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Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the CGE 2K7
By Adam Romano     |   Posted on August 06, 2007   |   Episode 70 (Show Archive)  

   


You don't get much more classic than Pong, but maybe if we dig around some more we'll find something more interesting!
The most honest gamers in Las Vegas can be found at the Classic Gaming Expo. They do not expect anything from their gaming success other than self-satisfaction and perhaps the admiration of few onlookers. They remember the film The Last Starfighter and how it mirrors a time when your initials on the leader board advertised your heroism, when points mattered and "continues" were unavailable. These games required skill. In a speech given Sunday, former Atari programmer Allan Alcorn speculated that the term "video game" was a conflation of the longer term "video skill game" used in a Pong advertisement. The original term seems appropriate for this expo where a stack full of quarters won't guarantee success. In-game narratives take a backseat to good-ole hand-eye coordination.

When CGE founders John Hardie, Sean Kelly, and Joe Santulli decided to take 2006 off, there was a mild panic - would the haven for vendors, collectors, and arcade athletes be just a fleeting footnote in history of gaming? Will the expo make it to its tenth year in 2007? Alleviating the fears of hundreds wondering when they will next need to pack their suitcases with Atari-logo t-shirts, the trio resumed their stewardship of the expo which was again held at their favorite locale, Las Vegas (this time at the Riviera). Like all Vegas casinos, the Riviera is huge, but if one got lost, all he need do is look for a coterie of thirty-somethings with the phrase "Wii who?" on the back of their shirts and follow. Be sure not to look at the waitress in the long black leggings lest you lose your way again.

Upon entering the convention hall, the first thing one saw was the Intellivision kiosk with Keith Robinson in his trademark blue shirt catching up with his fellow programmers, the Blue Sky Rangers. Robinson, resident historian of the Intellivision archives, put together a superb interactive booth replete with new products and demo

Poker and Blackjack are perfectly fine games, but this game is completely useless without Texas Hold'em!
stations - visibly the crown jewel of the convention hall. Clearly thought-out, the Intellivision booth was thematically unified by a Las Vegas motif, highlighting the packaging for the system's fist pack-in game, Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack Expo exclusives included the Intellivision Lounge Trio (a box set of ROMS and music) and a deck of cards designed using the box-art for the original Vegas cartridge. (I mentioned to Mr. Robinson that this cartridge taught me how to play cards as a tyke, worrying my parents that I will grow up to be a compulsive gambler. Shortly after mentioning this fact, I promptly lost $120 dollars in the poker room. But then again Texas hold'em was not featured in the game. Doesn't anyone play stud anymore?)

Moving farther into the hall, you encounter a mock living room complete with 1970s couch and a cartridge-laden coffee table that allowed gamers to immerse themselves into the full retro experience. Even the TV had a trace of static for that true vintage feel. Couples found this location especially convenient. For the less-sedentary gamer, free coin-ops lined the far wall, ranging from the well known to the obscure (for some reason Krull was a big hit). Renowned record keeper Walter Day stalked the grounds and officiated the event in his vertically striped referee uniform just in case a high score had been broken. (Day, it should be mentioned, can be seen in the upcoming documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters which opens nationally on August 17th. I recommend you check out the trailer somewhere online.)

Accompanying the sounds of intermittent blips and beeps throughout, 8-Bit Weapon provided their own game-inspired sounds. Though seen at several E3 conventions, 8-Bit

Forget Transformers or The Bourne Ultimatum, The King of Kong is the one movie you should be buying tickets for this summer!
never forgets its roots by playing the CGE each year. Unlike many acts that have performed at the iconic E3 (Blink-182, Third Eye Blind, and other poor examples of teen-fodder that have numbers in their names), these guys have everything to do with gaming, borrowing sound technology from the Game Boy, Commodore 64, and even a Speak & Spell. This year's performance marked the first time 8-Bit has played a convention with its new lineup, as founder Seth Sternberger has conscripted fellow chiptune musicians ComputHer and Melbot into the fold. The trio promoted their new album Mean Time, made available here before its official release on August 7th.

Swap meets, auctions, and sellers fleshed out the rest of the expo, and these vendors gave much of the convention the atmosphere of a bazaar. Messiah Entertainment promoted its new arcade stick, designed to mimic the original NES Advantage, and gave discounts on its slim Generation Nex console - the "second coming" of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Though it doesn't play Castlevania III (they're reminded of this fact at least once a week so don't mention it), the Nex is among the finest clones available, even borrowing the design and color scheme

I'm usually not into video game bands, but 8-Bit clearly knows that I have a weak spot for everything that comes packaged as an NES cartridge!
of the original console. Other sellers of note included Arcade-In-A-Box which allows MAME enthusiasts to replicate the coin-op experience at home, Customportables.com with its collection of downsized CD-based systems, and GoodDealGames which offered an interesting tidbit in gaming history - an audio CD full of storybook adaptations of old coin-op adventures originally sold on vinyl. (One of these adaptations tells the story of Mario, a pizzeria proprietor, and his delivery girl Pauline who was fond of the big gorilla at the local zoo. I wonder what kind of mushrooms was served on those pizzas.)

In what is becoming a tradition, in the last minutes of the event, Sean Kelly announced his "50-cent game frenzy" and pushed a lot of games onto the showroom floor. In years past, Kelly has been known to hide to some gems in the dross, so abandoned controllers were left dangling as dozens of people rushed to the pile. When the scurry cleared, all that was left were Xbox sports titles, and I, as a Knicks fan, grew sad to see Stephan Marbury blinged-out on the cover of NBA Ballers without anyone to take him home and love him. I must mention that I did not rush to the pile, feeling that no amount of riches was worth my personal dignity (that, and the fact that my suitcase was already full to the brim).

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