It’s strange how generations of entertainment have passed us by. In the past two centuries, we’ve gone from novels to radio plays to comics to movies to television to video games without newer forms destroying older forms. Instead, there’s this strange co-operative where these different creative forms feed off one another, both in terms of modern output and an appreciation of history. There are festivals to celebrate old books, theaters that specialize in old movies, and comic conventions are ever-more common as they bleed into every other form of media.
Video games, though, are something else again: tied to specific middle-men consoles that allow people to enjoy the entertainment that they’ve bought, those old games are often lost as the consoles that used to play them are abandoned: Q-Bert and Burger Time don’t exist on Playstation 4. There are exclusives that appeared on one console and never anywhere else, versions of games that differed depending upon the console they were on. Anyone that wants to experience this in older generations, though, can be hard pressed to find what they’re looking for unless they know the right places.
The Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo is the best of those places in Vancouver.
Attracting collectors and collections from all over the west coast, the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo takes over the Anvil Center in New Westminister once a year, bringing you the very best of what was and celebrating the generations of an entertainment art form that is eclipsing all others in popularity. It’s well known and popular enough to draw crowds of people ranging from the oldest of the old school to recent converts looking for a sense of history to shack-dwelling hillbillies that live in hillbilly shacks somewhere.
Braving the heat and the sun over this past Vancouver weekend, they filled the whole of the Anvil Center, New Westminister’s shining jewel and prime effort in drawing outliers to come and hold their events. A stunning and elegant building with story-size windows that allow all the light one could possibly want, the Anvil Center was swarmed with gamers of all kinds and all ages looking for relics of eras gone by.
The main floor was more than ready to deliver. Space dedicated to places like Game Deals and Toy Traders, the main floor held a collection of old consoles and games ranging from the dawn of the medium through to the modern era. Imports from around the world, old bootlegs and never released roms, toys and strategy guides, controllers and accessories… whether you wanted something from the classic Nintendo Entertainment System or one of the old Dreamcast video-screen memory cards, this was the place you wanted to be. Amiibos, charms, shirts – anything and everything celebrating the history and evolution of gaming was here for you to find and adopt.
For those looking for more information, a host of panels covering everything from collecting old games to working with old hardware was available, people coming to share the secrets they’ve learned and pass on that knowledge. There’s something about listening to people that are passionate about the things they know, or passionate about the things they do – an infectious energy that permeated that top floor, conference rooms sharing space with artist’s alley and some of the most gifted artisans and masons working within game-based designs. From throw pillows to custom made posters, there is and always will be something for everyone.
Those looking to test their skill would also find a home here: the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo featured a host of prize-based tournaments that covered the breadth of old school competitive gaming, everything from Street Fighter II to Tetris. Those less inclined to competition were still encouraged to play on various arcade machines and console systems, most of which were conveniently set up on the second floor in a theater where live game-inspired music was being performed live by bands like MissingNo, the Runaway Four, Bryface, 20Six Hundred, and Opus Arise… and if music isn’t your thing, the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo also features video game improv games by way of Minus World, here on behalf of the award-winning Fictionals improv troupe.
And for those looking for something even rarer, something most people have never heard before – this year the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo featured a working prototype for the Nintendo Playstation, along with several playable games that people could try. Yes, you read that right: Nintendo was once partnered with Sony to compete with the Sega CD, but when that console failed and doomed Sega, Nintendo left the plans with Sony and they released it and changed the video game landscape forever.
The real question when it comes to the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo is why aren’t you there? If you love video games at all you owe it to yourself to come out and celebrate that love, to treat yourself to this event. And if you missed it this year, make sure you don’t the next – we’ll keep you posted on when the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo returns.
Until then, keep your calendars open.