PHILLY CLASSICS 2005
A.K.A. Video Game
By Mitch Gerson
For those of you who do not live on the East Coast you may not have heard of the annual Philly Classics.
I attended my first Philly Classics March of last year in Philadelphia and really had a great time. This was true retrogaming heaven for me. At the convention, I had the chance to meet up with some of the many vendors who’s websites I have visited throughout the year…and I was able to get some amazing deals on great retro gaming goodness.
This year, the Philly Classics group announced a major change in style and venue. To increase attendance and marketing this year, they teamed up with NBC TV to participate in NBC’s own annual “consumer home expo” at the Fort Washington, PA expo center and rescheduled the event from their usual March expo to over the weekend of November 12th and 13th.
In addition, another major change was that they have expanded it to more than one show that now appears in Dallas and Washington DC in addition to Pennsylvania.
I was concerned that this would dilute the focus on the classic gaming with “regular people” aimlessly wondering around being confused as to why there was literally a gaming arcade at the expo.
But did that happen?...read on to find out!
As per VideoGame Expo’s website—
VideoGame Expo (VGXPO) is one of the largest, and longest running, consumer
videogame events in the United States.
THE CLASSIC ARCADE
Ok, so what was one of the big draws for me personally? The retro arcade.
Utilizing Videotopia’s video game collection, they literally set up a full functioning arcade with all of classic games set on free play.
I had seen the arcade last year and was very much looking forward to having some fun again in the arcade. Below is a list of some of the games that were featured:
OK, so all of these classics set on free play — this is going to be great right? Well, in theory, yes. In practice not as much this year.
It was definitely fun to have all of these classics in one “arcade” area all turned on at one time. The problem I had with the exhibit is that most of the games were in poor repair.
How poor?....well during a spirited game of Tron (light cycle sequence) this author witnessed an individual that was playing the game literally lift up the entire control panel off of the cabinet because the latches were broken.
Unfortunately, I also found the controls in Missile Command, Star Wars, Donkey Kong (and many others) to be functional but not in good repair. It was sad to see the state of these machines, and it’s a shame they’re not being kept up to the standards you would think a “travel gaming museum” would keep these machines.
Interestingly (and good for us old timers) for the most part the kids at the show ignored these machines. They seemed much happier playing with the Xboxes and Gamecubes set up at various places throughout the convention.
I do hope that they’ll spend a little time replacing worn out parts and repairing cabs before these go out on the road again.
My thoughts: Absolutely the most professional looking retro gaming vendor booth there. They had a ton of great home brew titles with a dozen or so classic consoles set up to try them all out. They were definitely one of my favorites.
My thoughts: This was seriously one of the most pathetic booths I have ever seen at any type of expo. Last year at Philly Classics they had a full booth with T-Shirt give-aways, game standees touting the latest games, posters, discount coupons and merchandise etc. This year? They had 3 very bored looking people sitting at their booth with yellow discount coupons for trade-ins laying all over the table haphazardly. That was it. Nothing else…nada. Just 3 people sitting there. Really a big disappointment.
My thoughts: Decent booth with some good deals. They had hundreds of classic carts (NES, SNES, Genesis etc) all 3 for $15 or less as marked. I pick up a bunch of carts from them.
My thoughts: Not much merchandise to choose from…but what was there was in excellent shape (practically new!). I spend quite a bit on some classic NES Carts from his booth.
My thoughts: Very nice booth and good selection of classic games. I picked up a Messiah NES console and some other gaming items from them. They were very friendly and helpful as well.
If you don’t know who he is shame one you!....see his site for detail at: http://www.ralphbaer.com/)
My thoughts: Ralph is so cool. What a nice guy. He really is the true father of video games and it was a pleasure to meet him. He was kind enough to sign anything that folks gave him and I regretted that I didn’t think to obtain something that he invented to sign. I witnessed Tommy Tallarico having great time with Ralph getting what appeared to be his entire Odyssey computer collection autographed!
Tommy, by the way, had a booth near Ralph’s set up selling some of his Video Games Live merchandise. Tommy is a really good guy who seemed to really appreciate being there and was happily chatting and signing autographs for the fans. Kudos to Tommy.
My thoughts- They had a great set up. If you’re
not familiar with Red Octane you are probably familiar with their new
Hero” or their high-end Dance Dance Revolution dance pads.
I didn’t make note of the names of some of the vendors…but some of the booths looked like they were literally selling junk they found in someone’s basement. I’m not exaggerating….we’re talking dirt encrusted, broken junk.
