Austin Texas is known for two things, music and food. Add classic games to the list and you will find the happiest city filled with video gamers this side of The Oasis. Classic Game Fest celebrated its 10th anniversary by filling every inch of the 70,000 square foot Palmer Events Center with game vendors, vintage arcade machines, and performances by several nerdcore bands. CGF is the largest retro video game event held in Texas and is among the largest held in the United States.
The event kicked-off July 29th at 9 a.m. allowing early access to VIP ticket holders. I had planned on being there bright and early when the doors opened but the night before I took a long walk down Dirty Sixth Street and let’s just say it wasn’t game over for me until 2 a.m. When I finally did reach the doors at CFG, any remnants of a hangover were quickly replaced with feelings of childhood giddiness.
The venue was divided into two halls. Hall one housed the vendor tables and the panel discussion section. Hall two was comprised of a makeshift video game museum, arcade and game tournament area, and a stage. I quickly perused the arcade, stopped in the museum to pay homage to the Heavy Sixer that started my gaming life, and then headed to hall one to begin the hunt.
Even with my wish list in hand, the vast rows of game vendors felt overwhelming. I was like Charlie walking into the chocolate factory but instead of finding golden goose eggs, I found Golden Axe. Instead of colorful Oompa Loompa’s, I saw colorful cosplayers with reproduction weapons and enhanced bosoms. I found all the candy I wanted: Skate Boardin’ for the Atari 2600 (one of my first 2600 games), The Revenge of Shinobi complete in box (with the added bonus of a rental shop sticker), Hydra for the Atari Lynx (because I hate open water but love watercraft themed games), the paperback How to Win at Nintendo Games #2 (because I suck at Nintendo games), and Cybermorph for the Atari Jaguar (there is just something about being constantly belittled by a monotone female voice that I hopefully will sort out with my therapist). By noon, my complimentary swag bag provided by Hyperkin was full of treats and I had successfully made the transition from a state of pure inebriation, to a state of pure gaming imagination.
Did I mention Billy Mitchell kept popping up in both halls like a FBI agent in E.T the video game? Evidently, he has a line of hot sauces but judging by how straight his hair is, they aren’t that hot.
Ernie Cline, the author of the ultimate video game tome Ready Player One was on hand to sign copies of his brilliant work and to give hope to those of us to working on a novel. Sadly in regards to my own novel, the word count has not increased by playing Zork online.
The fest featured 19 nerdcore bands each with their own unique sound but none embodied the spirit of the event more than Zerowolf. I was not forewarned about the impending keytarmageddon but I am now a devoted disciple.
Overall, the Classic Gaming Fest was a great experience and I encourage everyone to go to it next year. Thank you David Kaelin for the VIP passes and for putting on an event that truly celebrates the essence of classic gaming culture.