Yesterday, several weeks of planning and scheming finally paid off: I made it to Retropalooza.
What is Retropalooza?
Now in its second year, Retropalooza is a retro gaming convention held annually at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, Texas. Aside from dozens of vendors selling retro video games, vintage toys, comic books, original artwork, and every manner of video game-related paraphernalia imaginable, this year’s show also featured a cosplay competition, various gaming tournaments, and panels held by several prominent YouTubers.
Living just over a hundred miles from Dallas, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to attend this convention.
My Day at Retropalooza
It all started yesterday at around 6:30 am. After rolling out of bed and spending a few minutes struggling to wake up, my wife and I ate breakfast, loaded up in our Toyota Scion (which we affectionately call “The Box on Wheels”) and hit the highway for Dallas. After a two-hour drive, during which many Monsters were consumed, we arrived at the Arlington Convention Center and made our way inside.
There wasn’t much in the way of a line, so we both walked right up to registration, collected our passes, and headed in.
The whole convention was held in one large room lined with tables chock-full of retro gaming goodies. Everywhere we wandered there were piles of loose game carts and controllers, stacks of discs in paper sleeves, and shelves of cased games from every era of gaming. Entire aisles contained tables filled with nothing but comic books, vintage Star Wars figures, nerdy t-shirts, prints of original fan artworks, and sprites recreated in Perler beads. This was my first time at such a convention, and it was a lot to take in all at once, but before long I was browsing the wares just like everyone else, flipping through rows of carts looking for interesting finds.
Meet Joe. Meet Dave.
One of the coolest parts of the day for me came early on. One of my absolute favorite YouTube channels is Game Sack. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Game Sack is a YouTube series featuring Joe Redifer and Dave White that covers a different retro gaming topic each episode. Game Sack’s production quality is excellent (Joe is a professional video editor in his day-to-day, and apparently a stickler for video quality, which makes the channel stand out), the jokes are funny as hell, and most importantly, it is clear that both hosts care sincerely about video games and really know their stuff.
Okay, so I’m a bit of a fanboy.
Anyway, Joe and Dave were present at the convention, and had their own table from which they were selling merchandise, including branded cups, pens, and t-shirts. After a few laps around the convention hall, I worked up the courage to go up and meet them.
It turns out they are really cool in person, too. Both shook my hand and chatted with me for a bit before posing for a picture, and they were very friendly despite my awkwardness. I bought a cup and a pen, thanked them for their time, and scurried away gushing like a teenage girl, my wife trailing behind wondering what had just transpired.
Other Cool People
After leaving the Game Sack table, we started making our way around the convention hall more thoroughly, and in the process we ran into several interesting people.
Brett Weiss is a freelance journalist and author known for his highly-detailed Classic Home Video Games book series, among others. I met him at his booth and chatted with him for a while. He was quite gracious, and offered to sign any book of his that I might buy. On his table were copies of Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, a loving retrospective by Rob Strangman about growing up with video games in the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond. The newest edition of the book also features chapters written by other authors, including Brett; I tend to enjoy this kind of book, so I grabbed a copy, which he inscribed to me along with a small drawing of Pac-Man.
I am three chapters into the book, and so far it is great – I recommend you check it out if you get a chance.
Devin Kraft of Cheshire Cat Art / PolyKnight Games
At another booth I met Devin Kraft of Cheshire Cat Art. Devin was selling various prints of his artwork, which is simply incredible. I couldn’t resist buying a couple, and he even signed them for me!
Working the booth with Devin were two friends of his, programmer Tyler Tomaseski and game artist Nick Adams from the indie game studio PolyKnight Games. I am something of a wannabe indie game developer myself, so the three of us hit off a conversation, and Tyler gave me some good pointers on what I should learn if I want to pursue game design further. Very cool guys!
PolyKnight has some interesting projects on their site’s Games page, including a free title called Scarecrow Fire Hoedown which is the product of a 48-hour game jam. Click here to read more about it and give it a download.
Round Two with Game Sack: The Panel
After a couple hours wandering around and spending more money than I probably should have, I took my prizes back to the Box on Wheels while my wife rested her feet. When I returned to the convention center, it was 1:00 – time for the Game Sack panel!
— xentrix (@cxentrix) September 20, 2014
The panel was held in a long room across from the convention hall. It featured a stage at the far end, and dozens of rows of chairs. We grabbed ourselves a spot toward the front of the room and watched over the next few minutes as the seats around us filled up. All in all, there was quite a turnout.
After a few moments of prepping camera equipment, the panel started with a short welcome from Joe and Dave, and then it jumped right into questions. There were lots of fun questions like “Where did you get the name ‘Game Sack’?” (apparently a closely considered option before ‘Game Sack’ was ‘Game Squirt’ – snicker snicker), as well as more serious questions about favorite consoles, favorite games, and what kind of video capture equipment is best for capturing retro gaming footage. There were also lots of questions about upcoming episodes, as well as a question about whether or not Game Sack will ever get a DVD/Blu-ray release (spoiler alert: according to Joe this is already in the works!). The panel ran long by about twenty minutes because the next panelist was running late, but it still flew by very quickly.
After it was over, we shuffled out along with the rest of the crowd, passing a long line waiting for the next panel to begin. We ended up in the lobby where we discussed what to do next. I had spent all of my money, and both of us were hungry and tired, so we decided to call it a day as far as Retropalooza was concerned and go find some grub.
I had a great time at Retropalooza this year. In the end I walked away with lots of cool stuff including a couple new Genesis games, a signed book, some signed art prints, and a few other things. I got to meet Game Sack and sit in on their first-ever panel. And, I got to get out and meet other retro gamers, and just spend a day doing something fun.
This may have been my first Retropalooza, but I doubt it will be my last: sign me up for next year!