RetroWorld Expo Recap

This weekend was a nice closeout to my week away, as I attended the inaugural RetroWorldExpo. Over the years Retroware TV has slowly built up into one of the internet’s more recognizable gaming channels. Home to popular personalities like The Game Chasers, Pat The NES Punk, PushingUpRoses, LazyGameReviews, The Gaming Historian, Pixel Dan, among others.

A few of these big names were present, along with some smaller names in the vein of panels. There were around eight panels, I got into two of them. But other people I met around the convention had talked up the ones I wasn’t able to get into. Second Opinion Games was there early on, and while I didn’t get into their panel, I did meet them previously at ConnectiCon in July. They do a terrific podcast, and if you enjoy that format, definitely give them a listen. I also missed The Game Chasers panel, which I’ve been told was something I really should have seen. Which I’m certain was as entertaining as the show.  There was a panel for The Gaming Years, a panel for RF Generation, and a panel by Jeff Ryan. He is the writer behind Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America. Again, I missed these, but I’ve been informed that I missed a lot.

But I did get into Norman Caruso’s live Gaming Historian panel. Which was a very informative, and insightful experience. He started the panel by asking the crowd if they knew what mascot Sega originally intended to succeed Sonic The Hedgehog with. Very few knew this. He then opened into a history lesson about Ristar, Sega’s 1995 platformer involving a star. A lot of facts were embedded in the presentation. For instance, I never knew the character was originally intended to replace Sonic, nor was I aware his original design was a rabbit. After the live episode, Norman opened a Gaming Historian themed Jeopardy! event with three contestants from the audience. Many of the categories being lampoons of the popular game show’s. The funniest being Potent Portables. Many of the answers on the board were taken from Gaming Historian episodes too. So audience members who had watched a lot of his material knew a number of the questions to reply with. The winner of the game won a free poster. But that wasn’t all. The panel ended with a quick question, and answer segment, where fans got some insight into just how much work he puts into researching an episode (The Power Glove Episode was almost two months of research alone) before writing a script, filming, and editing one. If you haven’t yet seen any of his material you really should. You might be surprised just how interesting the behind the scenes work on classic games, or the business of the industry behind our hobby can be. His show certainly makes it palatable for just about anyone, even if history isn’t typically your thing.

I also got into “Pixel” Dan Eardley’s  panel, which was really fun. Before starting out he played an entertaining video that showed off what his material is all about. He did a similar presentation to what he did at MAGfest, going over the history of video game themed apparel, including Pac-Man nightgowns (Yes, those were a thing.). Obviously video game toys as well. Which started out, few, and far between but eventually becoming a bit more common as toy, and media companies slowly realized that people wanted their favorite game characters as toys, and collectibles. This lead into a discussion on amiibo toys, and how he could explain to gamers who had never collected toys before how their woes are nothing new. Toy companies have short packed (shipped less of) certain characters for years. There have been aftermarket resellers for years. There have been defects, and oddities like two left arms, or missing pieces in toy lines for years. He also spent some time talking about how toy companies were less risk averse decades ago, taking wild chances leading us to some of our favorite properties like Masters Of The Universe, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, TMNT, as well as the lesser known lines like Centurions, Sectaurs, Visionaries, Inhumanoids, and even Food Fighters. Sadly, some of these wouldn’t be attempted today as toy manufacturers compete with not only each other, but other media as well. Near the end of the panel Pixel Dan also talked a bit about the blind bag toy opening videos he also has his wife appear in before having an impromptu blind bag toy opening. This was a lot of fun. After opening the toys, he let participants keep them! So thanks to PixelDan I now have a Terraria figurine. It was a really fun panel. If you collect toys, or you buy them for your children, or nieces, and nephews watch his show. He covers all ranges of action figures, from those intended for everyone to those intended for the collector. He was also really swell after the panel for taking a few minutes to meet him in person. So if he reads this, thanks again.

