gdco11.jpgWith October's GDC Online show in Austin fast approaching, event organizers have announced two new programs granting free Expo Passes to games/tech industry locals and qualifying students.

This offer comes as part of GDC Online's new outreach programs to the local Austin and Texas community, whether it be to larger tech companies in Austin and elsewhere, or local students interested in getting into the video game industry.

These programs are open to students and working professionals, respectively, and interested parties can apply online via the Student Outreach and Games & Tech pages on the official GDC website.

For those interested in applying for a free GDC Online Expo Pass, here are some of the notable events you will be able check out at the show:

- Perhaps most significantly, Expo Pass holders gain access to GDC Online's Expo Floor, which will host a number of the most influential companies from all realms of the industry. The Expo Floor is a great place to make new connections and learn more about the latest tools and techniques used in game development. For a full list of Expo Floor exhibitors, check out the official GDC Online website.

- Expo Pass holders can also visit the Expo Networking Lounge -- located on the show floor itself -- or attend the GDC Online Opening Party and the GDC Online Happy Hour, all of which are great opportunities to rub elbows with indies, social game devs, and traditional game developers.

- Elsewhere, Expo pass holders can celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of the games industry at the second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards, which will be held on the evening of October 12 alongside GDC Online, and can also attend Neal Stephenson's REAMDE book signing following his Narrative Summit keynote Q&A.

- In addition, all Expo Pass holders will gain access to three complementary GDC Online sessions, which include a look at the top trends in mobile and social gaming, a panel on the future of cloud gaming, and social dev Mind Candy on user engagement with online games.

Accepted applicants in both the Student Outreach Program and the Games & Tech Program will also receive a special coupon to pick up a free 32oz BPA water bottle on-site, and will be entered for a chance to pick up a GDC Online-branded messenger bag or iPad sleeve.

To qualify for the Student Outreach program, you must be currently enrolled in a verified video game educational program or related program at an accredited educational institution and have not yet registered for a GDC Online 2011 pass. The Games & Tech program follows similar guidelines, but you must instead be a professional employed in the video game industry, technology or related field.

In addition, full conference passes are still available for GDC Online, which will take place Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas. The show continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated solely to discussing the development and business trends surrounding connected games -- including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and social networking games.

For more information on GDC Online as the event takes shape, please visit the official GDC Online website, or subscribe to updates from the new GDC Online-specific news page via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS. GDC Online is owned and operated by UBM TechWeb.