I’m obsessed with gaming. I was born with a controller in my hand and have enjoyed playing games on every system that has been released since the Atari 2600. I’m a collector, as well, and am constantly trying to find rare games on eBay. No, not to buy – but to drool over. If I had the money (and the space) I’d definitely be buying, but just looking at vintage rarities that have been lost in the depths of video game history give me the same chills that Nathan Drake feels when finding some amazing treasure. This is why I absolutely love the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. It’s like a flea market but instead of having to trudge through the dreck in order to find something awesome, the awesome is right in front of you. Virtually every vendor at the PRGE have all of their rarities, obscurities and most expensive games front and center on their table. Back when I could actually afford to collect, I found some serious deals at the PRGE. However, the ability the PRGE has to satisfy my video game obsession is not the only reason I love it, as its attention to keeping classic gaming relevant is just as important.
The Portland Retro Gaming Expo is a thing that needs to exist. It’s important to preserve video gaming history, and the PRGE does it in such a way that appeals to gamers of all stripes. The PRGE is a great place to build up your library, revisit games from your childhood and discover old games that you somehow missed. Homebrew enthusiasts can discover a wealth of clever homemade games printed on working cartridges for systems like the Atari 2600 and the NES. For those that are interested in gaming history, not only can you sift through classic games and even play them, but developers from the early days of Activision and Atari make regular appearances for panels and Q&As. Of course, collectors will probably find the most joy in the PRGE as not only can they find rare, expensive games and consoles, but YouTubers like Roo, Pat the NES Punk and The Game Chasers are there providing tips for collecting and regaling attendees with their adventures in finding classic gems. Into arcade gaming? PRGE has you covered, there, too – in a big way. Every year they always have a free-play arcade area with some of the best arcade games ever made. This year, though, they have 20,000 square-feet of arcade awesomeness called the Mega-Cade. Ground Kontrol, RecycledGamer and Game Haven (among others) have provided the PRGE with a huge collection of arcade cabinets that are available to play for everyone attending.
Other than the Mega-Cade, the Portland Retro Gaming Expo has other tasty treats this year. It’s obvious that it’s becoming a huge deal, and not just because this year (for the first time ever) it’s in the Oregon Convention Center. The PRGE is becoming a huge draw for some big names in retro gaming, including David Crane (co-founder of Activision and Pitfall! creator), Garry Kitchen (30 plus year veteran developer and designer of the Donkey Kong port for the Atari 2600), Joe DeCuir (one of the lead engineers behind the Atari 2600), Tod R. Frye (developed Pac-Man and the Swordquest series for the Atari 2600), Bob Smith (wrote the classic Riddle of the Sphinx and designed Dragonfire for the Atari 2600) and former Microsoft executive Ed Fries who ported Halo (yes, that Halo) to the Atari 2600 in 2010. All of these great developers will be doing panels for the PRGE and are definitely worth listening to.
Another example of the Portland Retro Gaming Expo becoming kind of a big deal is the third annual Tetris World Championships. This tournament is becoming quite popular in the world of competitive gaming, and is sure to bring some excitement and drama to the PRGE. The best Tetris players are coming to Portland to duke it out to become champion of the greatest puzzle game ever made, and I couldn’t be more excited. There’s also a special screening of Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, a documentary about the founding of the Tetris World Championships and chronicles the passion and the skill of the world’s best Tetris players. There are other tournaments, as well, and more info can be found here and here.
Being able to record the 100th episode of the Dangerous Kids podcast at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo means a lot to me. I love pretty much all of the conventions in Portland, but the PRGE is the most near and dear to my heart. As a gamer, as a history geek and as a collector I just love what the PRGE brings to the table as far as conventions are concerned. This is more than a flea market or an expo, it’s an experience for everyone. It brings in friends, families and people from different walks of life to enjoy a great hobby: gaming. For all of the controversy that surrounds video games (violence, sexism, obesity, etc.), the PRGE takes all of that behind the barn and proves that not only are video games relevant, but that there can be a culture devoted to the joy of gaming without all of the baggage. Join me at the PRGE and you’ll see what I mean.