This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo (or PRGE for short). The expo is a long weekend of video gaming, free play arcade, and all things retro. There are panels with Atari programmers and bloggers, along side the world championship of Tetris, next to original artwork.
Friday opened with the arcade. About fifty arcade cabinets and pinball machines lined half of the convention center room. X-Men, Ninja Turtles, Donkey Kong, Rampart, Star Wars Arcade, Rally X, Frogger, Yars’ Revenge, Mr. Do, and other old games were set on free play, meaning that you could play as long as you wanted. In my case, it meant that I got to see the ending to games I never had enough quarters for as a kid. There were different consoles setup, and a large group playing Battlefront. We played for a few hours before heading back to the hotel. Our passes gave us early access on Saturday, so we had an early morning ahead of us.
At 9:00am the next morning, we were in line with hundreds of others waiting for the doors to open. A man dressed as Mario rode a unicycle and played the Super Mario theme on bagpipes. It was amazing.
Inside the vendor hall, there were dozens of booths selling video games for every console, original and used consoles, parts, 80s and 90s toys, and new pixel and wood artwork. We walked through them, trying to find treasures. After digging through bins and gazing into glass cases, we found what we were looking for: Japanese horror games in English, specifically Siren and Fatal Frame II. The booths had several imports, new carts with translated games, ones that were never released in the States. They are expensive, and we just admire them from afar.
Saturday night was the auction. Undumped/unreleased games, memorabilia from game studios, developer consoles, marketing signs and store display units were up for bidding. There’s a full list online, but some highlights included a Turok 2 Demo disk that contains content not found in the end game, an engraved telescope from one of the Tales games, unfolded Earthbound boxes, a Star Fox competition banner, and designs for a game manual.
On Sunday, we lapped the vendor hall again and stopped by the Gaming Museum after lunch. Rare games, store demo consoles, and every Atari box art were available for viewing. The big item was the infamous “Nintendo Playstation”. Back in the day, Nintendo and Sony were working together to build a console. Putting a disk drive on a Super Nintendo (or Famicon). Needless to say, this partnership did not last, and all prototypes were supposed to go back to the factory. Only one (that’s known) managed to escape. Grayson held it and took a picture with it. Also in the museum is the only known US Nintendo 64DD, which is a writeable disk drive that sat under the normal N64. Unfortunately, they couldn’t complete the final prototypes before the N64 faded from popularity.
Here is the official website: http://www.retrogamingexpo.com/