The Classic Gaming Expo (CGE) is one of those conventions that really flies under the radar each year. Unlike industry events like E3, or even fan-oriented events such as PAX, you tend to only hear the same names year after year. Niche ones such as InidieCade work their way into gaming press but beyond that you're likely to only know a small handful of gaming-focused cons. To me, Classic Gaming Expo is a hidden gem which is worth visiting once whether or not you're a self-proclaimed retro gamer.
As the name implies, the convention, which takes place in Las Vegas, is heavily geared toward retro and classic gaming. Checking out the wares may confuse younger gamers who have never seen things like a Vectrex or Master System. Those who at least have some knowledge of gaming's history would probably get a kick out of seeing this all first hand.
The main group of people who will enjoy the convention are no doubt those who grew up with these games and systems. Those, and the modern gamers who would like to take a look at the history of it all. It's really the historical value of a lot of this stuff that more players owe to checking out these events.
Even if you're not a diehard classic gamer, though, there is always something for people to appreciate. For example, there are still booths which sell some games from the last generation. Many of the games are rare too, or even import copies, in case you ever need to fill out the last few titles in your PS2 RPG collection. There were even current gen games to be found, although again, most focused on niches and were uncommon titles. It's a bit more fun to buy from a con marketplace since you're actually allowed to haggle down prices or get discounts on bulk purchases. If you're looking for good deals then these events are typically the best you can get.
For those who do love retro games, this is basically one of the best game conventions to hit up. Unlike games available at conventions like Anime Expo, everyone here knows the actual value of goods. Because of this, it's much rarer to see people attempting to egregiously overcharge for "rare" games. And unlike at other locations, it's also the case that the merchants have also probably tested most of their goods. If not, they aren't against letting you try out the game on the machines which are hooked up and ready for play.
Games for the Game Gear, 3DO, and even Atari 5200 were readily available. Of course, the more common systems such as NES and Genesis were also highly represented. If you already had a complete collection of these old games, though, there were many new homebrew titles available as well. Basically, if you wanted something game-related, it was probably available somewhere.
Despite the impressive span of video games and consoles up for purchase, there were also other things to do. The convention hall also featured a wall full of arcade games. Yes, these were all read arcade machines ranging from Ms. Pac-Man to sit-down cabinets of Night Driver. Everything was set to free play which meant that absolutely anyone could have a go with them all.
Beyond that, Disney had even brought one of their few Fix-It Felix cabinets to the show. These were made to promote their upcoming film, Wreck-It Ralph, and feature the game that Ralph originated from. Overall, the selection of arcade games was great and catered to fans of various genres. There were also enough to basically make sure that there was always at least one machine open to try out.
Inside the main hall there were also many systems set up to be played. Each had a handful of games available to mess with although you could always test out your recent purchases there too. Some of the consoles open for playing were a Dreamcast, CDI, and Nintendo 64, but there were a whole bunch. Most of the people testing them out were children and it was nice to see them giving older games a whirl.
There was also a large gathering of NES systems lined up for a special event. This event was none other than a recreation of the 1990 Nintendo World Championships and Nintendo Campus Challenge. Using reproduction carts from the original events, attendees were able to try and compete for the highest scores possible. The event was entirely free and saw young and old gamers alike vying for the top score.
When not in the mood to buy things there were also panels going on throughout the day. Unfortunately this was something which wasn't handled perfectly, as there were only a handful of signs anywhere that told you what panels were happening and when. It would have been nice to have a list handed out to each attendee. Either way, their focus was mostly on retro topics although there were discussions on things pertinent to younger gamers too, such as how to get started in the industry. Famed game musician Tommy Tallarico (Earthworm Jim) also had his very own panel on music.
Probably the most interesting thing about the convention beyond finding rare games/items was the museum. The museum, which has also been partially displayed at past E3s, is a massive collection of incredibly rare, strange, and just cool parts of video game history. There was a fully restored Computer Space arcade cabinet as well as rare complete versions of consoles that were never put into production (such as the Atari Cosmos). Then there were lots of development kids, industry goods, and just stuff that you're never likely to see otherwise. It was a fantastic look at gaming's past and made me remember that modern gaming is far less innovative then we think.
This year's CGE was a great return to form, as there was no convention last year. It probably isn't worth making the trek from east to west coast over, but if you're around Nevada, it's probably worth a shot. The convention is filled with games you'd otherwise have to pay a premium for on eBay, as well as stuff you'll probably never find there. Beyond that, it's full of industry notables from the past who can tell all kinds of great stories about Intellivision, Atari, and more. Classic Gaming Expo is definitely a convention worth looking into if you're someone who still enjoys classic video games.
Want to take a virtual look at the expo? Check out the image gallery: