72 Scenes from the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, 2012

On September 30, I spent a geektastic day at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. I arrived early and got a look at many booths before they opened (later, they would be swarmed by thousands of attendees). For much of the day I was one of several referees for the Classic Tetris World Championship. The whole day was a joy -- a convention hall filled with classic games, from Atari to Zelda, with pinball in between. And, this being a Portland event, there were game-themed crafts everywhere. The expo organizers summarized the weekend like so:

• Over 3,000 attendees came through the doors over the weekend
• Over 160 arcade and pinball machines were on display for freeplay
• Over 70 retro video game consoles were set up to play
• There were over 70 vendors in attendance
• Our after-hours event was a blast with over 200 people dining and drinking until midnight right in the Mega-cade
• Our live auction was packed with over 400 attendees. At the auction we raised nearly $900 for Portland's Cat Adoption Team

I just want to emphasize that this event had a "Mega-cade" and it was, indeed, mega. I brought my camera and captured some scenes from the event -- some before the action began, some in the midst of it. Have a look, and click on any photo to enlarge:

Oregon Trail, 2012

This actually happened. In 2012. I have hope for future generations. (To the side of the mega-cade was a large area with various classic computers and game systems set up for free play.)

Atari 2600 - Combat

This also happened, in a little time-warp area in the back of the hall. In the closeup you can see that the game is Combat. Remind you of your childhood much?

Atari 2600 Living Room

Atari 2600 Combat

Scenes from the Mega-cade

The Mega-cade was frankly more mega than these photos convey. Rows of pinball machines, standup arcade games, co-op games, and lots of driving games -- all in freeplay mode! -- made for a geeky paradise. I kept returning to the updated X-Men co-op game, both because it was popular, but also because I had burned hours (and many dollars) on that game in years past.




Mega-cade - Pac-Mans!

I was particularly confused by this "Granny and the Gators" game. Click to enlarge, trust me. (The second photo is a detail of the play area.)

Mega-cade - Granny and the Gators

Mega-cade - Granny and the Gators detail




Here's the X-Men game. Note that in this modified version, instead of two CRT screens, it has one large (and quite nice) LCD.

Mega-cade - X-Men

The family that plays X-Men together...stays together.

Mega-cade - X-Men

And here's a Back to the Future pinball game on the fritz. When was the last time you got to see inside a BTTF pinball game?! (Click to see the guts, especially on the latter two shots.)

Mega-cade - BTTF

Mega-cade - BTTF

Mega-cade - BTTF

Mega-cade - pinball

Mega-cade - pinball

It's hard to see here, but this is a parent teaching a child to play the Empire Strikes Back game. This kid's gonna grow up right.

Mega-cade - Empire Strikes Back

Mega-cade - Empire Strikes Back

Games, Games, Games

There were thousands of game cartridges (and some floppy/CD games) on display, plus some other neat memorabilia. Here's a look at part of what you missed.

Movie Posters

NES Tetris: "From Russia With Fun."



Well, this is neat

I picked up some excellent Tetris fridge magnets from this vendor:

Game Art

Game Art

Color Basic

Hey, look -- modern Atari 2600 games!



In case of emergency:

Game Repair Manuals


Nintendo Power

NES Games

NES Controllers and Weapons













This booth was helping an autism charity. There were crowds around it later in the day (this was taken before the doors opened).



Retro Systems

Lots of retro game systems were set up on the show floor -- you could play most of them, and many were also for sale.

Guess what costs $200 these days:

Intellivision clone

The Power Glove: it's so bad. (And it's $249.99.)

Power Glove

Check out the price tag on this:

R.O.B. System

R.O.B. costs less on his own, out of the box:


Colorful PlayStations

PC System

My father had a system much like this one. Portable!

Note: We almost never do this, but 72 images—that's a lot of images. So we're splitting this into two pages.

PC System

Note the game pucks on top:

Apple Systems


Game System

Game System

Game Systems

This Vectrex has a steering wheel!


I was blown away to see a real live Computer Space console. If you don't know what that is, read your history.

Computer Space!

Computer Space controls

Computer Space!!!

Classic Tetris World Championship 2012

The Classic Tetris World Championship started three years ago; its birth is documented in the film Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters. This year, as I refereed, I caught a few poignant moments.

Players practice just before the 32-player bracket head-to-head matches began.

Tetris trials

Matt Buco (left) topped out in his crucial second game, leaving the game in his opponent's hands. (I featured Buco's Tetris max-out in January.) At this moment the crowd cried "Buco!" in disbelief. Ben Mullen (right, crouching), another Tetris master, watches in concern. At the far right, Tetris master Dana Wilcox looks on. In the following round, Buco, Mullen, and Wilcox were all eliminated. (I refereed the Mullen and Wilcox matches.)

