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2022 Long Island Retro Gaming Expo recap August 21, 2022

Posted by Mike C. in Audio, Aviation, Books, Education, History, Internet, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Podcast, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
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Previous LI Retro recaps: 2017 (Sunday), 2018, 2019
Spinoff recaps: UPLINK (2020), Festival of Games (2021)

Part 1: Introduction

The Long Island Retro Gaming Expo‘s long-awaited return came on Friday, August 12, after a three-year COVID-caused absence. Yes, the expo was expanded to three days starting this year, running from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. The venue was the same as always: the Cradle of Aviation Museum, situated along Museum Row in East Garden City on the former site of Mitchel Air Force Base.

The purported 2020 edition of LI Retro was announced in February of that year. I immediately bought a weekend pass (still just two days). Little did anyone know that the faraway disease then referred to as the Coronavirus would reach the United States a few weeks later. As COVID-19 spread and a pandemic grew, venues shut down and events were either canceled or postponed. LI Retro’s postponement came that May. 2020 tickets would be honored in ’21. UPLINK, a virtual expo, was scheduled in its place on August 8 and 9. Of course, I attended and wrote a recap.

Even as vaccines were rolled out going into 2021, the organizers felt it was too soon to resume. Thus, they postponed again to ’22; and again, tickets for the postponed years would be honored. Another edition of UPLINK was held virtually in February. I attended, but was overwhelmed by the amount of transcribing and note-taking I’d have to do for the panels I planned on watching. So, I abandoned the recap in favor of continued radio show production.

Last December, LI Retro held its first annual one-day Festival of Games. I was in and out within two hours after a photographic walking tour (similar to the one you’ll see later in this post), arcade game sampling, and buying games from vendors. There was a recap for that.

As August drew closer, a third day of LI Retro was introduced. I considered attending, but opted to stick to the weekend.

With a week to go, I feared I’d compulsively take too many photos, a habit that’s gotten out of hand (i.e. Memorial Day boat ride, June 18 Mets game). I only took 353 photos at another Mets game on August 10, but sure enough, I went overboard at LI Retro. To that end, this is the first post with photo galleries.

The bulk of my photos were shot with my DSLR, but I took supplemental photos with my iPhone.

I arrived at the Cradle of Aviation Museum at 10:06 AM on Saturday:

Within 15 minutes, I was inside. I walked to the box office and handed my ticket to the attendant in exchange for a badge. “Finally,” I told her, “after 2 1/2 years, I get to use this [ticket].” She handed me my badge and my adventure began.

Part 2: Panels

My first panel – after meeting and greeting, and photographing the vendor rooms, was by Brett Weiss. “I Survived the Video Game Crash of 1983” began at 11AM in Panel Room 2. I joined it in progress, grabbing a front row seat, but oddly holding back on photos.

Brett talked about his experiences with arcade games and home video game consoles from the second generation into the third, and how the rise of home computers played a role in the 1983 crash.

During the Q&A session at the end, I relayed (but didn’t ask, so I apologized) my video game experience growing up. I was a home (and school) computer guy, fluent with Apple II, and my sister and I received an NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) in February 1990, as the third home video game console generation gave way to the fourth.

The book in the last photo is the one I bought from Brett afterward.

After snacking on a protein bar, I entered the Main Theatre for Pat Contri and Ian Ferguson’s 12:30 PM panel. I spoke to Pat and Ian during my meet and greet session two hours earlier, reminding them that I met them in 2019 and immersed myself in content from Pat’s YouTube channel after buying (at their merchandise table) the four DVD sets of Pat the NES Punk and the book Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library. I subsequently bought the SNES guide. I wrote reviews of each – NES, SNES. (And you can buy the DVDs and books here.) This year, I bought two stickers and a CU Podcast (Completely Unnecessary Podcast) t-shirt. It was the last large size they had. I said I’d probably get along swimmingly with Frank, Pat’s older friend from New Jersey who settled in San Diego before Pat and Ian made their respective moves there.

Pat and Ian’s panel was a live portion of their next episode of the CU Podcast. Before it started, and while I settled into my front row seat, the volunteer assigned to the theater asked them to “say something into the microphone” as a mic check. Ian jokingly parroted the request: “say something into the microphone.” I amusingly replied, “I knew you were gonna say that.”

