Checking out the 2014 Portland Retro Gaming Expo, with bonus I Bought Stuff!

So this past weekend, I went to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. It’s my fourth time to the con, and I remember when it was wedged into a small conference area in the DoubleTree Hilton near Lloyd Center to it’s current home at the Oregon Convention Center.

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Last year I had recorded video footage from the event, but didn’t use any of it and didn’t write anything about it. This year, I promised myself I’d actually blog about it this time. Especially since the people that run the Expo actually linked to my entry from 2012, where I had gotten a bunch of stuff, talked to “Gamesmaster” Howard Phillips, and had David Crane sign a copy of Pitfall I found at the same expo. I have to thank the expo for even giving my podunk blog a few extra views every now and then. 🙂

This is more of a “what I saw” post. I didn’t spend much at the con itself, but I did find a bunch of really, really interesting gaming stuff. Join me as we look at some of the things these vendors had to offer.

See if you can spot all the references and crossovers at this booth.

One of the things I saw early on was a booth by Level Up Studios, one of those “gaming/nerd culture” sort of places that covers the gamut of common stuff. There were shirts based on current trends, including several based on Guardians of the Galaxy. I guess people really liked Rocket Raccoon and Groot.

Well, at least he’s going back to his roots…

But one thing really caught my eye: This shirt. It’s Sonic eating onion rings. Somebody must of have played a lot of that Sonic 2 XL Romhack that was popular around the web a few years ago. It also reminded me of one of those old Sonic communities I was a part of when I was a teenager.

Unfortunately I’m not big on wearing t-shirts that have designs on them. Even the many shirts I’ve gotten over the many years I went to PAX go mostly unused. So, sadly, I didn’t buy a shirt with fat Sonic on it.

Well, it certainly looks like something from the '70s, alright.

Well, it certainly looks like something from the ’70s, alright.

There was a lot of lesser-known consoles at various booths: Various CD-i and 3DO models, two different places were selling the less known Pioneer Laseractive, then there’s this thing.

In addition to selling video games, Atari released the “Video Music”, which was basically a giant equalizer for your stereo system that outputted graphics onto your TV as you were listening to music.

I honestly didn’t know this even existed until I stumbled upon this item mentioned on a friend’s site called Bunchojunk. It’s that weird piece of Atari history that usually gets glossed over, and it’s a shame. I find those weird side projects more fascinating than anything about the 2600/arcade era that seems to be the thing that modern-day Atari constantly talks about it.

The system was being sold for $200, well out of my price range. It probably wouldn’t have worked with any of my current stuff, anyway. Apparently someone did buy this though, so I hope they get to experience music in a way they never experienced before.

Man, they’ll put Flappy Bird on *anything*.

The retro gaming world has a fairly large homebrew market. One of the bigger ones was AtariAge, who were oddly a no-show this year, considering they had one of the biggest booths in previous years. While most are just taking existing romhacks and slapping them onto cheap cartridges for $40-50 each, there’s stuff like Flappy Bird on the Colecovision, featured above.

This was being sold along with a bunch of other Colecovision homebrew games, even noted YouTube collector Gamester81 was selling his own game, which worked on that same Colecovision. Really cool stuff, even if I don’t have that system.

That Mortal Kombat comic was made by Malibu Comics, which also made a pretty terrible Street Fighter comic no one remembers.

Naturally, where there’s games at a retro games con, there’s things that overlap, like toys and comic books. At this small booth, I spotted a Mortal Kombat comic series by Malibu Comics, and Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos, which lasted longer than the TV show it was based on. As much as I have a small collection of video game comic books, I passed on these, not seeing much use outside of curiosity.

I wonder if this mentions that Four-Are-All-One or whatever the hell their magical spirit stuff is called.

I also ended up finding Kiss Psycho Circus the comic. I found this a funny coincidence, considering I just wrote about the game a few days ago. You can read about that here.

If only I had room on my wall, I'd totally grab a poster of the Tetris cover. (Sorry Mega-fans, I never played Mega Man 2.)

If only I had room on my wall, I’d totally grab a poster of the Tetris cover. (Sorry Mega-fans, I never played Mega Man 2.)

There were a fair share of YouTube personalities, some I recognized — Pat the NES Punk, Roo from Clan of the Gray Wolf — others I didn’t — Who the heck is “PeanutButterGamer”? — as well as people who were used to be in the biz there like Sega of America’s Al Nilsen, whom sadly I didn’t see. No Gamesmaster Howard this time around, which was a bummer.

Noted video game cover artist Marc Ericksen was there (pictured), for the second year in a row. Really find the history of those covers interesting, even if I have no room in my house for a poster based on the cover to Tengen’s Tetris from the NES.

Also spotted was a booth ran by Steve Lin and Frank Cifaldi, notable for being mostly into the video game collecting scene. They did the Retrogame Roadshow, this year without Chris Kohler, with Cifaldi taking over hosting duties alongside Lin and Pat the NES Punk. I was a bit bummed Kohler wasn’t there this year, but the panel was still good regardless.

2020 update: In an interesting twist as time went on, Cifaldi would later help curate some of these rare artifacts and collectables into the Video Game History Foundation, who often have a special section cordoned off at every Portland Retro Gaming Expo. Lin also helps with some of the more behind-the-scenes stuff, but it’s mostly Cifaldi and a handful of others helping the cause. It’s amazing how things can blossom in a few years.

I love going to these panels because I’d find some really interesting knowledge about collecting, as well as the various video game-related ephemera that people collect over the years. Reminds me a lot of my silly collecting habits.