Matt Buco and Ben Mullen

Ben Mullen watches as Buco's score is beaten, removing Buco from play. Let me be clear: Mullen was Buco's competition, but he was not happy to see this happen. Update, Sunday, Oct 7: Breaking news update -- Mullen maxed out NES Tetris one week after this photo was taken. Good job, Ben!

Ben Mullen

Trey Harrison was defeated much like Buco. In this shot, he has already unplugged his controller, knowing his top-out score will be beaten. Seconds later he was eliminated.

Trey Harrison

The final rounds of the tournament were a bit fancier. You may recognize the setup from Ecstasy of Order; this is the quad-panel Tetris screen as players competed. You can also see my phone live-streaming the action.

Tetris finals - screen

Here's a closeup of the first-place trophy (there was also a cash prize). This thing is a fingerprint magnet.

Tetris first prize

And here's Jonas Neubauer holding his trophy aloft as the fog machines kicked in.

Jonas Neubauer wins!

That's All

You really want to go to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo next year. I'll be there, and taking pictures. Come beat X-Men with me, okay?

A New Stranger Things Video Game Is in the Works

The world of Stranger Things is ready to get the proper video game treatment. TechRadar exclusively revealed that the hit sci-fi series from Netflix will be coming to consoles, courtesy of Telltale Games. Though details are scarce, this seems to be the beginning of a working relationship between the two companies as it was also announced that Telltale’s popular Minecraft: Story Mode game will soon be brought to Netflix as a “5-episode interactive narrative series,” according to the site.

Though Minecraft will be experienced through Netflix itself, the Stranger Things game will be a traditional console/computer release. If you’re unfamiliar with Telltale, its brand of games tends to favor a branching narrative experience that emphasizes player choice over button mashing. These point-and-click adventures usually don’t have a standard release schedule, either; instead, they’re split up into parts and distributed episodically for download. The games are usually released on consoles, including the Nintendo Switch, as well as PC, Android, and iOS.

While the highlight of Telltale’s work is widely considered to be its Walking Dead adaptations, they’ve also found success with other blockbuster franchises like Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy, and its latest effort, Batman: The Enemy Within. There’s no word on whether or not the Stranger Things cast will be involved in the game, or if it will follow the established Telltale formula. In a statement to TechRadar, a spokesperson for the developer said, “we're excited to reveal details on these projects later in the year.”

This might not be the end of Netflix’s foray into the video game world. While the company has no plans to enter the market itself, TechRadar did find a job listing at Netflix for a Manager of Interactive Licensing who will "use games as a marketing tactic to capture demand and delight our member community (ex: Stranger Things: The Game)." May your dreams of a Narcos economic simulator game be realized.

Mike Windle/Getty Images for Bethesda
10 Surprising Facts About Fallout
Mike Windle/Getty Images for Bethesda
Mike Windle/Getty Images for Bethesda

On the surface, the pervasive violence, nightmarish difficulty, and dark humor of the Fallout series should have relegated it to niche status. But it’s that exact combination (along with the ability to have your very own handheld nuke launcher) that’s helped it become one of the most acclaimed series in the gaming industry over the last 20 years.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where mutants, cannibals, and raiders descend upon you in waves, the Fallout franchise has come to define the modern role-playing game, from its first iteration at Interplay Entertainment to its modern installments at Bethesda Softworks. As gamers anticipate the next entry in the series, Fallout 76, take a look at 10 facts about this iconic series.


Before Interplay’s original Fallout came out, the studio already visited a war-torn nightmare of a world in 1988’s Wasteland. In this RPG on the PC, players took on the role of the Desert Rangers, a team tasked with roaming what’s left of the Southwest United States while battling any warring factions they came across.

When Interplay couldn’t pry the rights to Wasteland away from distributor Electronic Arts for a sequel, director Timothy Cain and his team crafted a brand-new IP that focused on mainly the same nuclear-scorched principles. Though a number of titles were batted around—including Vault 13—the team eventually settled on Fallout, which was a name suggested by Interplay head Brian Fargo.


Fallout is defined by its setting—the war-torn streets, smoldering husks of civilization, and retro-futuristic vibe all helped make this franchise stand out from its competition. But this world wasn’t Cain’s first idea. According to a feature article on Polygon, Cain originally toyed with the type of traditional fantasy RPG that had defined the genre during the 1990s. The next idea was to let you play as time-traveling dinosaurs, which is obviously never a wrong choice. Eventually, though, the team settled on the post-apocalyptic theme that has stayed with the franchise ever since.


Though the team finally nailed down the world, it didn’t mean Fallout was a sure thing. At one point during production, Interplay got the rights to release games based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, and the company wanted to scrap Fallout and move the team onto the more traditional RPG title.

