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PRGE 2016: The Best Keeps Getting Better!

Written By: Elliott Thomas

Oct 23rd, 2016

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It's hard to believe that I just returned from my fourth visit to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. This year the expo was the largest and most diverse show in PRGE history. It's not hyperbole when I say that this expo gets bigger and better with each passing year. With each new iteration the venerable gaming expo adds something new, while expanding upon its original premise, to bring the joy of retro gaming to everyone, young and old.

History:

The Portland Retro Gaming Expo was founded in 2005. It was created for the express purpose of preserving video game history and gaming culture. It is also a grand celebration of classic video games. The show is owned and operated by a non profit organization, and staffed entirely by a highly dedicated and extremely hard working army of volunteers. The amount of work it must take to put on such a massive show is staggering and truly admirable. It just goes to show how much everyone involved loves and cherishes retro gaming.

A Brand New Coin:

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For the second year in a row I created an exclusive collectible arcade token just for this show. This coin is the 15th entry in the Dig That Box collection. The token was limited to just 1000 units and it was only available at the show. The coin was minted in luxurious nickel plated brass. This new silver token was the companion piece to the yellow brass (gold) token we made for the show last year. As always, the coin was distributed in exclusive PRGE themed packaging. I'm very happy to say that it was a massive success. Supplies were exhausted in the first hour of the show. People kept asking if we were going to make more, however the silver coin is now retired and will not be produced again. The good news is that I hope to have a big surprise for PRGE 2017. Stay tuned!

Deals, Deals and More Deals:

PRGE 2016 was a shopper's paradise. There were great deals to be found at practically every table at the show. The vendor hall was constantly packed with people. Bargain hunters were pleased to find a wide variety of products on sale. There was something for every budget. Several tables even had $1 deals. However big ticket items were also plentiful. There was an incredible assortment of rare and unique products. This included ultra rare import video game consoles and even full size arcade and pinball machines. One booth had an enormous bargain bin of products that was several feet tall and wide. Shoppers could take anything they could fit in a shopping bag for just $5. This included everything from games, to controllers and even video game consoles. So whether you were looking for something cheap, or if you were in the mood to spend some serious money, PRGE definitely had it all.

A Year For Authors:

This year PRGE was host to several big name authors who came out to debut their latest works. Retro gaming has become a popular subject in the literary world. The very nature of classic gaming, and its long history, inspires a great need for well researched informational tomes. Whether you're new to the hobby, or if you're a veteran gamer looking to catalog your large collection, the books that I found at PRGE were an invaluable tool for anyone who loves retro gaming.

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Jeffrey Wittenhagen is the author of several books on retro gaming. His previous efforts include The Complete NES, a well researched volume on the complete NES library. He has also created two books in a series he calls The Complete Archives: Video Game Culture Archives. Now the prolific author returns with a new book that reviews the entire Super Nintendo catalog. The Complete SNES: Collector's Book & Ultimate Guide is a massive volume that is a must have for any Super Nintendo fan. It is filled with reviews, images and box art for every SNES game. Each game features check boxes for carts, boxes and manuals. This is an outstanding way to build your collection! For more information on the many works of Jeffrey Wittenhagen, or to make a purchase, please check out his official website. www.hagensalley.com

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Pat Contri, better known as Pat The NES Punk, is well known for his extremely popular YouTube channel. Now the multi talented online celebrity turns his attention to the NES library. His new book is titled Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library 1985-1995. This exhaustingly well researched tome is the perfect accessory for any NES collection. The book itself is a massive, well researched volume, both large in size and heavy in weight. It truly is a quality product from cover to cover. Pat Contri easily has the best NES book on the market. I have already made it part of my collection, and if you love Nintendo as much as I do, you should do the same.

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Last and certainly not least is a title that has quickly become my favorite retro gaming book. This was also easily the best retro gaming book at the show. Art of Atari, by author Tim Lapetino, celebrates the glory days of Atari artwork. At the dawn of the video gaming craze Atari commissioned some amazing original artwork to sell their many products. To this day no other company has created such an incredible variety of mind blowing artwork. These illustrations sparked the imagination of gamers everywhere, and enticed consumers to get on board with Atari. This incredible volume of artwork covers over 40 years of Atari history. It's filled with images from box art, catalogs, game manuals and vintage advertisements. The book is available in two versions, a standard version, and a deluxe volume that comes in a high quality slip cover. It's available now on Amazon.

New Retro Gaming Hardware:

As technology advances and interest in classic gaming grows, so does the demand for new retro gaming hardware. Last year at PRGE we saw the debut of the impressive RetroUSB AVS console, a modern NES system built around FPGA hardware. Since that time the AVS has launched with tremendous success and rave reviews. Now in 2016 several new retro gaming products made their debut on the show floor.

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The Super Game Module by Opcode Games is an expansion unit for the ColecoVision game system. The device brings more RAM and enhanced sound to all compatible ColecoVision games. The unit is designed to work with a new series of Super Game Cartridges, which themselves will have greatly enhanced graphics, advanced gameplay and in some cases, a digital save function. The Super Game Module will be accompanied by an impressive roster of titles that includes classic games such as Gradius, Pengo, CastleVania and Yie Ar Kung Fu II. There are over 50 games that will be compatible with the new expansion module. After having sampled several of these games at the show I can definitely say that I am very impressed. This is a must have item for any serious ColecoVision fan.

