Category: Travelogues, Conventions and Events

Sometimes I take the blog with me as I travel to gaming events and write about what happened there.

Visiting The Last Blockbuster Video.

Perhaps this is my age showing, but there’s a time where I fondly remember going to a video rental store to pick out a movie and have fun with it for a few days. There was a local video store in my neighborhood where we’d constantly go to for movies, though most of the time I just rented from their NES games, usually the game show ones. Though I did constantly see stuff like Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode and Fester’s Quest but never really got curious enough to play them.

The “good old days” of Blockbuster. (Courtesy of Vintage Tv Commercials on YouTube.)

Then Blockbuster Video opened up in the late 1980s. When the 1990s hit, they started to expand, appearing all around the United States. At this point, the local video rental store wasn’t the hot place anymore as we rented from both Blockbuster and its rival Hollywood Video more often as they had the newest stuff more immediately. Said video store has since shut down and been replaced by a Mexican food store. I still kinda miss that place.

Blockbuster was often our family’s go to for recent movies and video games. A fair share of games I played during the SNES and Genesis era came from Blockbuster. In an old post I made about my mom’s love for ToeJam and Earl, I mentioned that I still have the cartridge which was engraved with “Blockbuster Video” on the back. Still do, and it brings some nostalgic memories of not just my mother but also this video store chain.

But then we get into the 2000s, with internet streaming slowly becoming a thing. Netflix comes around and does similar services to Blockbuster Video but without all those late fees. They try to compete but it’s too late. Even with trying to be antagonistic towards Netflix with a somewhat infamous tweet, it isn’t enough. Blockbuster Video stores start closing in the US. The one that was in my area gets replaced by various stores including a Cricket Wireless store and a doctor’s office.

Normally, that would be the end of the tale. A business that muscled its way into being the primary market for something, got blindsided by new technology, and then just fizzled away to a past nostalgic memory. Blockbuster Video isn’t much of an entity in the United States these days. Except for one.

The sun-faded look of the Blockbuster letters is charming, in a sense.

Bend, Oregon has what is considered to be “The Last Blockbuster Video on the Planet,” and that store became somewhat legendary because of its staying power, being the last open store as of 2019. I’ve gone on camping trips near La Pine, Oregon over the years and every time we always drove past that Blockbuster, even though we were aware of how famous it was now. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was genuinely worried about that place shutting down due to lagging sales as many other businesses did, thus not giving me the opportunity to visit what was considered a cultural landmark. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and I was able to visit it this year.

Continue reading…

I Bought Stuff! 11/7/2018: Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2018 (and more!)

Alright, finally got to this. A few weeks late, but I was never known to be prompt on things like these.

So a while back, the Portland Retro Gaming Expo happened. On its twelfth year, it’s a convention that has retro arcade games, pinball machines, loads of booths to buy merchandise of various kinds, and panels about retro video games in some fashion.

Regrettably the past few years I’ve missed out on a handful of panels, but I’m grateful for at least checking out the Nintendo History Museum by the cool peeps at the Video Game History Foundation. I also bumped into my friends Weasel and Cass while during my roaming of the show floor, while also spotting a fair share of notable personalities here and there. (Weasel told me I was “right next to The Gaming Historian” at one point and I didn’t even notice.)

I’m at that point where I don’t really need many video games at this point, considering my burgeoning backlog. Yet against my better judgment, I did buy games for super cheap, trying to fill up my original Xbox collection and snagging a few cheap deals. But I also grabbed a few tech-based things during and after the expo, so let’s get to recapping.


$15:

  • – A component video cable for an original Xbox ($10)

  • – Xbox: Medal of Honor: European Assault ($5)

Okay, these were after the expo. On Sunday I had put a goal to find some video cables for some of my consoles because I felt they needed an upgrade. I didn’t find one of them, so I had eventually went to Video Game Wizards (the closest mom’n’pop game shop to me) and snagged some cables, as well as an Xbox game for good measure.

At this point, now I am able to play all of the early-to-mid 2000s game consoles in component video quality. I have component cables for the PS2 and Xbox, and I have a Wii with Gamecube backwards compatibility, which I also run through component.

I know there’s solutions now to get those systems to output in HDMI, but I feel that’s a bit excessive. Though, EON had a booth for an HDMI adapter for the Gamecube, which might be cheaper than trying to get the very expensive component cables for the system. If you’re going that route, check them out here, perhaps that’s a better option for those who have more recent TVs where it’s HDMI only with no other video inputs.

