On Saturday and Sunday, August 20 – 21, video game enthusiasts converged on Frank and Son Collectibles Show Exhibit Center in the City of Industry for the Southern California 'SoCal' Retro Gaming Expo. Nestled in the heart of the large, rectangular warehouse, attendees paid $10 for the day or $15 for a two-day pass. The first 500 attendees received a free tote backpack. If a slick backpack was not enough, there were commemorative t-shirts for sale, as well as free expo posters and program booklets. Sponsors of the event included Retro-bit, Retro Fighters, J&S-VGS, and Coleco Vision.
Just inside the entrance area of Hall A, fans were treated with at least a dozen arcade cabinets featuring a number of fan favorites. No quarters were required either; all of the arcades were set to free play! The rest of the hall grouped approximately 50 or vendors of consoles and, of course, games in original packaging or without. Prices ranged from a couple of dollars for Gameboy cartridges or over a thousand for games still in their original box. Most prices seemed to hover under $100. Stock varied enough from vendor to vendor to attract crowds to peruse through boxes of games for every console.
Also in Hall A, YouTube celebrities had tables to sell their wares, chat with fans, and sign product and memorabilia. The lineup of video game talent was impressive: Jared Knabenbauer (ProJared), Norman Caruso (The Gaming Historian), John Lester (Gamester81), Pat Contri (Pat the NES Punk / Flea Market Madness / The Completely Unnecessary Podcast), Frank (Flea Market Madness), Billy and Jay (The Game Chasers), Jirard Khalil (The Completionist), Andre Meadows (Black Nerd Comedy) and Aaron and Ricky (Retro Liberty). Phil Moore, host of the kids' gameshow Nick Arcade which broadcast on Nickelodeon in the 1990s, was also on hand and kicked off the first panel on Saturday. And, there was live music by Super MadNES who performed tracks from Mega Man X and Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts.
Off the main floor, fans could sign up for tournaments in Hall B, hosted by Retrogamathon. In the same area, tables lined the perimeter of the room with several consoles set up for free play. It provided a respite from the crowds. Hall C hosted the eight panels in which fans could catch their favorite celebrities discuss video games in depth. And, if hunger came calling, there were food vendors set up outside in the parking lot.
What was an added bonus at this particular venue was that on Saturday (at least), vendors that rented out space in the rest of the warehouse were open, as well. Many of the peripheral vendors outside of the expo had games, consoles, controllers, wires, toys, collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering, Funkos, comics, and just about any other popular culture related items that would interest video game fans. So, once done with the expo, fans could walk the aisles and do even more browsing and shopping.
If you missed out on this fun event, then mark your calendars for the next SoCal Retro Gaming Expo, which is scheduled for February 4 and 5, 2017, at the Ontario Convention Center. Tickets are currently available through Eventbrite. If tournament play is more your speed, then look for Retrogamathon's Kickstarter in which players pledge to reserve a spot at their first-ever event on January 7, 2017, to be held at a yet-to-be-named location in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Or, if a slower pace is preferred, or you are interested in gaining historical insight into the Nintendo Entertainment System, then check out Contri's tome, Ultimate Nintendo Guide to the NES Library 1985 – 1995, in which over 800 games are reviewed.
Photos from this event can be found at Fanbase Press' Facebook gallery, SoCal Retro Gaming Expo (Michele Brittany, photographer).