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?
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.
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.)
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.
The family that plays X-Men together...stays together.
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.)
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.
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.
NES Tetris: "From Russia With Fun."
I picked up some excellent Tetris fridge magnets from this vendor:
Hey, look -- modern Atari 2600 games!
In case of emergency:
This booth was helping an autism charity. There were crowds around it later in the day (this was taken before the doors opened).
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:
The Power Glove: it's so bad. (And it's $249.99.)
Check out the price tag on this:
R.O.B. costs less on his own, out of the box:
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.
Note the game pucks on top:
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
Here's a closeup of the first-place trophy (there was also a cash prize). This thing is a fingerprint magnet.
And here's Jonas Neubauer holding his trophy aloft as the fog machines kicked in.
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?