User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:36 am

This was the fourth year in a row that my family and I attended PRGE: Portland Retro Gaming Expo. The event in Portland takes over the entire Oregon Convention Center, which is massive.
It is the largest convention center in Oregon at nearly 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2). The complex includes 255,000 square feet (23,700 m2) of exhibit space. It features the largest ballroom in the City of Portland at 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2).
Over 10,000 people attended this year’s show. It was crowded, and it's always crowded. People from all over attend, even some from the east coast.
Every year the entry pass design changes. One year it was a black Atari cartridge with custom artwork. Last year it was a gray NES MegaMan cart. This year it was Game Boy. I keep these each year for souvenirs.

The event is essentially broken up into three main parts.

1) Gigantic free-play arcade “Retrocade.”

Pick a game - any game - that you loved playing back in the day. Chances are it’ll be here ready and waiting for you, no quarters required. That includes pinball, by the way. You may have to wait your turn but you’ll get in there. I played several games of Crystal Castles this time around with that glorious oversized trackball.
My daughter came to know one of my arcade favorites: Crystal Castles. So good when you've got that massive, glowing trackball controller.

2) Huge vendor area called “Exhibitor Hall.”
This is just one angle of one corner of the vendor area. This was right at the beginning. Before long you can barely walk through here without getting a little claustrophobic.

This is where folks set up tables in an area about the size of a football field and sell their retro wares. I’ll admit that this was the first year I struck out. I have strong Commodore radar, and the only items I could locate were Vic-20s (one boxed and minty) or old, raggedy boxed games with Ebay prices. I did learn that someone snagged a broken SX-64 from one vendor right before I got there.
AtariAge always puts on an incredible display in the Exhibitor Hall. They are usually showing off brand new and gorgeous home brews. And the 1702 is proudly a huge part of it every year. I snagged this shot right before it flooded with people.

But overall the vast majority of “Retro” is a sliding scale. And I’m sad to say our stuff is simply being overwhelmed by consoles at this point. Most of what is found on the tables now are Nintendo carts, Sega carts and even newer stuff. You can find Atari and Intellivision, of course, but in much smaller quantities. More than ever things are moving into the 90s realms like Xbox, Playstation, N64 - even Wii - and the like. Still very cool stuff to browse through, but it’s getting much harder to find the retro computing glory days items I’m after.

Previous years I’d found a boxed, NOS boxed Amiga 2000, boxed NOS breadbin and boxed NOS C64C ($200/$100/$100 respectively). None of that this year, unfortunately. The Vic-20 I’d found was mint, but I’m not into that system, personally.

At one point I was sitting on chair next to some boxed games in crates. A guy hovered over my shoulder and asked, “Old PC Gold Box games?” I replied, “Amiga!” And he sucked in his breath. “You after Commodore stuff?” and I nodded. “I feel ya, brother. Good luck with that.” We laughed as he walked on and I sorted through things. They were all either dupes or Ebay prices so I didn’t pick any up.

3) Panel/Speaker Auditoriums

This is one of the best ways to break up your day(s) during the convention. It is full of Retro Dignitaries - some from yesteryear, some current (like YouTube celebs).

Granted, some of the speakers give presentations every year. But their content always changes which is nice.

This year I got the chance to meet and listen to David Murray (8-Bit Guy) and Dimitris Giannakis, aka MVG (Modern Vintage Gamer). I also attended the always fantastic and entertaining Howard Scott Warshaw, the legendary programmer of Yar’s Revenge and E.T.
it's hard not to be a little star struck, but David Murray's a cool regular guy. He and I both grew up in Texas not too far away from each other, so we talked about that before I covered him with praise. I wish I'd brought my boxed copy of Planet X2 for him to sign, but whatevers.

This year Murray gave a lecture on the phone phreaking scene of the 1980s, which he experienced first-hand. It was kinda over my kids' heads, but I enjoyed it.

I also got to finally meet in person one of my favorite YouTuber's MVG, who has always been incredibly kind and gracious to me. Was honored to take this quick snap, and that he actually recognized my face in the crowd before and after his presentation. Such a great guy.

MVG gave an interesting lecture about the history of copy protection, some of which I knew first-hand and some of which was completely new to me. Cool stuff.

Howard Scott Warshaw is probably the most entertaining Retro Celeb I've seen. He's practically a stand-up comedian and extremely good in front of crowds. Fact: he's actually a professional therapist these days, and that bit gets used in his Q&A sessions to great effect. He actually got visibly choked up when he talked about the documentary about his E.T. carts being discovered in a landfill, and how he suddenly realized he'd been carrying that baggage for 30 years with him. It was a great moment.

All in all, it was a superb event as usual. I did have to cut our attendance short as I had a medical emergency (I’m OK now), which sucked. But we had a good time while it lasted.

I just discovered next year’s PRGE has moved its dates now that Portland is growing as a popular destination spot, unfortunately. Instead of October, like always, they are moving the expo to mid-August, which falls right smack dab on my wife’s birthday. I don’t know if she’ll want to go to PRGE for her birthday, to be honest. Plus it’s during the summer, and we are often planning summer trips with the kids. So, the future is foggy.

But these past four years have been a total blast. The kids love it, too, which makes it even nicer.
While at
in Portland last weekend my kids got frog marched to the trash compactor. They were told to smile. One of the guards mumbled something about carbonite, too.

User avatar

Posted Fri Oct 25, 2019 3:30 am

Very nice! LOL, I asumed that Retro Conventions are a bit bigger overseas, but - OK - that quite a size of a convention. :o

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Fri Oct 25, 2019 9:12 am

The first few minutes of 8-Bit Guy's latest video gives a nice overview of the size and scope of the show.

Return to “The Lounge”