I’m sure there may have been a gem or two if you were willing to sort through this stuff…but I’m really not kidding. I had to wash my hands a bunch of times after “digging” through some of the vendor’s boxes. Oh well.
Another scary trend this year, that differed from last year….was the outrageous prices some vendors were asking for items. One example was what appeared to be a really run down and depilated Vectrex with no games for $110!. I wouldn’t have paid more than maybe…MAYBE…$25.00 for this particular unit considering the condition.
I was unfortunately getting the impression that some possible price gouging was going on to hit on unsuspecting regular "non-gaming" people milling around wanting wandering into the convention from the NBC consumer expo portion of the show. This was something that I had feared from the beginning.
TOURNAMENTS & EVENTS
Below is a list of the on-going events and tournaments that were set up to provide a continuous stream of entertainment throughout the 2 day event.
I have noted any interesting items of note under some of the categories below—
VGXPO’s Lifetime Achievement Awards
Ralph Baer, the ‘father’ of videogames, was awarded the VGXPO’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.
A Parents Guide: Buying VideoGames for Your Kids ratings system.
VideoGame Education for Kids in 6th through 12th Grades:
VideoGame Education: College Degrees for Games
VideoGames in Asia
Hot Games for 2005 – Take a look at what’s coming out for the 2005 holiday season.
VideoGame and Comic Book Character Design Workshops - The VideoGame.Net Experience booth will hold four different workshops throughout the weekend.
The Future of Sci-Fi Comic Books, Cards, Action Figures & VideoGame Collecting
The Game Makers Round Table – Videogame industry veterans will be on hand to talk about game making and how its evolved over time.
VideoGame Fan Films
The Next Generation: XBOX 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution
Atari History – Get an insiders view on how Atari built a videogame empire.
VGXPO Trivia Center – Think you know your game trivia?
Autographs and Book Readings
Meet Bill Kunkel and Ralph Baer
Fan Choice Awards
My thoughts. Wow. There are some really bold characters out there. While not as interesting or wild as some Japanese CosPlay groups I’ve seen, this was kind of fun to watch.
LAN Party – Are you a PC LAN gamer? If so come out and show us what you’ve got.
Nintendogs Party – The Dogs are in the house at VGXPO. Bring your DS and your Nintendogs game because its party time.
Role Playing Open Tables
Nintendo DS and Sony PSP Meetups
VGXPO Tournaments – Are you a competitive gamer? VGXPO will be holding tournaments for Halo 2, DDR, Super Smash Brothers, and the VGXPO Retro Challenge.
My thoughts: I’m sorry to say that considering this was a Retro Gaming convention…the biggest draw seemed to be the set up of Xboxes, Gamecubes, PS2’s etc with a large crowd of 20 somethings. There was a line of about 3 deep anxiously waiting to play in these “tournaments”. Sigh…kids, they just don’t appreciate the classics.
NBC 10 Consumer Fest
My thoughts: This was the most under-developed “expo” I have ever seen. The booth layout appeared haphazard and there was no real overall theme to the event. They literally had everything from financial advice to refitting your bathroom with new tiles or refinishing your basement. Weird.
OVER ALL THOUGHTS/IMPRESSIONS
Ok. I have to admit: While I was definitely let down overall compared to last year’s exclusive Retro Philly Classics (i.e.- retro gaming only, no NBC affiliation) I did manage to have a good time, pick up some goodies, and meet some very nice people.
I personally, would love to see this go back to being an exclusive paid entrance event.
I think something was really lost by the NBC affiliation and the addition of the 2 other cities. My feeling is that there were very likely some vendors and guests that didn’t bother attending the Philly Expo because perhaps the Dallas or Washington DC was closer to them so they skipped this one.
The fun and impact of a smaller venue (this year’s expo was spread out and didn’t have the same impact of last year’s event which was in a smaller space) was lost a bit and so was the excitement of a gamer only event. There really just weren’t enough vendors/booths to fill the space they had.
Would I go back? Yes. Overall, again I did have a good time.
But the event definitely had an amateurish feel to it. Last year did too….but this year it felt more disorganized. I think it was the lack of quality vendors, the condition of the retro games and overall connection to NBC that tainted this event for me a bit this year.
I really hope that the good folks at VideoGame Expo reconsider the NBC affiliation and go solo for next year once again.
Bring back the “real” Philly Classics guys!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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