SoCal Retro Gaming Expo 2019
Author: Billy Madden
On February 23rd and 24th, 2019, the Pasadena Convention Center hosted the 4th Annual SoCal Retro Gaming Expo. The expo lived up to its name in spades. From the guests to the panels, vendors, and games attendees can play, it was gaming nostalgia overload.
Every square inch of the convention center floor was filled with vendors selling retro games, allowing customers to pick up a copy of their favorite game of yesteryear. Watching people dig through bins and baskets to find that long-lost treasure was fun.
The expo was designed to get you to play games. It showcased a free-to-play arcade, where guests could drop in and play old-time hits, such as the hilarious The Simpsons arcade game and the nostalgic heavy shooter Terminator 2. But the attractions that took center stage were the retro consoles.
In the middle of all the action, an area was filled with a wide assortment of retro consoles hooked up to tube TVs. From the archaic Magnavox Odyssey to the not-so-retro PlayStation 3 (am I that old?) All the systems were free to play for badge holders.
Walking through this area, I noticed many consoles that brought back many memories. Vivid flashbacks of my first gaming all-nighter came rushing back as I jumped on the Sega CD. The infamously bad Atari Jaguar, with its atrocious pack in the game Cybermorph, was playable for guests. I never owned one, though I remember people returning them in droves at Circuit City.
If a guest was brave enough, a few tournaments were hosted at the expo featuring games such as Mario Kart Double Dash and Super Smash Brothers. I didn’t step up to the challenge, knowing I would get destroyed, but I was happy to spectate for a bit. Those in the tournament seemed to be enjoying themselves in cordial competition.
One of the many compliments I can honestly pay the Retro Gaming Expo is that everyone was so nice. In addition, it was so well run. The smaller scale works in its favor because there are no huge lines, and guests can cross off their entire wish list of things to experience.
There were also numerous YouTube gaming stars present. All of the YouTube talent held signings where fans could get merch autographed. I was particularly excited to see James Rolfe, as I have been a fan of his videos since 2007 and have seen every episode of Angry Video Game Nerd. I was also introduced to (and blown away by) Norman Caruso, The Gaming Historian, and his incredible panel.
During the official signings, nobody was in a rush. Fans could take time and talk to the talent. There was no judgment regarding what items were brought up to be signed. I saw many original NES systems and cartridges with Sharpie autographs. Every YouTuber I talked to was genuine and wanted to get to know you. They wanted to know how to provide better content for their fans. The whole weekend felt like a welcoming, fun-loving community.
All the YouTubers’ panels were personal, seriously informative, and fun! The panels ended up being bigger attractions than the gaming. They tackled every subject, from chasing your dreams to opinions on certain games. There was no question too dumb for any of the talent to answer. In YouTube star Boogie2988’s panel, Boogie talked to his fans as if we were his family. It got personal, and it was quite moving. He shared personal life experiences with the audience that touched many hearts.
SoCal Retro Gaming Expo was the perfect environment to forget about the real world and escape into the world of video games. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Gamers of all ages came to the expo, coming together for their shared love. Every video game enthusiast should find time to attend this event next year, and I know I will!