Sorry for the delay in getting this postmortem review of the first Retro City Festival up on the site. With things crazy and work and now getting sick has not help thing get up on the site faster.
Let me first say that I am a media partner with Retro City Festival and ended up volunteering as staff at the show. This however does not affect my thoughts on the show and was not paid any financial incentive to promote or take part in the show.
I had met Steve Torres when I was Tech Volunteer at Arcade Expo and he told me about the show that he was planning. Being a huge classic gamer myself I told him that I had a number of rare and unusual consoles and games that he might want to display as part of a museum approach to the show. So long story short I got my stuff together and hauled it up to the Pomona Fairplex Friday during set up and was simply blown away by the scope of the festival. The one thing that both myself and Steve wanted for the show was to get together the retro gaming community that has a large base in Southern California but at the same time a bit fractured.
Steve had been involved with the Retro Gaming show at Frank and Sons and the one last year at Ontario Convention Center that were good but he really wanted to focus on the community aspect of the show and decided to start one himself that he could control every aspect of it. The very good news is that for a first time show it went off surprisingly well.
The community theory of the show was also its strongest. Having nearly every home console available to play for attendees was for me one of the strongest parts of the show. The one thing that was very fascinating was that kids really gravitated to the original console games. They simply fell in love with them and that is the most important aspect of Retro Gaming. They are the future of this community and by them getting to know how it all started is very important. One of the systems that was a huge hit was the Apple iie computer that was playing Oregon Trail and I was quite impressed that the kids actually took the time to read the text of the game. Of course E.T. continued to frustrate everyone with its getting stuck in a hole game play that continues to crown it as one of the worst video games of all time.
The other impressive thing at the show was the arcade area of the show that had at least 200 video game and pinball machines set on free play and there were quite a few rare and unusual ones. There was a rare Radar Scope from Nintendo also a number of rare Laserdisc games such as Thayers Quest, Galaxy and Rangers. This great set up of Arcade Games was spearheaded by Jay Forster and Steve Hertz that are the founding members of SC3 (Southern California Collectors) and Jay really did an amazing job of not only setting them up but keeping it all running smoothly during the show. It was also great that Arcade Expo set up a booth to let people know about that show that is coming up in March and if you have not been to that one yet then check out the link to the show and see the amazing collection of Arcade and Pinball machines at the facility.
There was a good mix of vendors at the show with a nice selection of retro gaming goodness. With the explosion of retrogaming pricing going through the roof over the last few years it was a challenge to find too many bargains at the show. This is not necessarily the fault of the vendors but there were a few that were simply on crack with some of their prices but that sadly is the market today. While there were tons of games there was a lack of pre-Nintendo games that I was looking for that few vendors bring to the local shows here. Hopefully next years show will bring a wider selection of vendors and games to the party.
One big surprise things at the show that worked well was the stage with the bands out front that gave attendees a needed break from inside the show. There were some really great local bands and one real standout was Kirby’s Dream Band that was a huge hit with the crowd and hopefully they will be back again next year.
There were a few things that the show did struggle with and with a first time show of this size they were thankfully not fatal. One thing was that there were a number of volunteers that were scheduled to be a the show and never showed up so that is one of the reasons why I offered to volunteer and handle the console area for the weekend. There were also a real lack of food options at the Fairplex and the ones that were there were super expensive and mediocre at best. Hopefully there will be able to have more lunch trucks at the next one. The security from the Fairplex itself was so-so. On Saturday night when the show was over they did a really poor job of clearing the facility for the after party. It also didn’t help that the Neo Geo tournament ran way over schedule and should have been scheduled better. Having a DJ spin 1980’s music was a good idea but not at this venue. The problem was not only was it too loud but the Fairplex building is basically a hollow airplane hangar and all of the sound echos badly that ended up drowning out the game you were playing. Overall the positives of the show outweighed the negatives.
The one thing that I took away from the show was that it was great to see families and the younger generation discover what we did as a kid. In my case it was the Atari 2600 was my first videogame system and they enjoyed that and others of the time for their simple yet still very fun game play. The other great thing about the show was the people who I met and talked to and shared our love for retrogaming. I was glad to be able to share my collection with people so that they could see things like the Magnavox Odyssey that is the first home videogame console along with many others.
In the end the Retro City Festival reached its goal of getting together the retro gaming community of Southern California and celebrating and sharing the games that we love to play.
Below are some of the pictures of the show that myself and my friend Glenn took during the show to give you an idea of how fun it was and hopefully you can make it to the next one in 2019!