The first year I went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC), there was one session for casual games and it was in a closet across the street from the main convention center. This year, GDC devoted a whole day for the Casual Games Summit. Indeed, casual games are coming of age.

Rather than bore you with my notes of the day’s proceedings I will share with you the 3 Coolest Things I saw at GDC, coming to a PC near you:

1) Wild Coins: Wild Tangent announced that it is launching Wild Coins, a virtual currency that you can purchase, earn, and collect to redeem to play online sessions of casual games. It’s kind of like paying tokens to play games in an arcade. What makes this extremely cool is that Wild Tangent plans to work with advertisers to sponsor Wild Coins, so that an advertiser can give away Wild Coins for you to play online for free. For more information, click here.

2) Bang! Howdy: Three Rings, the creators of the popular multiplayer casual game, Puzzle Pirates, shed more light on its upcoming multiplayer tactical strategy game, Bang! Howdy. Users will be able to download the game for free, create their own Wild West avatar, and purchase train tickets to new towns using the games’ micro-currency system (see a trend here?) They are about to release the game in beta, so go to the website to find out more!

3) MSN Poker: Joshua Howard at MSN showed me their new Degree Hold’em Poker game and gave me a sneak peak at future features. I can not tell you all the details but I can say this is one of the most realistic online poker games I have played on the Internet without the gambling component (not that I would gamble online, of course). Check it out!

Final note: Dan Bernstein of Sandlot Games and yours truly emceed the first and probably last Casual Games Summit Awards. Chuzzle won the People’s Choice Award and Huntsville: Mystery Case Files won the Faculty Choice. Congrats to both!