Continuing from prior episodes, Pat and Ian criticzed Tommy Tallarico and his vaporware console that would have been (or could still be?) the Intellivision Amico. On display above them was the console’s leaked “fact book.” There will be audio and video, but first, the photos:

You can hear the panel-turned-podcast-episode here. My portion of the Q&A starts at 1:57:08, but I’ve clipped it here:

The word I used to describe Frank was “luddite.” Yes, I stumbled on the title Ancient Aliens, coming out as “ancient alenins.”

And this is a video excerpt from the panel – shot with the iPhone on the table – that was posted to Pat’s YouTube channel:

I was the voice at 16:44 saying that Sean Astin narrated a video game documentary. I was thinking of Video Games: The Movie, but a comment to the video said the fact sheet was referencing the later docuseries called Playing with Power: The Nintendo Story.

I liked Ian’s quaint pronunciation of wanton, “wonton” instead of “wantin’.”

Video of the Q&A portion:

My questions start at 18:26, “Tommy” starts at 25:13.

Theater guests had to exit on the third floor, so I bode my time by taking photos of the few console freeplay tables there. Then, I snapped pics for most of the second floor exhibits prior to the Axinn Air and Space Museum Hall entrance. I saved that for after the 2PM panel back in the theater.

In that 2PM panel, John Blue Riggs performed a live ROM hack of Super Mario Bros. for the NES, the first game I played in February 1990 via the Duck Hunt combo cart. With the right software, John imported tiles from whatever NES game ROMs the audience requested, and he altered the SMB code to altered the colors and text. Let the editing begin!

I spoke to John during the meet and greet, letting him know that like his son, I am on the autism spectrum, specifically with what used to be called Asperger Syndrome. While at his table, I bought a Sega Genesis ROM hack that put Scott Pilgrim from his titular video game in Streets of Rage 2. We posed for a photo, but when I got home, I was dismayed to find that my DSLR’s lens didn’t focus on us when his tablemate Dave took our photo. They graciously allowed a do-over with my iPhone Sunday morning.

Here is John’s aforementioned vlog of his LI Retro experience:

I’m in the vlog at 13:30, going through my DSLR camera roll before John’s panel. At 19:56, he and Dave ate at Friendly’s in nearby East Meadow. I ate there with my girlfriend Kelly during her visit in April.

After the panel, I photographed what I believed to be nearly every other nook and cranny of the freeplay and tournament areas. John saw much more than I did.

The last item on my Saturday agenda was to buy games from vendors. (See the end of part 4.)

The combination of excitement from earlier in the day and a loud block party somewhere south of my house kept me from relaxing and easing into sleep. I probably slept two to four hours, at best.

I arrived at day three of the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo at around 10:30 AM. I met Justin, Marshall, and Kieran from Cinemassacre/Screenwave Media (and bought Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie), got the second chance photo with Riggs, and hung out at Leonard Herman‘s table. I’ve known Lenny (to his friends and family) since meeting him at the 2018 LI Retro and then reviewing his video game history book, Phoenix IV. In 2019, I met his associate Jeff, and this year, I was honored to meet Patrick Wong and Mark W. Baer, the middle child of Dena and Ralph H. Baer, the inventor of videogames (one word). They’re all nice and friendly, and it was my pleasure buying Ralph’s book Videogames in the Beginning, and Kate Hannigan‘s biographical children’s book, Blips on a Screen. I will definitely read that to Leo F. Giblyn School students next March, another annual tradition of mine.

Lenny and Mark’s panel was at 11:30 AM in Panel Room 2. Again, I sat in the front row. Lenny grew to be like a surrogate son to Ralph, and the brotherly love between he and Mark was on display throughout the panel, especially in the first two pics.

I linked to it in the gallery, but here again is Ralph and Bill Harrison’s 1969 Brown Box demo:

Part 3: Meet and greet photos

Lenny Herman and Mark Baer:

Patrick Wong:

Jeff, in his Pac-Man suit:

Brett Weiss:

Pat Contri and Ian Ferguson:

John Riggs:

The Cinemassacre/Screenwave Media crew, Justin and Marshall:

…and I met Kieran while browsing a vendor’s games:

You’ll see merchandise and games in the pickups portion of this recap.

Part 4: Touring the expo

Musical performance: 88bit (a.k.a. Rob Kovacs):

88bit was featured in John Riggs’s vlog.