Honestly amazed anyone would pay this much money for a complete-in-box copy of an NES sports game that’s not very good.

I did find stuff like a white Game Gear, a whole mess of video game LCD handhelds from the ’90s, and stuff like complete in box copies of Volleyball for the NES at $150-175 at one booth. Granted, I think that’s a bit much for an early NES game, but if the market’s there, I can’t complain that much.

A lot of the rare games on offer. If you somehow have a copy of the Blockbuster Video-exclusive The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak!, you might be sitting on a goldmine.

Though it was surprising to find a copy of The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak at the show, but for a whopping $900 I don’t think anyone was going to bite. Reminds me of The Game Chasers finding that game at a store for $5. I bet that $900 is probably a low price for that game, even after the convention.

PSA: Don't do this. These games aren't even that old!

PSA: Don’t do this. The games aren’t even that old!

Finally, here’s something that irked me: Someone was selling games like Conker: Live and Reloaded and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures in those fancy VGA-graded cases for $200 each. I am not a fan of the whole VGA thing as it just feels like bragging rights for having a game in the best quality. It also just seems like something made so that rich people can brag about having some dumb rare video game like the comic book collecting boom of the early 2000s.

I’m gonna make a public service announcement: Don’t get your games rated by the VGA. It’s silly. No one’s gonna pay $200 for a copy of a game they can’t play, especially when they can find that same game at six other booths for $5 or less in about the same condition. I try my best to play the games I buy, not gawk at the thing in a hard plastic case.

And that’s all I saw at this year’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo. 2015 will be the tenth Portland Retro Gaming Expo. I expect it to be more amazing than this year’s was, and you bet I’ll be here to write about it in some capacity. Good to see a small little gaming convention in Portland get bigger and bigger each year.


Bonus: I Bought Stuff!

When spread out like this, I truly bought a lot of odd stuff. Help me.

When spread out like this, I truly bought a lot of odd stuff. It’s like I’ve forgotten to buy good games and keep buying junk out of habit. Someone help me.

As for the things I bought, I only spent $7.50. At this point, I’ve gone straight into collecting obscure and mostly forgotten stuff, intriguing items, or mediocre/bad games for peanuts. I have just about everything I ever wanted, and I got enough of a backlog that I don’t need 100 more games to add onto it. But here’s the haul, as it were:

  • $3: Game and Watch Gallery (Game Boy)

  • 50 cents: That Virtua Feeling: Sub Pop and Sega Get Together (music CD)

  • $1: Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition manual

  • $1: Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball (SNES)

  • $1: Sample This! demo disc (3DO) and Stacked: With Daniel Negreanu (PS2)

  • $1: Quantum of Solace: The Game (PS2)

I bought a secondhand copy of Game & Watch Gallery many moons ago, but it strangely locked up when going through the menus, likely due to something wrong with the ROM or something. Snagged from that YouTube gamer personalities booth that Roo, Pat the NES Punk, ProJared and BrentalFloss were running.

That Virtua Feeling is a soundtrack CD by Sub Pop Records for a Sega Saturn promotion. Right now I have no idea what this was made as a promotion for, if it was a pre-order incentive or what. I should cover this someday, this along with Carmen Sandiego: Out of This World are in that wheelhouse of obscure video game soundtrack promotions.

A long time ago I had picked up Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition that was in a box with the original Jeopardy!, something I covered in a 2012 I Bought Stuff entry. At Pat the NES Punk’s booth, he had a bunch of manuals for NES games, including that one, and I figured $1 would be a good price. Now to find a box.

Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball is one of those oddities I’ve seen on YouTube videos and a bunch of Giant Bomb streams. It’s a top-down robot basketball game that has Laimbeer’s likeness on the cover but is otherwise a slow, dull game. Apparently this game is technically a port of an Amiga game without the Laimbeer branding, and I wonder if that’s more enjoyable.

Sample This! is a demo disc featuring a bunch of games for the 3DO, natch. I assume this was to show off games that were coming to the 3DO, but I think this is actually a catch-all 3DO demo disc, because I sure as hell don’t remember Crystal Dynamics working on stuff like Samurai Shodown. Now I just need to find a 3DO at a price that won’t bankrupt me.

Alright, so Stacked is just one of those Texas Hold’em Poker video games that was modestly popular among the 2000s. The only other thing this game’s known for is the back of the box blurb where Maxim Magazine proudly proclaimed this as “Halo with chips.” To this day I wonder who the hell wrote that so I can ask them why. Thought $1 was a good enough price for it, alongside the 3DO demo disc.

2020 update: I eventually got around to writing about Stacked many years later, including mentioning that infamous “Halo with Chips” box quote. You can read about it here.

Finally, I added this PS2 game to my James Bond game collection. The other versions of Quantum were first-person shooters by Treyarch that covered both this film and Casino Royale. However, the PS2 game was a third-person cover shooter by developer Eurocom, who would end up being the de facto James Bond developers a few years later. I don’t know if it’s any good, but it can’t be worse than Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, so I couldn’t pass it up for a dollar.

Yeah, this is what I buy now. I do this because I like silly stuff like this. Hopefully I’ll get more interesting stuff next year.

(Updated on December 6, 2020 with improved images and minor updates. A lot happened within those six years, I’ll tell you.)

B.J. Brown

I'm the creator and writer of You Found a Secret Area. Fascinated by obscure pop culture and wanting a place to write about curated stuff, I created the blog in 2012 and have been running it ever since. Also on Twitter. (Pronouns: she/her, they/them)

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