeling awe. They defined awe as the feeling of being small in the presence of something grand while still having a sense of connection with others and everything around you.

Black Mirror and the Power of Speculative Design (Anna)

User Experience (UX) designers from Digitas, a “global marketing and technology agency that transforms businesses for the digital age”, defined speculative design and showed how it can be used to create the future that we all want to live in.

The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World (Khoa)

Here, Jamil Zaki described his experiment where he found that simply suggesting empathy as a positive trait can influence people to be more empathetic. In a world where we are becoming more distant from one another, teaching others how to be kind and empathetic is not only possible, but necessary in our advancing world.

You can’t experience SXSW without a few movies, comedy shows, and music performances to round out the trip!:

Daniel Isn’t Real (Kyle, Adrian, Tony, Anna)

The majority of us made it out to this movie screening our last evening of SXSW. It’s a horror movie involving a man’s childhood imaginary friend who comes back with a terrifying secret agenda. Spooky.

Upright Citizens Brigade’s ASSSSCAT (Adrian, Anna)

With Adrian being an improv guy himself, we made sure to check out the comedy scene at SXSW. We were able to see ASSSSCAT with Ilana Glazer from Broad City and we’re still laughing.

And with that, SXSW 2019 is a wrap. We’ll be back next year and will see you all at SXSW 2020 to catch more amazing sessions!

Shaunak Godkhindi