1. Back to the Future. Retro video games are on fire right now, and the proof is in the expansion of the Classic Gaming Expo, which has added a third day, extended its hours and booked more floor space in its 15th year. Scott Schreiber, who runs CGE through his Vegas Retro Expo company, expects about 3,000 people per day, which would double last year’s traffic.
“We have a customer retention rate like the mafia—once people come, we find they keep coming year after year because it’s that much fun,” he says.
2. Free play arcade. Only arcades can be so noisy and so hot and still manage to be the funnest place on Earth. CGE taps into that magic by featuring more than 100 vintage arcade games, pinball machines and home console games in the free-play area, and of course there will be competitions and prizes. Beat me in Daytona USA and I’ll buy you lunch.
3. Game swap. You can’t exactly walk into Toys ‘R’ Us these days and pick up a copy of Battlezone, Centipede or Dig Dug. So if you’ve been wanting to plug in your old Atari 2600 and fire up some of the classics, CGE will have vendors and collectors offering selections for all consoles. (PS: If you’ve got a Nintendo cartridge of Wizards & Warriors, I’m ready to buy.)
4. Gaming museum. For the historically minded, the Video Game History Museum will have a big presence at CGE, with displays featuring rare artifacts from the early days of gaming. Prototypes, limited editions and other antiquities will offer a glimpse back to the very beginning of the video game boom, back when Mega-Man was just a twinkle in his cannon-armed father’s eye.
5. Calling all Crofts. Cosplay is serious business, and the world of video games presents costume aficionados with an infinite number of awesome options: Princess Toadstool, Link, Samus, Dr. Wily, and so on. CGE will have cosplay contests on Saturday and Sunday, which I plan to win with my Blanka outfit (assuming the green body paint dries in time).
6. New releases. Yes, you read that correctly—new releases. The consoles of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s may be out of production, but independent video game companies are still producing games that can be played on Atari, Intellivision and the rest. Schreiber says about a dozen new games will be released at this year’s convention.
7. Entertainment. Once carpal tunnel starts to set in, you’ll still be able to have a good time at CGE, as the con will offer other types of entertainment that won’t wear your thumbs down to a nub. On the docket are panels with legendary game developers, movie screenings and even live bands playing 8-bit classics. Personally, I’m looking forward to the sneak preview screening of Atari: Game Over, an upcoming documentary about Atari’s attempt to cover up (literally) the worst video game ever made.
September 12-14, Riviera Hotel; Tickets: $15 per day for Nevada residents, $39 for 3-day pass, admission free for children under 12; cgexpo.com.