Monday, April 23, 2018

Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention 2018

This past weekend was the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention, a gathering of fans of all video games, new and old, to share their love of gaming. There’s vendors, tournaments, panels, and even music! This year’s convention was their biggest one yet!

DISCLAIMER: I was provided complimentary admission to the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention. Opinions are my own.

I want to take a moment to talk about what this convention, and retro-gaming in general, means to me. I was in a car accident a few years ago that kinda had me YOLOing for a few weeks. During that time I tried taking it easy and playing video games, but I really, really hate the selection on most modern consoles. For ages I’d been longing to be able to play the games from my childhood, the games I grew up with that made me love gaming in the first place. I went out and paid way too much for a PlayStation 2 and have since started rebuilding my collection with games I had as a kid, games I always wanted but never got, and games I never heard of but would’ve loved back then.

An old friend from high school saw me posting about these old games and added me to a Facebook group - Pittsburgh Retro Gaming. I knew retrogaming was a big thing in online communities, but I had no idea it was so big in Pittsburgh. Suddenly I found my collection growing faster than ever as I was trading games with people in this very town. Retrogaming isn’t just a geek subculture, it’s a geek community.

Over the years, the people behind Pittsburgh Retro Gaming have attempted to put on some retrogaming conventions. At first, they just had a room full of people selling games. But over the years I’ve watched their events grow into full-blown conventions. This year they hosted local indie game developers, discussion panels, gaming tournaments, and even live music. What’s even better: it ran over two days! Replay FX has also popped up during this time, fully-formed from the beginning and already on it’s way to becoming the next MAGfest. But just as I still play the occasional PS4 game when I’m not playing a retro classic my PS2, I like having small, more intimate cons to compliment the big festivals.

When I go to Pittsburgh Retro Gaming events I always see people I know - and people who know me. It’s always great to see familiar faces and have long, personal conversations with attendees and vendors alike. I’ve watched a million videos on retro games before, but nothing beats actually seeing so much of the culture in one room. Most places like The Exchange only sell loose NES carts, but at cons like these, you see all kinds of boxes with cool retro art. It’s really something you can only see at a place like this.

This year, I was super excited for the Mario Kart tournament - but the Mushroom gods were not in my favor this time. I failed the preliminary rounds miserably and didn’t make it into the real show. Maybe it’s because I’d never played on a Pro Controller? Or the seating and screen set up were weird? Maybe I’m just making up excuses for my lack of actual Mario Kart skills? I tried practicing the week leading up, but Mario Kart on any console doesn’t really do it for me. I love the spectacle of the arcade version with the announcer giving play by play. The guy hosting the tournament gave some commentary, so that was fun. Even though I lost early on I stuck around to watch some a few more races.

I’ve said I love the PS2 and have been building a collection of games. The problem is that I kinda already have every PS2 game I’m probably going to want. Everything else on my wish list is either really rare or really expensive. So this year I actually didn’t pick up any games. Instead of focused on merchandise. I love having little doodads on my shelves and decorating my desk, but I somehow don’t have many gaming related things, so that's what I wanted to try and change at this particular event.

This year I picked up a little Mario Kart figure. I’ve seen these in blind bags and always wanted one. I also got a sorta subscription box type thing based on The Legend of Zelda. It apparently retails for $40 but I got it for half of that. It includes a glass tumbler, a treasure chest coin bank, a collectible coin, a Tri-Force plush, a vinyl decal, and a journal. Apparently, all of this stuff can be obtained separately from places like ThinkGeek, but this one included an exclusive mystery item. The vendor told me he knew it was a pouch of rupees but hadn’t seen it. Turns out it’s a vinyl figure. Lame. I hoped for an actual bag filled with little gems. But the glass is really nice and the journal’s pages are removable so it’s reusable. The treasure chest coin back is actually made of real wood and is super nice. Those items alone were worth the price of the whole box.

I had to leave a bit early on Saturday, so I missed the live music, and I wasn’t able to return on Sunday. I didn’t get a chance to talk to all of the local indie developers either, which is a real shame. That being said: I had a blast! I love smaller, more personal and intimate cons as much as I do bigger ones. And I love having a variety of different vendors - everyone was selling something different. The Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention is a great place to meet friends, hang out, and absorb one of the coolest subcultures around.