When I arrived at the Oregon Convention Center for this past weekend's Retro Gaming Expo I was greeted by friendly Expo volunteers clad in orange shirts emblazoned with the Retro logo and a new art design and headed over to the will call area to pick up my media badge. After being given a burlap "swag" bag filled with vendor advertisements and the Expo program I headed onto the show floor. To my left was Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade's new Supercade which was said to have over 200 arcade cabinets this year. However, this year's layout was different because rather then have the machines lined up evenly in nice rows they had things scattered almost via by gaming theme.
One corner had racing games, another corner had fighting games, and another had Donkey Kong Machines (including the famously hacked play as Pauline version of Donkey Kong) followed by Pacman around the corner and some Mario games. The pinball machines were back in full force including some souped up new tables with crisp bright LED bulbs to make the experience of playing pinball more thrilling. Among those special tables were Tron: Legacy, Batman: The Dark Knight, The Wizard of Oz, Medieval Madness, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and the new Star Trek.
Having the machines fanned out made the Supercade seem more like a scattered mini cade. Set in between the Supercade was a plethora of tables set up with retro consoles such as Sega Genesis, NES, Atari 2600, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Playstation, GameCube, and even the old classic Intellevison console with controllers that in a way resembled a long rectangular calculator. To my right as I entered the showroom floor was an awesome set up of some Xbox Live arcade classic arcade cabinets with games like Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers plus there were some couches for tired Expo adventurers to take a breather and relax in.
Vendors were scattered to and fro pawning their wares from old systems and games to retro t-shirts and pixel art. One vendor even had their booth marked as having a "garage sale" which was quite amusing. There were several tournaments being held such as the Tetris World Championships and Puzzle Fighter II turbo tournaments. K.i.t.t. from Knight Rider made an appearance which was a little underwhelming since his front LED lights weren't lit up and moving back and forth, he couldn't talk like on the t.v. show, and people weren't allowed to sit in the car to get the feel of what it was like to be behind the wheel of that bad boy black Trans Am.
The selection of various classic systems and games from various vendors was astounding and there was even a raffle being held for a mint condition copy of the classic SNES JRPG Earthbound which was being given away by vendor GameStar. Musicians 8-bit-weapon were brought in from Los Angeles, California rocking their chiptune beats commanding power over the amazing sounds of a Commodore 64 computer and inspired one Expo attendee to bust a move and dance the robot. Eight bit weapon did a fantastic job and both Seth and Michelle were very personable and fun to talk to.
Fun expert panel speakers returned such as Pat the NES Punk with his play the punk challenge. This time around, rather then jump straight into competing against random expo goers Pat broke out some hilarious videos from his Punk Effect show and even made a personal phone call to his neighbor and fan favorite sidekick Frank.
Only a few NES games were given away this year but the extra added entertainment from the videos he brought along made it worth more than anything else. I also attended a panel discussion with gaming pioneers David Crane, Garry Kitchen, and Bob Smith who all worked for Atari. They told funny stories about their days at Atari and even answered my question about their thoughts on Nintendo's state of affairs in this next gen console war. On the show floor I approached Chris Kohler who is a gaming blog editor for Wired magazine and he was very friendly and eager to answer my questions. Despite the fact that we took over fourteen minutes to talk I found myself enjoying the time panel speakers took to speak to fans and other event participants.
Portland Retro Gaming Expo's eighth year as a bustling, busy, thrilling, and sometimes relaxing event sadly came to an end yesterday 10/6/13 but had many positives and some negatives to it as well. On the positive side were the vast amount of old consoles and games to be bought, bartered for, and coveted and the friendly vendors made the game chasing experience a lot of fun. Another awesome positive for the expo was the choice in bringing 8-bit-weapon in because they helped energize the flow of everything going on in the convention showroom and magnified the retro experience 100 fold.
The Supercade was a negative because it seemed like with the new fanned out floor plan that there were less arcade machines to play on then in previous years which was a little disappointing. Another negative was the K.i.t.t. experience was a little ho hum because the famous red stroking back and forth lights weren't lit up and people weren't allowed to sit behind the driver's seat. The added tournaments such as Super Mario Kart were a nice bonus to spice the event up and the usual awesome returning panel speakers made this year's expo more memorable than last year.
In retrospect the eighth annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo was a real blast. There was plenty to go around for hungry game chasers at vendor booths, the excitement of watching Tetris champions battle it out was awesome, the new added musicians rocked the house, and the vast amount of free to play classic consoles from the Atari 2600 on down to the PlayStation was a retro fan boy's dream come true.