Classic Gaming Expo 2005
This past weekend the 8th annual Classic Gaming Expo opened its doors to fans of all games retro. CGE, as it's commonly called, is the largest and longest-running gathering of classic game admirers in the United States, taking place each year around August. Previously held in Las Vegas and San Jose, this year's celebration took place in Burlingame, just south of San Francisco.
CGE attracts more than just fans -- one of its main draws is the chance to get close to actual industry legends. Past years have seen appearances by no less than Ralph Baer (the "father of video games"), Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari), and a large number of famous game creators. Guests and speakers this year included Ed Logg (Asteroids, Gauntlet), Al Alcorn (second Atari employee, Pong), David Crane (Pitfall), Howard Scott Warshaw (Yar's Revenge), Bill Kunkel ("Electronic Games" magazine) and Garry Kitchen (Keystone Kapers).
Attendees also have access to dozens of free-play arcade classics (up to and including the first Mortal Kombat), an array of game-stocked consoles, a huge gaming swap meet, an auction of rarities, a "museum" full of priceless gaming treasures, the aforementioned speakers and conferences, and a large floor full of exhibitors and vendors. The exhibitors range from Messiah, a company that's marketing its own NES-like hardware, to Oldergames.com, which is releasing games for classic systems, to private sellers, to Midway, which was promoting its latest Midway Arcade Classics titles.
We caught up with one of CGE's three organizers, Joe Santulli of Digital Press, to get his take on the classic gaming phenomenon that he's currently at the heart of.
You'll get your ass kicked in Robotron long before your butt starts to hurt from sitting down.
For starters, why are old games still so popular? The retro game style, Santulli said, doesn't require you to read through a thick manual, figure out what all the buttons are, or have to play a game 40 or 50 hours to finish it. "You can always sit down for a quick game of Missile Command. You'll get your ass kicked in Robotron long before your butt starts to hurt from sitting down."
"The other thing is there's a certain nostalgia," he continued. "What we remember is this is the stuff we grew up with as kids. It was a brand-new technology. We went from playing boardgames to playing Pong, which today might look like a primitive thing, but that was a major turning point when you were there to see it happen."
One of the hot CGE topics of the moment is the announcement that there won't be a CGE next year -- the organizers feel they're so busy with real-life concerns (such as Santulli's new game store in New Jersey) that an extra year of planning is required to do justice to their plans for the next CGE. What might they be? Santulli gave one hypothetical example: throwing a Special Olympics benefits concert with real-life rock stars from the '80s, such as Thomas Dolby or Quiet Riot. CGE already donates proceeds to the charity, but Santulli and company clearly have their eyes set on even bigger and greater things.
So, classic game fans need not fear, as CGE will be back in 2007, just in time for its tenth anniversary. Said Santulli, "Save your August of 2007, now. Put it on your calendar. Get ready for what is definitely going to be the biggest and best CGE ever." Consider our calendars marked. Well, at least when we buy one for 2007.