I have been down in Orlando, Florida this past week attending something like my 9th or 10th I/ITSEC convention. Spelled out that is the InterService and Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference. See why we call it IITSEC? This is essentially everyone in the U.S. Dept. of Defense that works in those areas (training, simulation and education). It has been around for several decades, does draw a sizable international group (e.g. NATO, Partners for Peace countries), features an expo hall like no other (when is the last time you got to shoot some blank rounds from a full-scale HUMVEE's .50 cal machine gun while in the middle of a 360 degree screen showing terrain and enemies?
There are also a number of papers presented each year (there is an online repository where you can view abstracts of the papers for free (after you register - argghh!) and full papers are available for like $10 a pop - which I consider to just be ridiculous. I know and deeply respect the people who put on this show but that whole charging for papers has just got to go. I hate that across all conferences....the presenters put the papers together and usually paid at least their travel to get to the conference and now you get to turn around and sell their work? Think about the richness of your program is all your presenters told you to pound sand and that they would not be presenting nor attending. But that's OK because I'm sure you all (all conferences that do this) share some of these revenues with the authors right? Now I can't gripe about the audio recordings because usually there is some value-add in that chain - some company has recorded the sessions and made them available, maybe cleaned them up a bit even but selling the papers? C'mon.
Anyway, enough of that rant.
IITSEC really is a unique experience since all the audience is not just developers and vendors, all the decision-makers in this realm also attend the conference. People joke about getting more done here in a week than you can in a year just because everyone you need to get to is right here. I can't think of another conference that has that kind of audience...maybe E3 used to be like that - some sessions but people were really there for the Expo floor and the f2f networking.
We did have a Serious Games Challenge for the 2nd year in a row and interestingly (probably more so for people who don't work with the military) most of the finalists were what we refer to as "non-kinetic games" meaning they didn't focus on shooting or combat but on things like combat medical care, emergency response planning and my favorite, peace in the Middle East. If you haven't been yet, get over to this site and check out Peacemaker the game. The game costs a ridiculous $20 (kidding - it is worth significantly more than that) but there is also a free demo available. You can play the game as either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president. The developer was late getting to the conference because his company was in Tel Aviv and the West Bank giving out 100,000 copies of the game. So next time someone tells you that games can't do something......