In an interview with Polygon, Cain said he actually had to beg the higher-ups to allow him to continue with his game. The same thing would happen again when Interplay wanted Cain to reconfigure the game into a multi-player RPG to piggyback off the success of Diablo. Again, Cain’s vision prevailed.


After the success of Fallout 2 in 1998, Black Isle Studios—working under Interplay—began prepping a third installment, codenamed Van Buren. Like the first two installments, this one would be an isometric RPG in the Wasteland where the player takes control of an escaped prisoner who winds up attempting to stop (or help) a rogue scientist’s plan to “purify” society via an attack from an orbital nuclear missile system.

The project was canceled, and soon Black Isle Studios would be axed and the Fallout property would land at Bethesda. However, a tech demo of the original Fallout 3 did land online a few years back.


The Wasteland is littered with more than just burned-out buildings and scattered remnants of humanity; it’s also home to Easter eggs and homages to nearly every major sci-fi property in existence.

In the original game, for instance, players can stumble upon a familiar blue callbox that disappears into thin air—a callback to the TARDIS from Doctor Who. There’s also the sight of a post-apocalyptic wanderer traveling the wasteland with his dog from Fallout 3 that is an unmistakable homage to the Mad Max series. And if you stumble upon a refrigerator in the desert in Fallout: New Vegas, look inside—you might find the skeletal remains of Indiana Jones as a nod to the infamous nuke scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

And that’s just the beginning. If you take your time to really explore the world of these games, you’ll find shout-outs to Planet of the Apes, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Jaws, Star Wars, and countless others.


When Bethesda took control of the series for 2008’s Fallout 3, the studio retained its high level of violence, profanity, and all-around sacrilege. So it was only inevitable when governments started to take notice.

In Australia, the game was faced with a ban due to the fact that the player could use, and get addicted to, morphine. Instead of losing this sizable market, Bethesda changed the name of the drug to the fictional “Med-X” after the Aussie government took issue with a player getting addicted to (and possibly even glorifying) a real drug. This change wasn’t just reflected in Australia but in every region, turning Med-X into part of Wasteland lore.

The controversy continued in India, where the game simply wasn’t released at all because of issues stemming from “cultural sensitivities.”


In previous games in the series, the main characters never spoke; they were voiceless protagonists in a world of fully-voiced supporting characters and villains. But in Fallout 4, Bethesda took away that ambiguity in favor of fully voiced heroes. They hired both a male and female voice actor for the job, depending on which character the player chose to create, and for its first foray into the voiced realm, the studio made their leads pretty talkative.

According to the game’s director, Todd Howard, each actor had about 13,000 lines of dialogue, which were recorded over the span of two years. That number goes up exponentially when you look at the game as a whole: One estimate put the total lines of dialogue for every character in the game combined at somewhere near 170,000.


Though the main characters are usually mute, the world of Fallout is populated by a roster of celebrities who have lent their voices to everything from super mutants to wannabe crime bosses. Most recognizable among them is Ron Perlman, who narrated the intros to Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Fallout Tactics, and Fallout: New Vegas. He’s become a fan favorite part of the story over the years with the opening lines, “War. War never changes.”

There’s also Liam Neeson as the main character’s father in 3, which also featured Malcolm McDowell as the president. And then there’s New Vegas, with Matthew Perry (an ardent franchise fan) as Benny and Wayne Newton as a radio DJ. Throughout all the games, you’ll also hear from the likes of Danny Trejo, Brad Garrett, Dave Foley, and Lynda Carter, who also wrote and provides the vocals for original songs in Fallout 4.


The franchise was more of a critical success than a commercial one during the Interplay years, but once it made its way to Bethesda, it managed to hit sales marks that were previously unseen for the series. Fallout 3’s launch week saw 4.7 million units shipped, for a total of $300 million worldwide. Fallout: New Vegas saw similar success, bringing in over $300 million in its first month.

Well, Fallout 4 basically doubled those numbers within its first 24 hours on the market. The $750 million that the game made on its November 10, 2015 debut was a record at the time for the biggest entertainment launch of the year and one of the biggest single-day video game feats of all time.


Bethesda has always been a haven for modders, those tech-savvy super fans that dive into a game’s source code to create something wholly original within the original title. A lot of these mods fix graphical issues and other bugs, while others add new characters or a dose of absurdity to the game, like the mods that turned all deathclaw enemies into Thomas the Tank Engine or Macho Man Randy Savage.

Some of these mods go well above and beyond, turning into full games in their own right, set in the Fallout universe and created by fans. There’s Fallout: Cascadia, which is a mod project that puts the series in Seattle; Fallout 4: New Vegas, which recreated New Vegas with 4’s upgraded engine; and Fallout: New California, an ambitious New Vegas mod that features all-new characters and stories.


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