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Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2013 Review

Star Wars and Demolition Man Pinball Machines

In the modern gaming world, it’s all about big named developers, yearly sports game updates, fast paced first person shooters, and hotly anticipated sequels (“Grand Theft Auto 5” is a prime example). Back in the old days of gaming, however, it was more about accessible but challenging games, unique characters and ideas that you’d only find in video games and creative game mechanics. It’s no wonder then that many gamers still find themselves returning to the games they grew up with. Thankfully, this niche group of retro gamers has a place (or mecha if you will) to attend in Portland. That place? The yearly Portland Retro Gaming Expo.

As one would expect, the Portland Retro Gaming Expo was loaded with a variety of exhibitors made up of local businesses (such as Game Star, Video Game Wizards, and Billy Galaxy), online businesses (Amery Studios, Charlie Donkin, GeekStar Costuming), and a few out of state shops (Game Gavel, Classics and Oddities, and AtariAge). While there were art prints, clothing, a few DVDs, and an assortment of video game action figures for sale, the majority of exhibitors had piles upon piles of video games (new and used) from every console imaginable. While some gamers were on a mission to find affordably priced “Mega Man” games or a used “Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal” complete with an instruction booklet, others (like myself) were merely browsing for bargains or obscure titles.

Friday The 13th NES

Aside from shopping, the real attraction for most attendees was the massive amount of consoles (Atari 2600, Sega Genesis, NES, etc.), classic arcade games (Asteroids, Bubbles, Frogger to name a few), and pinball machines (everything from “Demolition Man” to “The Wizard Of Oz”) to play free of charge. Now, going into the convention, I was slightly concerned about waiting in long lines to play games. After all, there’s nothing more uninviting than playing a game while knowing there’s a line of 10 gamers behind you. Thankfully, there was rarely a wait to be had. The only wait I ever had was under 10 minutes for the modern “Star Trek” pinball machine.

As far as the freeplay went, it was downright heavenly. Not only was I able to play superb pinball games (“Star Wars” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” were among the highlights) and past classics (like “Donkey Kong 3” and “Pac-Man”), but I also got to discover several surprisingly engrossing oldies that I had never tried before in the past such as “Robotron 2084,” “Black Widow,”  and “Nibbler.”

The most geektastic thing about the convention (in my humble opinion) was the wealth of “Tron” games. Of course, I expected to see the classic “Tron” arcade game, but I was happy (overwhelmingly so) to see “Space Paranoids,” “Video Pinball 2.0,” and the recent “Tron: Legacy” pinball machine. While not exactly retro, the “Tron: Legacy” was a clear hit at the con due to the fantastic sound quality (hear Michael Sheen’s line deliveries for reference) and the incredible level of detail inside the machine. If you pay close attention, you can see a tiny “Tron” arcade machine with a video screen inside the game. It’s truly something to behold. As far as the other 3 games go, I honestly could have spent the entire day on these 3 ultra-addicting machines.

Tron Legacy Pinball     Space Paranoids     Video Pinabll 2.0

Naturally, there was much more to the PRGE than dealer tables and gaming consoles/machines. Over by the main stage, gamers could give their hands a break and enjoy the music stylings of indie music artists (such as the L.A. based duo 8 Bit Weapon) as well as some skilled DJs such as DJ Mr. Smith. If you grew tired of standing up and walking around for hours on end, you could chill in one of two homey old school living room set-ups or attend one of the many panels such as a live auction (it’s always fun to see how much people will spend on something), a Sunday only costume contest, a screening of the documentary “The Space Invaders: In Search Of Lost Time,” a look at the gimmicky and intriguing “The NES Club” documentary, a trivia contest, and a showcase of everyone’s favorite local arcade- Ground Kontrol.  Last, but not least, folks could watch tournaments going on for games such as Super Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers.

While there’s always room for growth and more attendees, I’d chalk up 2013’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo as a bonafide success. The convention ran smoothly, there was a mellow and fun atmosphere to the whole shebang, and, most of all, it was a wonderfully memorable and nostalgic event to play (or purchase) an abundance of great, great video games.

Pictures provided by Kathryn Perkins (http://www.etsy.com/au/shop/frenziedsilence).

October 6, 2013 - Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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