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The NES Maker was created by the folks over at The New 8-Bit Heroes. The device allows homebrew developers to flash their own NES carts. It also works as a development tool for aspiring homebrew programmers. In my honest opinion, this product has the potential to revolutionize the indie NES development scene. Check out their website for more details and future updates. http://www.thenew8bitheroes.com/
 

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Photo Property of Crispy from AtariAge Forums. All Rights Reserved.

The biggest surprise of the show was the debut of the new MMDC Retro Player. This device is a Walkman styled Atari 2600 console built around FPGA hardware. The console has a robust feature list, including HDMI support, multiple audio and video options, and a USB connector to be used in updating system firmware. The Retro Player works with all Atari 2600 cartridges and controllers. This awesome little console outputs beautiful, vibrant colors and crystal clear graphics. This is truly a next generation Atari 2600. Check out our demo video (Video LINK) to see this impressive little device in action.

The Homebrew Revolution Continues:

AtariAge.com Booth Tour Video - PRGE 2016

Once again PRGE was ground zero for the homebrew gaming scene. This year the revolution continues as a number of companies brought their best new games to the expo. As always, our friends at Atari Age had the best booth at the show. Their dedication to homebrew gaming is unmatched. As you might expect, they had a number of games for all the classic Atari systems, everything from the 2600 all the way up to the Atari Jaguar. However, their impressive catalog of games and products has now grown to include new titles for the ColecoVision and Intellivision game systems. Check out our video tour of their booth to see everything they had on display.

RetroUSB.com Booth Tour Video - PRGE 2016

RetroUSB came to the show riding high on the massively successful launch of their new console, the AVS. As I mentioned earlier, the AVS is a next generation NES console built around FPGA hardware. When I first discovered it at the show last year I immediately knew it would be a huge success. Now a year later that awesome device sits proudly in my living room. RetroUSB has quickly become a leader in the NES homebrew scene. They had a number of titles on display and for sale at the show. This included their own original titles as well as new games from developers who partnered with the company.

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Over the past couple of years the Intellivision homebrew scene has practically exploded with new titles. The folks at Intellivision Revolution brought a number of great new games to the expo. My personal favorite was a game called Copter Command. This title is a port of the classic Atari 2600 game Chopper Command by Activision. The company had a number of other new games available including Go Sub, Ultimate Pong, Missile Domination and a port of the cult hit, Desert Bus. Interest in the Intellivision console has grown tremendously over the past decade. I'm certain the homebrew scene will continue to benefit from this increased fan support.

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The folks at Retrotainment came to the show with their new game Haunted Halloween 86: The Curse of Possum Hollow. This title is a direct sequel to their highly popular game, Haunted Halloween 85. That game was the big surprise of PRGE 2015. Now the company returns with an all new adventure. Haunted Halloween 86 is an 8-bit platforming adventure game. Our hero Donny Johnstown battles hordes of supernatural creatures to destroy the evil menace that threatens his hometown. This time Donny is joined by his new partner Tami for some unique co-operative gameplay. Each character has their own skill set and moves. This addition brings new depth and challenge to the series. I personally loved Haunted Halloween 85 and when I heard about the new game I immediately backed their Kickstarter campaign. Haunted Halloween 86 is set to launch very soon. Until then keep an eye on the official website for more information. http://www.cashinculture.com/ You can also watch our gameplay demo video HERE (Video Link).

Attractions and Events:

The roster of special events at PRGE was enough to keep you busy all weekend. This included contests, special guest panels, movie screenings and so much more. There was constantly something to do or see. The show also opened its amazing free play arcade and console museum a day early, to give people a chance to play some games before the official start of the expo. I know that I have said this before, but the free play arcade alone is more than enough to justify the cost of a ticket. This year PRGE boasted the largest selection of arcade games and pinball machines ever seen at the show. Every single one of these games was free to play. Some of them were even for sale to the public!

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To truly understand just how incredible the arcade was this year you need to check out our video tours. Here are two direct links to our video walkthroughs for each free play area. I snuck into the show early just so you could get a clear look at all the amazing titles on display.

Free Play Arcade Video Tour (VIDEO LINK)

Free Play Pinball Arcade Video Tour (VIDEO LINK)

Playable Video Game Console Museum Video Tour (VIDEO LINK)

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For the first time in show history PRGE featured a new interactive museum. This area was filled with rare and unique items. It was a living history of the video game industry. Best of all, the exhibit was hosted by several notable experts who guided attendees through the exhibit and answered any questions they might have. John Hancock, James Randell, and Chris Kohler worked as the curators of the museum. They were joined by Frank Cifaldi, who educated people on his efforts to protect and preserve the legacy of this unique art form. Of course the biggest draw of the museum was the infamous Nintendo PlayStation. This is the very system that was created by Nintendo in a joint effort with Sony. Lucky fans got a rare glimpse at this one of a kind prototype. It's a reminder of what might have been had the Nintendo and Sony partnership been successful.