The other performers were ConSoul, Retro & Chill, and Super Thrash Bros. (also in John’s vlog).

The line ahead of the cosplay contest, held Saturday at 3:30 PM in the Main Theatre:

High score challenges:

Galaga:

Just Dance 4 (to “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley):

Tournaments:

Game Boy Selfie Station with the Game Boy Camera and Printer:

Console freeplay:

Indie and homebrew games:

Arcade freeplay:

PC freeplay:

Before I left for home on Sunday, I tried out some console and arcade freeplay games, but not PC games. Maybe next year. The console games I played were Joust (Atari 7800), Sonic CD (Sega CD), Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo), and Virtua Tennis (Sega Dreamcast). The arcade games I attempted were Space Invaders, Arkanoid, NARC, VS. Hogan’s Alley, Ms. Pac-Man, and Mortal Kombat.

I even gave LJN Video Art a try. It was just as finicky as The Angry Video Game Nerd (James Rolfe) made it out to be.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a TV running the WeatherStar 4000 simulator, a tribute to The Weather Channel local forecasts/Local on the 8s in the 1990s (check TWC Classics for examples):

Vendor Room:

Vendor Room annex (“More Vendors”), also home to meet and greets (and the food court):

When I was finished taking photos on Saturday, I began making the rounds in the vendor room to pickup video games. I vowed not to spend more than $25 on a game, and with one exception, I honored my vow. I successfully haggled when necessary, paying $15 for $17 worth of games, $20 for $23 worth, and $30 for $33 worth. Otherwise, one vendor discounted $7 from my $132 total and another had a two for $10 deal if you bought two $6 games. The only game I bought priced above $25 was the Xbox port of The Simpsons: Hit & Run, which was $35. It was my last purchase before leaving on Saturday. My last two purchases on Sunday were Legacy of the Wizard and Rolling Thunder, both for NES.

I was satisfied with my pickups, which brings us to…

Part 5: Pickups

Saturday pickups:

Merchandise:

Non-merchandise in the photo: Leonard Herman and Brett Weiss business cards, Schiffer Publishing and Classic Home Video Games bookmarks

NES (Nintendo Entertainment System):

Sega Master System:

Super NES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System):

Nintendo 64:

Nintendo GameCube:

Microsoft Xbox:

Nintendo Wii:

I’d wanted The Simpsons: Hit & Run ever since it was lauded in the Game Sack video on Simpsons games. (Click here to start at the relevant portion.) Epic Mickey was on my mind after seeing it on Friday in a 2017 Cygnus Destroyer video on his Top 10 Disney Games. I didn’t think to check the condition of the discs before buying, and was disappointed to see their scuffed appearance on Saturday night. You’ll see below that Epic Mickey 2 was one of my Sunday pickups from a vendor that also had the original game. All discs at his booth were in pristine condition. I lamented my mistake from the day before, chalking it up to a lesson learned. This Nintendo link taught me a positive lesson on Sunday night: how to clean discs. Monday night, I took dampened part of a washcloth and wiped Epic Mickey from left to right, line by line, then did the same with a dry part of the washcloth. The game played flawlessly in my Wii U. Tuesday morning, I did the same to Hit & Run and had the same positive result in my Xbox 360. Hit & Run was more fun and intuitive to play than Epic Mickey.

Sunday pickups:

Merchandise:

Non-merchandise in the photo: signed copy of The Angry Video Game Nerd I & II Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) signed by Justin (brought from home after seeing their booth on Saturday), Ralph Baer commemorative coins (one shown from the front, one from the back), my Game Boy Camera print from the Selfie Station, my weekend badge with Jovia lanyard

I watched the AVGN movie in 2019 on Amazon Prime Video, but it was later delisted. Now, I own a Blu-ray copy. They can’t take that away from me.

NES:

Xbox:

Wii:

It may be a while before I get a Super Scope, but the Saturday after LI Retro, I bought a Wii Balance Board, Wii Fit U, and a Wii Fit U Fit Meter. Now, I can play all the Wii Fit games and track my steps.

Just as AVGN made Ikari Warriors infamous (outtakes), Wii Music’s bad reputation stems from the crazy demo at E3 2008. I almost bought still another infamous NES game, Deadly Towers, on the Saturday of the expo, but relented.