As for Medal of Honor: European Assault? Well, we’ll get back to that one in a bit.

UPDATE 11/8/2018: The cables in question refused to show any video on my television regardless of resolution, so I exchanged them for different cables. While those actually showed video in component, the signal occasionally flickers out and doesn’t work in 720p. Sadly, I think my TV is slowly dying, which I’m not surprise, considering it’s a Toshiba TV I got about several years ago. I should probably get a new TV at some point.

$10: Xbox: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x

Now to cover stuff I actually got at the expo, starting with probably the most expensive thing I bought.

The Tony Hawk games were a franchise that passed me by. I played the first two, but tapped out not long after. I snagged Pro Skater 3 on disc for PS2 a long while back, and I thought now’s the time to start getting into the series proper while they’re still easy to get.

A launch title for the original Xbox, this was a spit-shine “HD” version of Pro Skater 2 by Treyarch, before they became 1/3rd of the Call of Duty Cerberus. In addition to prettifying the original game’s levels, there’s a few levels exclusive to this port as well as the original Pro Skater stuff in there.

In my head, this is probably a better way to start playing the franchise in order than hunting down fairly pricey copies of Pro Skater and Pro Skater 2 for older systems. Though, I wouldn’t mind finding any of the Pro Skater games for the Nintendo 64, as those are interesting technical marvels. Well, that and the N64 version of Pro Skater is how I got introduced to the franchise back in the day.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the chopped up music loops they used because of cartridge space limitations, and Pro Skater 3‘s soundtrack pretty much makes them outright remixes.

Continue reading…

I Bought Stuff! 10/27/2016: Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2016 Edition.

Hey hi hello. It’s been a while since I posted, and it’s been rather rough for me lately to really get that drive to actually post stuff here. So this will be a fairly quick one.

I went to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo last weekend, as is custom for me. I’ve been writing about it almost every year, and it’s great as always. Nice blend of retro stuff from the Atari/NES days to even an Xbox system link section where games from Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast and Halo 2 were being played throughout the weekend.

I tagged along with my friend Weasel who writes for Hardcore Gaming 101, and occasionally other blogs like Grinding the Rumor Milll, a blog of which I recommend checking out.

Most of the time we were perusing and finding interesting things here and there with not a lot of purchases,at least for me. Despite that, we both saw cool stuff. I posted some of my pictures to the Secret Area Facebook page, deciding to not leave that place dormant. You should go to the Facebook page and give it a like and a share, btw. It helps a lot.

Continue reading…

Remembering PlayStation Home.

PlayStation_Home_Logo

R.I.P. August 7, 2008 – March 31, 2015.

On March 31, 2015, a piece of PlayStation history died. PlayStation Home, the strange graphical chat client that had been running for about seven years, was ending on that day. I had almost forgotten about it until someone had mentioned it to me. Despite me publishing this on April Fools Day, I can assure this is a genuine post of remembering one of the more infamous moments during Sony’s floundering period of the PlayStation 3.

There might be some of you who read about this little thing somewhere on Wikipedia, or even when some YouTubers mention it as a gag for laughs. For those who never experienced it, PlayStation Home was a graphical chat client that was meant to be used as a social hub. It was like Second Life but more PG and with less phallic objects.

PlayStation Home was announced by then-Sony executive Phil Harrison, complete with this silly, fake-looking trailer:

(Video courtesy of IGN.)

Naturally most of us laughed it off and mocked it incessantly. Webcomics, gaming sites, among other places were lambasting the idea, even more so when it was released to the public for everyone to try. For its entire lifespan, Home was more of a punching bag than it was a legitimate thing people cared for.

Then again, it's hard to take it seriously when you see stuff like... this.

Then again, it’s hard to take it seriously when you see stuff like… this.

When I got my PS3 around 2008, I actually tried the system during its closed beta. In spite of the internet dogpile, I decided to hop in and give it a try. As the years followed, there was always that moment of “Oh right, Home is still a thing,” and I’d pop back in to give it a look to see what’s happening. Usually this moment happened when a big event had a space in PlayStation Home, like during E3 events. For instance, back in 2013 I actually did a video of me roaming around Home’s E3 Studio, which was quite the interesting experience despite how goofy it all was.

Continue reading…

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.

prge1

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.

Continue reading…