I have been to many comic book conventions in my lifetime, in the late 90’s and early 00’s I was a frequent guest at WonderCon in San Francisco and San Diego Comic Con. Sadly being a full fledged adult has hampered my convention attendance in this new Century.
This week however I was able to go to my first convention in over ten years, and my first ever video game convention. Game On Expo was held August 9 – 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix Arizona. I found out about this convention rather suddenly via Twitter thanks to MetalJesusRocks and immediately contacted my work about getting at least one of the days off.
To my joy I somehow had Saturday the 10th off and could make my trip farther West into an even hotter part of Arizona. After covering my body in copious amounts of deodorant and baby powder, I was ready to go!
I had no idea what to expect at a video game convention, but when I got there I realized that it was almost exactly like a comic book convention, just swap out comic books for video games and superhero cosplay for digital cosplay.
Thankfully I felt right at home and I stood in like with my messenger bag, some snacks, a camera and lots of fluids so as to not dehydrate.
When I walked through the convention doors and stood in line to be searched I was greeted with familiar sights, fans of all sorts of games coming together to enjoy what they love, cosplay actors that braved the heat to wear some amazing costumes and YouTubers roaming the entrance hall. I felt a rush after I got through the line and my Press Pass and could not wait to see what my first Game On Expo had in store for me.
But first, my bladder needed emptying, so after clearing out a 2 and half hour drive I was ready to get my Game On!
When I walked into the convention hall I saw rows of booths, dozens of stand up arcade games, a retro game area with CRTVs, huge competition screens, tables for card games and board games, an artists alley of sorts and of course the signing alley.
Since I had just gotten there I went to the stand up arcades before they got too crowded and showed off my light gun skills on Area 51, have to get prepped for that raid! I kept a close eye on my watch because I wanted to meet the voice of Bayonetta herself, Hellena Taylor, her signing started at 11am.
I get there on time and see that the signing alley was filling up. Charles Martinet had a big line and was goofing off with fans, Jen Taylor was there and of course the lady I was waiting for. Mrs. Taylor was extremely kind to all of her fans, and all of the money that she collected for signatures and such went to 8 to 10 charities.
I found that to be amazing, add into that her husband was insanely nice as well and chatted me up as I waited. Just meeting them was worth the two hour drive, and my day had just begun.
I waited for the insert art to Bayonetta to dry as I slowly walked the convention floor, mentally remember where I wanted to go once my hands were free. With my insert art safely tucked away I was free to roam the floor for deals and such.
There were many Phoenix based retro game stores in attendance as well as some from Washington and other areas. It was nice to see both local and non local, it means that next year’s Expo should be even bigger. Before the crowds really swarmed the place I got a good look at some exhibitor booths and snagged some games that I had been looking for for quite some time.
Super Smash Bros on the N64 was my biggest find of the night for a pretty decent price, new battery included. My next pretty awesome find was a complete Kirby AirRide for the GameCube at another decent price. The rest of my haul were some common games that I didn’t have yet, but would have been more expensive online. So, if you plan on coming next year, fill your wallet with some twenties, there will be games or merch you might like.
I then found my way into the Retro gaming area, which from a distance looked like a dark cave, but then I remembered how much better CRTV’s worked in the dark. The Retro gaming area had every console from every generation, I finally got to play a Sega Saturn for a little bit, a TurboGraphix 16 and then I plopped my butt in front of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and almost made it to the man himself in one sitting.
This was also the area where they had the Retro Competitions which sadly I couldn’t compete in with my limited schedule. When I was there it was NFL Blitz I believe, then the next day it was Super Mario Kart on the SNES, which I would have loved to have attempted. You really need to go the full three days to experience everything, my Big Boy job did not allow that this time.
I had never met YouTube celebrities either, and Game On Expo just happened to bring some of the ones that I enjoying watching the most. To me they’re the most relatable and the ones I have most in common with in my game preference.
The entire Metal Jesus Group was at the Expo and I was lucky enough to meet the whole crew and chat them up a bit. I was pleased by how nice, humble and just overall grateful they were to their fans. It was awesome to meet them and I hope to see them at another Expo at a later date and say “Hi” once again.
There were stand up arcade machines brought to the Expo by some actual arcades in Phoenix and it was nice to play some of them for free. Playing these really brought back some great memories from my childhood and then also being free helped my wallet out.
I was smart enough to play these right at 10am when I got there, once the masses started pouring in it was hard to get to the fan favorites like Mortal Kombat 4, Rampage, Street Fighter 2 and Donkey Kong.
The huge competition was the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate competition they had set up over the course of the event. The prelims were on Friday and the finals on Saturday, I sat through some of the matches that they were showcasing and The Eye of the Tiger built up in me.
I plan on practicing and practicing so that I can at least compete competently next year. My copies of Smash for the Switch arrived a couple days ago and I’m awaiting my 8 Bit Do adapter so I can git gud on my original GameCube controller.
Speaking of controllers, they had PS4’s, Xbox One’s, Switch’s and Wii’s set up for some friendly competition. The caveat, you HAD to bring your own controller, I was bummed, I have like 5 GameCube controllers and I would have loved to have battled some strangers in Smash on the Wii. Oh well, live and learn.
I had a blast, and am very grateful that I found out about this Expo in time! I would have been insanely bummed if I missed this. If you’re a big gamer, a competitive gamer, a retro gamer, a cosplayer or all of the above it would be in your best interest to go next year.
I plan on going, hopefully for all 3 days so I can compete. Will I be seeing you there?