Beyond the panels, there were still a number of things to do. There were a lot more vendors than I imagined a first year convention would have. It was also at the Oakdale in Wallingford CT. Which on paper would seem like an odd choice. The Oakdale is a venue known more for being a place to visit for concerts or stand up comedy. Back in my teenage years, it’s where most nationally known major bands would play if they weren’t playing in Hartford. If you were, or are a fan of alternative rock or pop bands like The Gin Blossoms, Collective Soul, Pearl Jam, or Toad The Wet Sprocket, and live in CT, then chances are you’ve been to the Oakdale. But this is the first convention I’m aware of that has been held there. That said, they certainly made the venue work out really well. Vendor booths were laid out in a fashion that allowed for foot traffic, only once or twice did it take me awhile to get through a crowd of people shopping the booths. If you missed me on Twitter you’d have seen I found a few fair bargains. For the most part vendors were fair. Most items were at or slightly above what you’d expect to see in a store. I saw one or two items with insanely high prices, but that certainly wasn’t the norm. To be fair, you can’t expect much better at a convention, as things get inflated to cover the cost of having a presence. When you have that fact in mind, Most of the vendors were actually really fair.

As for the stuff I did pick up, I found two complete Masters Of The Universe toys over at Retro Games Plus’ booth. They had a fair number of figures there among the myriad of video games. I was surprised to see most of them were complete. It isn’t common to find loose ones with all of the accessories these days. So I took Hordak, and Stinkor home.  I also managed a trade with someone at another booth, so I finally have a Jigglypuff in the amiibo collection. Justm3h studios was there making gaming themed buttons, while a small outfit called Two Nerds made some gaming themed glassware.  So I picked up a button, and a really nice Samus Aran themed beer Stein. There was also a booth from a place called Down by the river that had some Commodore stuff. Which was great because it seems so underrepresented these days. I picked up a MIB copy of Energy Warrior for the Commodore 64. While they didn’t have anything I needed, I was surprised by how affordable the 1UP booth was. A lot of close out prices on good titles like American McGee’s Alice. An area store called Level 01 had a couple of new copies of vintage games. I couldn’t afford them, but seeing an unopened mint copy of Super Mario 64 is always impressive.

It was also nice to mingle with some of the other fans on the show floor. I bumped into a few Let’s Play video producers, my old friends over at Best Spuds, and a couple of newer folks who have a channel called Power Plaid. Both of whom put their own spin on doing play through videos. Best Spuds tend to make their episodes feel like a radio morning show. They’ll play, crack jokes, talk about any number of things while playing. Power Plaid actually has different kinds of content. They’ll do game videos centered around a play through. But they also work on animated shorts, and chip tunes. Both of these channels are in an upstart stage, but if you enjoy watching let’s play content, give them a look.

There was also a room devoted to arcade cabinets, and retro gaming. It was the place to be, especially if you grew up in the 1980’s like I did. Donkey Kong Jr., Ms. Pac-Man, Mario Bros., After Burner, Out Run, were all there in their glory.  There were also a lot of games that came out in my teenage years there. Notably a Street Fighter Championship arcade cabinet, a Mortal Kombat II, and Mortal Kombat III cabinet, A Virtua Fighter II machine, and they even had an obscure Time Killers knock off in Blood Storm. Although one could argue it’s a sequel in a sense since the same company made it.  Much in the same way War Gods, and Mortal Kombat were both made by Midway. But even seeing Blood Storm was cool because it was the last game made by Incredible Technologies under their Strata moniker. That, and it feels like everything in 90’s Image comics thrown into a blender. It very much feels like a product of its time.

But equally impressive to the arcade collection, was the number of retro systems on display. There were the usual suspects like the NES, Super NES, Genesis, Dreamcast, and Master System. But they also had a 3DO, Atari 5200, an Intellivision, a Colecovision, and an NEC PC Engine. So it was fun to be able to play Castlevania Rondo Of Blood, Mr. Do!, Tapper, Astrosmash, and Zaxxon again. It was also heartwarming to see how many children wanted their parents to show them these classic Atari era classics, and their interest in what came before. If you were more into the board game side of things, they also had a wing devoted to table top games which also included role-playing card games too. There were also tournaments to take part in, a cosplay contest, as well as a rare game auction attendees could take part in.

There was also a concert at the end of the show, Epic Game Music, On Being Human, and The World Is Square closed things out for a few hours. I wasn’t able to stay for the concert, but friends who did, really talked it up a lot. Overall, I would say the first RetroWorld Expo was a surefire hit. It had everything you would expect from some of the larger conventions in spite of being a first event, and it had a huge turn out. There were thousands of people who showed up, and it’s highly likely you’ll see another outing next year. If, and when that comes about I highly recommend checking it out. I certainly look forward to another one next year after experiencing this one this year.

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