I woke up early Saturday morning and rolled my head towards the hotel alarm clock to check the time only to be greeted by the green glow of a StreetPass notification on my 3DS. I flipped open the 3DS, woot!, 10 new StreetPasses over night, my Midwest Gaming Classic had begun and I wasn’t even out of bed yet. I took a shower, ate some cereal I had brought from home, put on my “Flynn Lives” t shirt and headed downstairs. The next 8 hours would be only games and gamers.
The first thing I did was head for the vendor tent. I had pre ordered my ticket so I had 30 minutes “early access” before the masses descended. I walked into the 20,000 square feet of vendor tent space already packed with people rummaging through everything from TurboGrafx carts to vintage action figures to unlicensed gaming pop art. At the front of the tent I saw a board gaming space set up where the local board gaming club had brought their 30,000 dollar collection of games to demo. Want to try out a game? Check it out at the desk, find a table and play till you had your fill. I had come to MGC with several side quests one of which was to pick up a copy of WCW vs NWO World Tour for N64. After visiting about 3 vendors I found a copy for 4 dollars which seemed pretty reasonable, side quest complete. I browsed the rest of the vendor hall for about an hour, doing my best to leave my wallet in my pocket, the environment akin to a kid in a candy store.
I headed back into the main hotel and wandered down a hallway called “MGC Showcases.” At one showcase I met a guy who was programming his own NES game that actually ran on an NES. The name of his game escapes me, but it played sort of like an 8 bit Age of Empires. He was into it deep, right down to designing the box art. This is the kind of hacking I respect, programming for the love of creation. Next I visited the Guys Games and Beer podcast crew. They let me try their Occulus Rift Dev Kit 2 demo. In the demo I wandered around a virtual arcade and played Missile Command inside of virtual reality. It was pretty meta. Back in reality I thanked them for bringing the demo to MGC and headed towards the arcade hall to play some Missile Command IRL.
On my way though I was sidetracked when a young lady handed me a 360 controller in a hallway and asked if I wanted to try out her game. I figured when in Rome, so I gave it a whirl. Once again the name escapes me but it was a pretty fun indie game her team was creating. There was definitely a furry vibe going on with it, as I was playing as an anthropomorphic rabbit, but in general the gameplay was pretty fluid and crisp. It was basically a combat platformer but it had a lot of ways to transverse the environment which I’m always a sucker for. I gave them some feedback, suggested they add a particle trail to the air dash and after defeating 2 bosses I gave the controller to some other dude and headed for the arcade hall for realz this time.
What I consider the centerpiece of MGC is the Arcade Hall. In one ballroom they assemble a giant arcade of somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pinball and arcade machines. All of the machines are brought by show attendees in exchange for a free ticket to the show among other perks. If you’re into arcade or pinball this is basically Mecca. I ran into my dad playing Flintstones pinball and joined him for a 2 player game. I actually really liked Flintstones, it had a ton of flow for a Tradeau game and I got a few multi balls going and hit a couple jackpots so that always improves your opinion the first time you try a new game out as well. Thats the beauty of MGC, I never would have gotten a chance to play and have an opinion of a Flintstones around here, but at MGC there were two of them. I wandered from pinball to pinball, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Night Rider, Spectrum, the list goes on and on, I had a couple epic games and I had a couple clunkers but you quickly forget when you’re just a free play away from trying out something new. After hours of chimes, light shows, bleeps and bloops my brain had been fried but in a good way, it was time to get some foodstuffs and recuperate.
MGC was also showcasing local bands this year, so I took my Mike’s Italian Sub and 2 dollar cold Mexican Pepsi and sat in on a set. The band was called The Atomic Spins and in general they were kicking ass. They were a 3 man show, I’d put them in the all encompassing genre of indie rock but they were rocking out hard for a show in the middle of a day with a crowd of about 20 people. I felt kind of bad they weren’t being featured more but honestly they didn’t see to care, and the more I thought about it I wouldn’t really have cared either. They were getting chance to rock out and you don’t do it for the crowds with a timeslot of 1 PM you do for the love of rocking out. Plus there was a little girl in Supergirl cosplay who danced for every single song in their set, so what more could you really ask for.
After the set I headed for the Video Game Museum. This room is a journey through time of home video gaming. When you entered the room you were greeted by the home edition of PONG playing on some ancient relic of a console connected to some ancient tv. As you progressed through the room you could witness the advancement of home gaming, from Atari to PS4 stopping at any point in the path to play a few games of whatever game was being showcased for the era. I stopped at the Sega CD station and played about 20 minutes of Time Gal, it was harder than I remember, of course I’m not the nimble gamer I once was, plus back then games were just harder, this room proves it. I struck up a conversation with a guy playing Sonic and Knuckles next to me, he was a really weird, but I suppose most people are that are hanging out in a video game museum. The first thing he said to me was, “When I started this game I had zero lives”, I looked at his life total and it was up at 17, he had been there awhile and he was a gamer.
As the afternoon wore on I bounced from room to room in a daze, playing anything I had never played before. I put up the high score on Krull for the day. I sat in on a podcast where they were interviewing Warren Davis, the creator of Q*bert. I chilled at a table in the StarWorlds arcade room and wrote out a birthday card to Pac-Man. I watched a guy play the hologram game Time Traveler. I schooled some 9 year old in a game of Killer Instinct. I sat in on a demo for a new video game some guys were creating that had decided to make their video game in papercraft first, odd choice, but it was working. In a word, I was gaming. The Midwest Gaming Classic isn’t some normal “Con” that has been taken over by industry there to peddle their product and make a buck. It’s a convention by gamers for gamers with the express purpose of gaming while you’re there. Around every corner is something you haven’t experienced before or perhaps there is something you’re so intimately familiar with you are a bonafide expert or maybe there is something you had long forgotten about and upon seeing it the nostalgia trip will bring the feels that have been long forgotten too. Such is the Midwest Gaming Classic, it really does feel like going home.