Special Guests:

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The roster of special guests at PRGE was truly amazing. I have already mentioned a number of well known authors, developers and even a YouTube celebrity. Speaking of YouTube, there is no bigger name in the YouTube retro gaming scene than James Rolfe. Of course he is better known as the infamous Angry Video Game Nerd. James came out to the show to do a special panel discussing everything related to the AVGN and his website Cinemassacre. He also took the time to meet and greet his many fans on the show floor. I must say that I have been a big fan of AVGN for many years. It was a real honor to meet James in person. I also have to commend him for being such a gracious and decent person. He truly appreciates his many fans. He's also one of the nicest people I have ever met at the show. It really makes me happy he's been such a big success. It's nice to see the good guys win. You can actually watch a video of James greeting his many fans HERE (VIDEO LINK).

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This really was the year for YouTube celebrities. James Rolfe and Pat Contri were joined by John Lester, aka Gamester81, and Jason "Metal Jesus Rocks" Lindsey. Rounding out the pack was Norman Caruso, also known as the Gaming Historian. Now let me just say that I'm a huge fan of YouTube. I probably spend more time watching YouTube than I do watching regular TV. Even before this show I was a subscriber and loyal fan of every person I have mentioned. These folks are the lifeblood of the online retro gaming community. Their hard work and dedication helps spread the gospel of retro gaming, and bring the joy of our beloved hobby to a new generation. I was really happy to see these folks at the show. It's a trend I hope will continue in the future.

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Of course the biggest stars at the show also just happen to be some of the biggest names in the video game industry. These folks are the pillars upon which the modern video game industry stands. The illustrious guest list of gaming industry legends included such notables as Howard Scott Warshaw, Ed Fries, Tod Frye, Rebecca Heineman, Steve Hendricks, Dennis Koble, Ed Rotberg, Bob Smith, Pamela Smith, Brad Stewart, and many, many more. All were on hand to host panels and share their stories of working in the video game industry. I honestly wish I had the time to thank every single one of them personally. These folks are the rock stars of my childhood. I can't thank them enough for giving me so many wonderful, happy memories.

Art and Fan Creations:

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One of the best reasons to visit PRGE is to see all the amazing original artwork that is always on display. Some of the most talented artists working in the subject of retro gaming brought their finest works for sale and exhibition. Each year I make it a point to bring home at least one unique artistic creation. I feel that artwork is something that enriches my life. It's also my chance to add something totally unique to my retro gaming collection. PRGE has quickly become a hot spot for alternative artists working in every possible medium, and all of their work is focused on retro gaming.

The Future of Retro Gaming:

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As I took a small break from my duties at the show I encountered two bright young men, both of whom were fans of retro gaming and vintage computing. The boy on the right is actually holding the very first computer I ever owned. The young man on the left is holding a Commodore Vic 20, another computer that played a big role in my life. Encountering these two at the show really brought warm feelings to my heart. For me it was one of the happiest moments of the show. These young men are the future of retro gaming. It's their interest, and their passion, that will drive this industry for many years to come. It is also that same interest, that innate curiosity about vintage technology, that will lead them to great success in life. Who knows? I may have just met a kid who will grow up to be the next Steve Jobs.

Take a Video Tour of PRGE 2016:

Take a walking tour of the 2016 Portland Retro Gaming Expo. This year the popular retro gaming expo celebrates its 11th anniversary. The show has grown bigger and better with each passing year. See why this was easily the best show in PRGE history!

See Over 130 Photos of PRGE 2016:

Click THIS LINK [LINK] to see over 130 exclusive high resolution photos direct from Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2016 in our massive image gallery!

In Conclusion:

Once again I had an amazing time at PRGE. I look forward to this show all year long. PRGE has clearly become the biggest and the best retro gaming show in the country. It has set the bar high for all other retro gaming conventions. PRGE is a three day celebration of everything we love about this exciting medium. It brings us all together for one reason, to share our mutal love of retro gaming. At the end of the show I always leave with a big smile on my face. Until next year!

Special Thanks:

I would like to extend my deepest and most heartfelt thanks to show organizer Rick Weis and to all his devoted volunteers. You all worked so hard to make this a wonderful show for everyone. I can't thank you enough. I would also like to thank our friends at AtariAge.com, especially Albert Yarusso, the folks at RetroUSB.com, the gang at Cash In Culture, and our friends James Rolfe, John Lester, and Pat "The NES Punk" Contri. I would also like to thank my new friend Daryl, aka 4ever2600 from the AtariAge.com forums. We had a great time playing games at the show and I hope to see you again next year. Most importantly I'd like to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read this article. If it wasn't for your support I wouldn't get the chance to cover so many great conventions. I hope to see you all at the show in 2017!

About The Author: Elliott S. Thomas is a hardcore retro gaming enthusiast. His retro gaming collection could fill a small house. When you ask him, "Have You played Atari today?", he will almost always say, "Yes."

Be sure to check out your Retro Gaming YouTube channel for 1000s of classic gaming videos.

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