Part 6: Conclusion

All good things must come to an end, and my time at the 2022 Long Island Retro Gaming Expo ended at 2:05 PM on Sunday, August 14. I took two parting shots with my iPhone before riding home:

Thank you for making it to the end of my recap. I know there was a lot to process, and it was a labor of love to draft the post. Patience was required often as WordPress struggled to display the text I typed, presumably because of all the photos and captions.

Thank you to all the guests I met and reacquainted with, to the vendors I bought from, and my fellow attendees, like budding game designer Brandon.

Special thanks to the LI Retro organizers and volunteers, especially Ryan Shapiro. You were all friendly and highly accommodating. I greatly appreciate that.

Until next year, so long.

UPLINK by LI Retro recap August 21, 2020

Posted by Mike C. in Art, Film, History, Internet, Interviews, Media, Personal, Technology, Video, Video Games.
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Long Island Retro Gaming Expo recaps: 2017, 2018, 2019

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, events have been canceled or postponed. The 2020 Long Island Retro Gaming Expo was no exception. In its place, the team behind the expo announced UPLINK by LI Retro, a convention held entirely online. They also announced that tickets for the 2020 LI Retro will be honored in 2021.

UPLINK ran August 8 and 9, the weekend intended for the expo. In the days leading up to it, I consulted the schedule to determine which panels I would attend remotely. Seven caught my eye.

Saturday, August 8
As UPLINK began, the cable remained out at my house, stemming from an outage that began around 7PM Wednesday, two hours before my radio show was to air. That meant until service was restored, I had to take part via 4G on my iPhone 11.

I only noticed one vendor in the exhibitor hall selling games and none that I was interested in. So, there won’t be any pickups at the end of the post.

Discord chat servers were set up on the right side of the main event page and on all panel pages.

My plan was to take notes during each panel and also take screencaps for private use and, if granted permission, a public blog post. (Obviously, I was permitted or you wouldn’t be reading this.)

The first panel I attended, at 10:30 AM, was Origins of the JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) with Jeremy Parish, co-host of the Retronauts podcast and host of the Video Works series, and Kurt Kalata of Hardcore Gaming 101:

The games discussed were:

Some of the above games were chronicled in a 2013 HG101 post.

Jeremy and Kurt concluded by answering questions from the chat and Twitter, discussing Kurt’s upcoming JRPG book, and opining on the Trials of Mana remake.

I screencapped the panel from the archive video once my cable service was restored.

My next panel wasn’t until 1:45 PM, which gave me time to retouch photo scans on my computer while listening to an episode of Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast.

The 1:45 panel was a My Life in Gaming Q&A with channel creators Coury Carlson & Marc “Try4ce” (“Try” for short) Duddleson:

Minutes into the panel, the 4G service fell to one or two bars, making UPLINK impossible to watch live. I hoped to watch the panel archives once cable was restored, whenever that would be.

Having given up, I turned on my TV to watch a film on Blu-ray. A strange thing greeted me: a message on the top right corner of the screen. Those only come if there’s a Wi-Fi connection. I walked into the guest room to check the cable modem. There were three solid lights! Not one solid and one blinking! The cable was back! My UPLINK weekend was back on!

Here are the notes I compiled while watching the archive:

The panel is available to watch on the My Life in Gaming YouTube channel:

I had a pair of primetime panels, but first, dinner and shows on my DVR that I missed while the cable was out.

At 7PM, there was a roundtable discussion moderated by Dom Delledera of the It’s All Fun and Games YouTube channel, with Metal Jesus Rocks & Friends: Metal Jesus, a.k.a. Jason Lindsey, The Immortal John Hancock, John Riggs, and Kelsey Lewin:

Due to technical problems, Riggs was a few minutes late.

Dom is on the top left, John Hancock is top center, Jason is top right, Kelsey is on the bottom left, and John Riggs on the bottom right.

Metal Jesus and his friends are based in Washington State. Jason and Kelsey both live in the Seattle area, Riggs is in Yakima, and Hancock is based on Longview.

For this and subsequent panels in the recap, if a remark is not in quotation marks, it is not verbatim.

