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Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2014 Review

PRGE Living Room

Since the Portland Retro Gaming Expo started back in 2009, the event has steadily grown over the years. While the official attendance numbers have not yet been released, it’s safe to say that the 2014 show was the most successful to date.

For those that are unfamiliar with the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (or PRGE for short), it’s essentially a cross between a swap meet and an arcade. Half of the space in the exhibit hall is dedicated to exhibitors and vendors while the other half is comprised of arcade machines, a console free play area, and even some tournament action space.

The exhibitor section is heavily comprised of local video game retailers and or dealers such as GameStar, CD/Game Exchange, and Video Game Wizards who were wheeling and dealing seas of NES, SNES, PC, Sega, Atari, N64 games, and yes, even non-retro modern games. However, there was much more than used and new games, consoles, and accessories available to purchase. There was something for everyone here as attendees could browse through hundreds of shirts, jewellery pieces, video game inspired pillows (courtesy of Atomic Plush), DVDs, toys, NES shaped flasks from Ink Whiskey, nifty pop culture inspired light boxes from BurntPixels, and varying artwork by the likes of Charlie Donkin and Pixel Art Paradise. Even “Doctor Who” fans were catered to with the cleverly named Merchant of Gallifrey vendor.

BurntPixels Merchant of Gallifrey

If a person came to PRGE strictly to game, there  was certainly no lack of options. Over in the exhibitor section, one could kick back in a living room display to partake in some Atari gaming or check out a “homebrewed” game for various systems. On the other end of the hall, attendees could pick up a controller and play virtually any console imaginable, engage in a NBA Jam tournament (among others), or even enter the 2014 Tetris World Championships (where a documentary was being filmed). Last, but not least, there is the crown jewel of the expo- the freeplay arcade. While there seemed to be less games this time around, all of the timeless classics like “Galaga,” “Asteroids,” “Tron,” and “Defender” were still there. The most exciting part, to me at least, was trying out a game that I had never played before such as “Frontline,” “Wizard of Wor,” and the “Batman Forever” pinball machine.

 

Galaga Pinball

Like any expo or convention, there were plenty of panels and speakers to check out in the auditorium rooms. Among the top draws were video game creator Warren Davis, “Console Wars” author Blake Harris, the annual live auction, cult musician Brentalfloss, the Let’s Play! gang, the always popular cosplay contest, and, of course, Kevin Finn’s “Angry Video Game Nerd Movie” panel (which drew quite a crowd).

Last, but not least, I couldn’t end this review without giving credit to the house DJ “Switch.” Whether he was playing rock hits like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” or putting on film and TV based tunes like the “Space Jam” theme and the “Mahna Mahna” “The Muppets” song, his playlist was nothing if not varied.

Overall Thoughts: While some expo goers may have found this year’s show a bit too crowded and cramped at times, that only goes to show how popular the 2014 edition of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo was. Hopefully, the 2015 show will have more square footage to make it more comforting and accessible for attendees. Also, I’m still holding out hope for some sort of future “The King of Kong” event. Who wouldn’t want to see Steve Wiebe try to break a new record?

* Pictures courtesy of Kathryn Perkins.

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October 19, 2014 - Posted by | News | , ,

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