Note: This review was written in cooperation with Future Sack editor Annagram.
Retro gaming events become more and more popular. But outside of big cities, an event like Retro Gaming that took place from Friday, March 27 until Sunday, March 29 2015 was something quite special for GK Kulturgut! and visitors in Haus Basten, Geilenkirchen.
Bad weather, indoor gaming
Usually retro gaming is considered to be a rather expensive endeavor and in the public eye an activity for geeks and rather old people. So it was an interesting experience to visit the event on the final day and to be proven wrong (although of course I didn’t have these prejudices anyway).
The weather was quite stormy, rainy and in general bad, but the short walk (or run) from the main train station to Haus Basten was the first positive thing. The second was that one could already hear the familiar ringing of coins (either from a Mario or Sonic game) with other sounds coming from a less noisy arcade.
Living room gaming attitude
Walking upstairs, the number of consoles and especially games was impressive for such an inconspicuous location. Nintendo was present with the NES, SNES, N64; Sega with its MegaDrive and Dreamcast; while Commodore had the Amiga, C64 and Atari its VCS. In addition to these more well-known consoles and computers, there were also old telegames having various PONG-versions on display, while a laptop MS-DOS system could be found as well.
What was especially pleasing to the eye of both gamers and newcomers was the sheer amount of games lying next to the consoles or put in boxes. Even if they felt a bit random at times and there were surely some classics missing, they covered genres for young and old alike, despite some titles being better played with an accompanying adult.
The atmosphere of playing in a living room was tangible with original CRT TV sets and even some cushions on the ground where one could play PONG. Only the absence of potato chips and beverages was the missing piece of the puzzle, although one could of course bring some along.
Free to play and no extra costs, only some minor problems
The greatest thing about Retro Gaming besides meeting interested gamers and non-gamers was that it was admission-free, although donations were of course welcome. It was an interesting experience to see so many parents with their children as well. The touch-everything attitude also added to this warm feeling of being welcomed, something that other events, like the noisy retro section at Gamescom couldn’t possibly match. A showcase with more things retro-related was present as well, although it could easily be overlooked, just as the wall with gaming posters from a bygone era. More interesting were the old gaming magazines lying around which could be browsed through to get a glimpse of how journalism worked back then.
Of course a problem that will need some addressing if the event gets bigger was that one had to be really quick in order to get a seat in front of the more popular consoles like the N64. There was still some empty space left to get more TVs set up, but this would also mean more maintenance work. More helping hands would have been nice as well, especially with the older computers and videogame systems that people weren’t familiar with. Not only the handling of the technology was more difficult, but the gameplay itself was often more obscure to get into, although finding out how a game worked was a unique experience.
Despite these issues which would have to be dealt with in the future, the way the event was presented was professional and did something even the aforementioned Gamescom couldn’t achieve, i.e. bringing together people skeptical or a bit afraid of gaming culture and those already deeply rooted in this way of life. Playing together or watching other people play, learning about older games, consoles, PCs, by simply having hands-on experience was priceless and made this a day to remember.
To be continued…
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