  • How has everyone been during the pandemic?
  • Kelsey noted how game prices were affected by the pandemic
  • Games that Jason and Riggs have been looking for
  • Jason has been buying PlayStation 3 games at various GameStop locations. He suggested collectors pick up games for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Wii U.
  • Hancock is currently collecting retro computer games and pursuing Nintendo Switch games.
  • Riggs hasn’t been pursuing games due to the pandemic. His area is only at Phase 1. He’s fortunate to have an enormous backlog.
  • Kelsey and Jason have started cataloging more often.
  • Hancock went over his YouTube channel‘s recent videos, including The Many Ports of Joust, from Atari to Xbox.
  • Riggs talked about recent videos on his channel.
  • The conversation turned to preservation.
  • Jason is a fan of really bad movies, such as Chopping Mall.
  • All media has value, Jason said, whether it’s good or bad.
  • Every game is someone’s favorite game, said Riggs.
  • Hancock believes we need to consider obscurities.
  • The current generation of games is difficult to preserve.
  • Preserving mobile games: Jason preserved some of them on his iPhone 6
  • Hancock lamented that we’re moving from an ownership model to a service model, and that’s concerning.
  • Kelsey noted this has been a problem since the original Xbox.
  • It’s not just archiving games, Jason explained, but also servers.
  • Riggs bought NES games cheap during liquidation sales in the late 1990s. Examples: Bucky O’Hare for $4 and Contra Force for $6.
  • Hancock used to get lots of games in a flea market with only $20 to $40 on him. He’s still finding deals at flea markets: a PS3 controller for $3, a Move controller for $5.
  • Kelsey noted the economy of retro game collecting has changed so much in the last decade.
  • Ever had to spend more than you wanted? For Jason, it was SSI gold box games and Neverwinter Nights. Kelsey spent more than she’d have wanted on Mama Mitte, a pregnancy tracker for the Bandai WonderSwan: $3,200. John Hancock’s big purchase was Magical Chase for the TurboGrafx-16: about $2,000 on a payment plan. John Riggs found The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak for NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) from Chile for only $200.
  • The rarest game in Hancock’s collection that he never gets to talk about is the Microsoft BASIC programming cartridge for the Mattel Intellivision. Jason’s rarest game is a DS cartridge for horse race betting.
  • Kelsey asked if anyone had anything rare outside of games. Jason has CDs that there’s only one copy of, such as a demo tape at a Nevermore signing by an album producer who also produced Queen. Hancock is an all-in guy; just games. Riggs has old cereal boxes. And Kelsey collected Nintendo toys from before they made video games.
  • Hancock and Riggs listed the games that their children play. Riggs’s 12-year-old son, who is autistic (I’m also on the spectrum), loves Clubhouse Games for the Switch.
  • What plans do they have for their collections at end of their lives? Hancock has a non-profit formed and is working on a museum. He never intended to keep his collection. Kelsey’s collection is committed to the Video Game History Foundation, where she is a co-director. (More on that in the VGHF panel later in this post.) Riggs has been piecing out his collection, selling some games at conventions.
  • What have you given up looking for? John Hancock gave up Neo Geo AES carts, prototypes, signage, and kiosks. Jason’s through looking for arcade machines. For Kelsey, Bandai WonderSwan store displays and WonderSwan “booth babe” outfits. She does have an inflatable WonderSwan balloon. Riggs has given up on the Ultimate Journey NES prototype.
  • Jason hoped he’d find more 64DD development disks, after previously finding a 64DD, but no one came forward.
  • In closing, Dom asked if Jason had a hidden gem. He chose Skyrim VR. It’s not really a hidden gem, but it’s the first thing that came to mind.

Immediately after the MJR panel, I jumped to the Fireside Chat with David Murray, The 8-Bit Guy, moderated by George Portugal:

