Geek Antique

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This year, I finally made it to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo and found myself wondering how it had taken so long. I'm exactly the person they're catering to. I have a 286 that I keep running so I can play old favorites on it, and an Amiga 500 that I bought from eBay to play some RPGs that I'd never finished. The one and only electronic marketing newsletter I look forward to and actually read is the almost-weekly one from Good Old Games, the people who are busy making classic PC games playable on modern computers, announcing their latest sale.

And so it was that I spent a few hours of a recent weekend wandering their dealers' room with a big silly grin on my face. Go there and you will find the entire history of gaming from early stalwarts such as the Atari 2600 and Colecovision all the way to the DS and XBox. I even saw one of the first mass- market computer I ever played games on, the TRS-80 model 2. (The overall first computer I ever gamed on takes some explanation, probably a whole article in and of itself.) And only $30... but I decided to get games for my current computers instead.

If you wanted a gander at some rarer or less transportable items, there was an arcade set up to one side with classic games to play and pinball machines to admire. (Well, the pinball machines were meant to be played, but most of them spent a lot of the weekend refusing to work.) And there was a display of one of nearly every home gaming system ever made, all available to play on as well.

The highlight of this display, for me, was the Nintendo Video Boy. This was Nintendo's first attempt at three-dimensional gaming, and it fared even worse than the 3DS is doing now, which makes you think they should have learned their lesson the first time. I hadn't even heard of it before. But it has a very important difference from the current console-- I've tried using a 3DS for a couple minutes and felt a headache coming on, whereas the Video Boy gave me no trouble at all, even evoking a little awe. Yes, it's all monochrome, wireframe graphics, but that just means it was like being able to step into TRON. When I win the lottery, I am definitely getting me one of those.

There were panels and presentations too. My favorite was the talk by one of the creators of the XBox on how he created an Atari 2600 version of Halo. The cosplay contest was an interesting attempt to really evaluate people on their full cosplay repertoire. Rather than just being a masquerade under another name, contestants had to perform several tasks including a brief in- character interview and a dance segment.

Also entertaining was "Pat the NES Punk", who is apparently famous for his video reviews, who shared his latest one, about an obscure, devilishly hard game called Mr. Gimmick. Then there was the trivia contest, where I joined up with three strangers to do not very well, and some raffles.

And if you wanted to just kick back for a little while, there was music on offer, mixing movie soundtracks and pop of the '70s and '80s. Actually, you could enjoy this at any time, even if you didn't want to, because everything mentioned so far took place in one big room with just a little bit of pipe and drape to separate the panel space from the rest of it. That's one of my two small complaints, though they did at least turn the volume down by Sunday.

The other is that most of it was focused on shoot-'em-up and platformer games. I can understand some of the reasons-- it's hard to have a tournament for playing an RPG in the course of a weekend, for instance. But I'd really like to have seen some programming about the kind of games I particularly like, the kind which are about stories rather than just hack 'n' slash. Which I guess means it's time for me to start putting together notes for a talk.

In the meantime, I managed to pick up something for nearly every gaming platform in the house:

So I'm pretty much set on the electronic entertainment front for a while. See you on the Game Grid!

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