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Crowds pack PAX East in Boston

The annual PAX East videogame and gaming convention opened Friday at the Boston Convention and Expo Center with long lines that stretched down the streets and inside, venues packed with fans dressed in costumes of their favorite online characters.

Though most of the headline companies at the show are the big national names in the industry, the Boston event is also a major gathering spot for startups and independent game creators from the Boston area.

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“The game scene in Massachusetts is vibrant and healthy,” said Tim Loew, executive director of The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGi). “PAX draws a lot of attention to our development scene.”

Among the several score of local companies exhibiting at PAX East is HitPoint of the western Mass. town of Hatfield. The company started with simple games for clients such as Coca Cola, Axe, Yoplait, and White Castle, and in the last several years has doubled in size, to around 50 employees.

“We just kept getting bigger and bigger contracts,” said Robbie Sykes, a producer for the company.

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HitPoint’s biggest release to date was Adera, a hidden object game, done under contract for Microsoft. The title is exclusive to Windows 8 and was featured during the operating system’s October launch. The first episode of Adera is free with subsequent ones costing $3.99.

“We were number 3 in the paid apps section last week,” said Sykes.

PAX East also draws dreamers hoping to turn their passion into a commercial success. Richard and Michael Leonardo, brothers from Canton, have a small booth at the show to display the game they’re developing, Colliding Forces, which is designed to be played on an iPad.

“We grew up loving games,” said Richard Leonardo. “We wanted to create something different and we’ve heard some people describe Colliding Forces as a cross between air hockey and chess.”

The brothers are still working their day jobs while finishing up Colliding Forces. Leonardo estimates that it will cost them around $3,000 to exhibit at PAX East.

Another fledging is Asinine Games of Melrose, although founder Brian Dutton is a little farther down the road than the Leonardo brothers. Asinine has already released a popular app for Apple devices called Reaper Cam, which allows users to insert images of the Grim Reaper into photos. The company is also close to releasing a similar app for a leprechaun, as well as its first full game for mobile devices, El Chupacabra.

While Asinine does have some revenue coming in, Dutton has yet to pay himself. “The game comes out in Spring and I hope to take a paycheck after that,” Dutton said.

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