  • The Tech from Texas series (part 2)
  • New backyard workshop in backyard to be built over the next 3 to 4 months – will be able to work on projects more efficiently
  • David keeps retro hardware in his attic. There’s little room for it elsewhere in the house.
  • He won’t be moving his office into the workshop.
  • The DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) retro computer community – used to have regular quarterly meetings – everyone would bring something – active Facebook group
  • David doesn’t ask for donations anymore because he can just borrow a given item from the community.
  • The Commander X16 project is 99% complete. He hasn’t been involved much in current development. Everything is working on the board except for the video chip. If it were booting now, he would start the Kickstarter campaign. He needs a functioning prototype first. He expects the Kickstarter to launch in the fall. Some people could have an X16 by Christmas. Christian Simpson, a.k.a. Perifractic, is doing the manual.
  • David talked about his various series on manufacturers – Commodore, Tandy, Sinclair – and took future episode suggestions.
  • He reacted in agreement to my Discord chat post: “You can’t please everyone.”
  • The worst videos to make are the ones that never got finished.
  • David gave an update on the Commodore series DVD (or Blu-ray). He’s waiting to finish it with a video on the Amiga line. He doesn’t know much about it outside of the 500, and is communicating with experts for help.
  • He will also need help in scripting the TRS-80 series video.
  • Are there YouTube channels David enjoys or watches? There are two he subscribes to: LGR (Lazy Game Reviews), run by Clint Basinger, and Techmoan, run by Mat Taylor. He also watches Perifractic and electric car-related channels. He has heard of and talked to the Nostalgia Nerd. He’s seen Technology Connections videos, but hasn’t talked to Alec. He likely won’t meet Mat since he doesn’t travel or do conventions.
  • David keeps a running list, in spreadsheet form, of topics he wants to cover.
  • His favorite video is the history of the Commodore VIC-20, which was his first computer. He also likes the two-part VIC-20 restoration video (part 1, part 2), which each got over a million views.
  • Are you PC or Mac? David is both, but edits on a Mac.
  • He hardly has time for games unless it’s for the purpose of a video. When there is time, he’ll play StarCraft, Duke Nukem 3D, and his own game, Planet X3.
  • Will there be a Planet X4? David says maybe. He’s working on something similar that’s closer to SimCity and M.U.L.E.. Whatever the next game is, he wants it to work on all Commodore systems. He’ll code it on the PET.
  • David likes programming constraints.
  • He might be getting a THEVIC20 mini console to review.
  • He has no desire to port Planet X2 to Atari 8-bit computers.
  • David owns all the equipment to do a video on Family BASIC for Famicom, which was donated to him recently. He’ll need help, though.
  • His favorite Commodore 64 games are the Ultima series, Master of the Lamps, M.U.L.E., Ghostbusters, Action Biker, Spy vs. Spy, Maniac Mansion, and Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders.
  • David went on Richard Garriott‘s property for the Austin episode of Tech from Texas, speaking to Richard about that earlier in the year. Richard was in France at the time, and would have come back, but when the pandemic struck, he stayed in France. Instead, David was shown around the property by former Origin Systems employee Scott Jones and former Portalarium employee Edward Vitralis.
  • David’s least favorite computer that he reviewed are the Advantech I.Q. Unlimited by V-Tech and the Timex Sinclair 1000. His least favorite that he restored was the Osborne (part 1, part 2, part 3).
  • His favorite current computer storage medium is SD card; retro is 3.5″ floppy.
  • Are UV lights the best approach to retrobriting vs. the sun? David still prefers to use the sun, if available because it’s much faster.
  • David’s wife and daugther don’t help much with videos. His wife was camera operator in Austin, and his daughter handled that in Houston.
  • He talked about his appearance in a recent Krazy Ken’s Tech Talk video. It was recorded last year, and he forgot he even said what he did in the video.
  • David lamented that he couldn’t come to Long Island this year. He had a speech planned on the demo scene, which would have been revamped from a previous speech at Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE), which was also canceled this year. He doesn’t like the IMAX theater in the Cradle of Aviation Museum. You can’t see the audience when the lights are dimmed. The projection on the IMAX screen is curved. Everyone is up above.
  • Hopefully, in person next year.

That was the last of my Saturday panels. I finished watching a movie on Prime Video and went to sleep.

Sunday, August 9
My first panel of the day wasn’t until 12:15 PM. Of the three panels I planned on watching, two conflicted with each other. So, I opted to watch one live and the other later.

