As it is the summer, its a time when I leave my cave to venture into the world of conventions. Specifically retro video game meet-ups and cons where people from far and wide bring games by the truck load to sell, as well as consoles, monitors, parts and computers galore. The one I usually go to is the Long Island Retro Gaming and Tabletop Expo held on August 10th to the 11th.
For those of you who have never heard of this convention, its been around for several years and currently is held in the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York. While it may seem like a strange idea to hold a convention at a museum, it has actually suited the show well as the space is very large and the layout has three floors and two huge wings on either side of the main building which can help separate some activities from each other.
The convention was packed with arcade games, tournaments, guest speakers, musical performances, computers set up with retro games to play as much as you want, vendors teeming with games, memorabilia, consoles, board games, card games, etc., cosplay contests, and an actual museum displaying retro computers and consoles with the added bonus to try them yourself.
After years of going to the convention, I have never seen it as busy as it was on Saturday. “Stuffed to the gills” I would say. The growing popularity is not surprising to me as the convention offers tons of panels and lots of activities as I stated before.
This year they had a total of 15 guests. A few of these guests included the founder of Vinesauce also known as Vinny, the Modern Vintage Gamer, and Leonard Herman who is known for publishing the first book about the history of videogames in 1994. There was also the Playable Characters Podcast who attended, the team behind Hardcore Gaming 101, and many more.
The convention unlike in previous years is utilizing the building almost completely on each floor and wing. A big part of it was used for freeplay pinball machines and arcade cabinets, the room was full of people as you can imagine. The third floor was used for freeplay PC gaming where I managed to snag a few rounds of playing Oregon Trail as the computers ran virtual emulators. Each floor was busy and the convention has become a major event for Long Island locals and people coming from out of town.
The other reason for the massive popularity, just my personal opinion, would have to be the section of the Tabletop Expo that was added back in 2017 and is in another wing of the building. Its a great space as the museum’s exhibits offer as a great sound buffer and make the games feel more closed off so you’re not distracted and can hear everyone playing their games. They offer tons of board games, card games, RPG pen and paper games like Dungeons and Dragons, and pretty much whatever you can think off. They have a huge board full of what games they have available and it was easy to find an open game and sign up to reverse a spot. Sadly this year, I noticed that none of the more independent pen and paper RPG games didn’t return this year. I hope next year they do as I really enjoy the more unusual ones I’ve been trying out over the last few years like Dread.
My alternative motive for coming to the expo, while grabbing tons of video game loot, was to play at least one RPG and a few other games before the weekend was out. I set my sights on the Star Ware Age of Rebellion RPG game as I never played it before and they were offering a beginner friendly session.
I was joined by a great group of people who by the midpoint into the game we were making jokes and overall having a great time. This is one the best things I like about Tabletop conventions or any similar event, even complete strangers act like they known each other for years after playing an awesome RPG campaign or board game. Video games can also have that same level of comradery for sure, but I really enjoy how board games have you sit down in person as a requirement so it creates a friendly dynamic right away with the players as your there for the same reason which is to play and enjoy.
I played as the engineer class! I recommend this game 100%!
The vendor section was of course packed full of consoles and goodies, as well as unusual items you wouldn’t find so easily. One of the most interesting finds for me which I picked up was an Atari Jaguar fanny pack. It something I never came across before. After reading more into it, when Atari was promoting and launching the Jaguar console back in the late 1980s to 1990s, there was a lot of merchandise created for the system. I saw a two vendors that had at least one fanny pack on sale…so I had to get one. I couldn’t even find one on eBay so its seems to be a very uncommon item. Its my favorite find of the whole convention. The logo and artwork was on the fanny pack for the Jaguar and its screams early 1990s with its edgy look. also the added bonus of it being as fanny pack which is a trend that only came back as a cross body bag as people still refuse to even entertain the fanny pack no matter how versatile it is.
I did manage to find a console I’ve been dying to try for a long time. A Philips CD-I Console. Yes I know what your thinking…you never heard of this console. Its kind of resurfaced in pop culture (I saw a reference to it in the game Jazzpunk I covered recently) and there have been multiple YouTubers who covered it in the last 10 years. I would say its more of a niche console. This is because it really flopped hard when it first came out for a bunch of reasons. First it was absurdly expensive for the time, in the US in the 1990s for reportedly around $1,000 USD. Which is an insane price tag for any entertainment unit, let alone a video game console. Its also mostly remembered for having some of the strangest games ever made.
A lot of them were Full-Motion Video (FMV) games that combined movie quality footage with gameplay. There was also a decent amount of children’s games and educational themed games for the system. Recently in the last few years, FMV games have been making a comeback in the indie video game scene. Games like The Bunker, Late Shift, and most notability Her Story are part of the FMV genre and the technology is vastly superior when compared to the 1990s FMV games. Still the CD-I games are fairly interesting to look at.
The Angry Video Game Nerd, aka James Rolfe, did an awesome mini series covering the console and its most infamous games including three Zelda games and one Mario game. Philips had a deal with Nintendo which allowed them to make spin-off titles based on some of their franchises. I would love to know if anyone from Nintendo played any of them and what there reactions were, that would be an interesting story.
Overall, I really recommend the convention is really fun but it suffers one downside. There was not enough time to utilize all the aspects of the convention. Two days is not enough to play RPG games, board games, take advantage of the arcade plus the panels and see all the vendors. That is not even counting the cosplay contests, the retro console/computer exhibit they put together and the video game tournaments. Its almost a daunting task to go to the expo and get a chance to look at and do everything. Still, the event organizers did an amazing job with this years convention and I really enjoy going every year. I can’t wait to attend again.
I wanted to share this as this is something that means a lot to me both as a gamer and board game enthusiast. I believe in supporting the vendors and community as much as possible because these expos really did a great job of bringing people together and getting people to share their hobbies with each other.