The 12:15 panel was the Retro Roundtable hosted by Bob Neal of RetroRGB (top left), with Ste Kulov (top center) and Nick Mueller (bottom center) of HD Retrovision, Zach Henson, a.k.a. Voultar (top right), and René Richard (bottom right) of dB Electronics:

  • René wore a mask initially.
  • Bob was the only one to wear a t-shirt that says “Bob& Zach& René& Nick& Ste.”
  • What everyone’s been up to?
  • Bob, Ste, and Nick’s lives haven’t changed much. Zach’s has due to Kentucky small business regulations and government mandates. He had issues with the shipping system. At one point in the pandemic, items weren’t arriving on time, but “things are much better now.”
  • René said there was one COVID case in his town. Schools were shut down, and he worked from home for two months. René was eventually allowed back to his office, but with a mask, and he had to wash his hands after entering and before exiting. He quit Twitter about a year ago. René’s house got flooded, and he had to tear out the drywall. He hadn’t worked in the last few months, nor had he played any games during the post-flood restoration. He started playing games again two weeks ago.
  • Bob talked about the Sony BVM D32.
  • The last game Bob beat was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch. He has been using the PlayStation 2 version of OutRun 2006 to test other games. It’s a really fun racing game, he said.
  • Ste learned how to machine aluminum, had a problem with a U.S.-based supplier – Nick clarified it was over Dreamcast cables – and he played Final Fantasy VII Remake.
  • Nick said it took three months to ship cables to a distributor in Switzerland via USPS.
  • Bob lamented his shipping woes.
  • The last game Zach played was also Link’s Awakening. Like Bob, he can look beyond the subtle frame rate issues.
  • Zach and Ste rented server space, at $9 a month, for games they love to play, such as Battlefield 2142. They soon hope to invite friends and viewers to play in the server. Ste noted it’s running now via OpenSpy. Zach said all Doom games are on the server.
  • Bob asked if you can up the frame rate on older PC games. Zach said yes. A game’s vertical refresh rate will sync to the refresh rate of your monitor.
  • There was talk of two PlayStation ODEs (optical disc emulators): CybDyn’s PSIO and the upcoming xStation by Robert Neumann. (Zach posted a video on the xStation the day before.) ODE loading speeds were compared to loading speeds on disc.
  • They talked about the MiSTer FPGA (field-programmable gate array).
  • René listed the flash carts he has.
  • Krikzz’s Mega EverDrive PRO vs. Terraonion’s Mega SD, two carts that can play Sega CD games and Virtua Racing for Genesis
  • The subject turned to personal non-retro projects: René built his own amplifier, which he showed off. It’s a 4-channel tube amp that he made back in about 2008. Unfortunately, there’s a pop sound when switching between high and low gain.
  • The issue of repro (reproduction cart) sellers was debated.
  • Zach promoted his cartridge patching and translation service.
  • Bob joked about a “guitar-off.” René’s been practicing guitar, improving his skill for the first time since 2012.
  • Bob went over his recording process.
  • The panel talked about the Analogue Pocket. Zach said their marketing is “disingenuously brilliant.” They praised Kevin Horton, a.k.a. Kevtris, who worked on previous Analogue consoles.
  • Zach plugged an upcoming video on Analogue.
  • What are their thoughts on mini consoles? Bob thinks they’re best for a nostalgia fix; Zach said they’re a fun novelty.
  • The panel universally praised 8BitDo products, then showed off controllers from 8BitDo, Krikzz, and Retro-Bit.
  • Ste and Nick gave an update on HD Retrovision.
  • There was a plug for the upcoming MLiG/John Linneman panel.

The Video Game History Foundation panel at 2PM was the one I chose not to watch live. I watched on Wednesday, taking the most comprehensive notes out of any panel I watched.

This panel was moderated by Jeremy Parish, co-host of the Retronauts podcast and host of the Video Works series, who I saw on Saturday morning in Origins of the JRPG. His guests where VGHF founder and co-director Frank Cifaldi and co-director Kelsey Lewin, who I saw in the Metal Jesus roundtable on Saturday night.

  • Jeremy first thought of doing a VGHF update during last year’s Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. He would have had a panel at the GDC (Game Developers Conference) in the spring, but “the whole world got sick.” (The GDC was rescheduled to a few days before UPLINK was also held virtually.) Jeremy was “glad that we can finally make it happen” at UPLINK.
  • Jeremy spoke to Frank, Steve Lin and Mike Mica about their starting VGHF three years ago during California Extreme.
  • Frank got into video game history through the video game industry, starting in the late ’90s as a video game journalist. His first entry to preserving video games was seeking out cartridge-based console games that weren’t yet preserved digitally. He was inspired by The Film Foundation, applying that line of thinking to video games. He started a website called Lost Levels, the first to focus on unreleased games. He talked to game developers. He worked Gamasutra and 1UP. Frank is also in game development, working for Digital Eclipse on their game compilations. He was the producer/director of the Mega Man Legacy Collection and SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. He also worked on Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and The Disney Afternoon Collection. The Video Game History Foundation is the culmination of Frank’s preservation on the side. “‘That guy Frank’ should be more than me,” he said.
  • Kelsey started collecting and playing old games a decade ago. She was working at a retro video game store, Pink Gorilla Games, which she now owns with her husband Cody Spencer. She enjoyed researching old games and reaching out to developers. Like Frank, Kelsey was a frustrated historian. She discovered VGHF shortly about a month after their 2017 launch.
  • Frank noted that Kelsey pitched the idea of being a public relations representative for the foundation, but he declined. She didn’t go away, though, and started sending him things, showed up to all the meetings, helped organize museum displays at PRGE. Kelsey did a project for Game Informer, organizing volunteers to help digitize a collection of press kits, slides, press releases, and more. She did it for all five weeks. Kelsey’s a co-director because “she’s the real deal and she proved her worth by far.”
  • Jeremy’s Video Works series was inspired by Chrontendo.
  • Jeremy lamented the problem with being a completionist is always thinking there’s more to do. (I can attest to that.)
  • Frank: “The research is never done.”
  • Frank stumbled across the Video Game Update/Computer Entertainer newsletter and has most of the set scanned. It’s a great resource for Jeremy, proving “you can’t believe everything Nintendo says about its own library.” The newsletter was the only outlet that consistently covered console games from 1985 to 1988 when video game magazines came back or launched. In Frank’s words: “This is the only English-language review of Super Mario Bros. from when it came out. This is it.”
  • Frank’s passion isn’t completing video games; it’s completing information. He admitted he gets upset if missing an issue of a video game magazine.
  • VGHF’s focus isn’t on the games, but the context.
  • Kelsey’s WonderSwan pregnancy tracker, Mama Mitte, caught the attention of Tanita, who manufactured it. (They also manufactured the scale I’ve had since 1999.)
  • Kelsey said there are still things in Japan that are not well-documented, such as retail releases. She claimed we’re 99% done here, but there are still some holes in Japan.
  • Frank talked about archiving Where in North Dakota is Carmen Sandiego?, a mainline Carmen Sandiego game that became extremely rare. He interviewed teachers who worked on it and managed to archive a clean copy of the game (unsaved disks) and a game box.
  • Frank is trying to blanket cover English-language print media and assets that the media had.
  • Frank said a majority of video games were made by companies that no longer exist.
  • Speaking of the Nintendo Gigaleak, Jeremy said it showed there’s actually a company that obsessively preserved all the content about a game: betas, development documents, in-house messaging. That doesn’t happen often in Japan. Regardless, the way the leak came out was unfortunate.
  • Frank believes collecting game development source material is the best way to study a game. You have access to its source, and can tweak and rebuild it.
  • Frank said source code should be donated to libraries. The code is something that lives in a place where an historian can access it, study it, and start piecing together a narrative.
  • The thing that drives Jeremy is telling stories and piecing them together: how a game compares to what else was on the market, what it owes to other creations. The more information that VGHF can put out, the easier it becomes to tell those stories, to go beyond review of a game and piece together a timeline of video game history. As someone of his age, who can remember the time of the NES launch (he was 10, at the time), he can fill in gaps from his experience. You need as much raw material to work with as you can.
  • Kelsey noted you get little info from a game itself. One magazine doesn’t paint the entire story. She analogized handing someone Pokémon Red and thinking that’s the entire story, ignoring three to four years of PokéMania, as chronicled in a TIME cover story. (Here’s the cover.) You don’t get that from just handing someone a copy of game.
  • Frank helped on an EarthBound documentary with VGHF resources. He noticed patterns: almost every reviewer thought the graphics were objectively bad. “8-bit” came up a lot. The game was compared to Chrono Trigger. Reviewers were in a 3D reality at the time. Jeremy added that American console gamers didn’t have nostalgia for RPGs back then. Frank concluded there was no scenario where better marketing would have saved EarthBound.
  • Projecting the thoughts of the reviewers, Jeremy quipped: “[Battle Arena] Toshinden looks so much better than EarthBound. I bet it’s a much better game. It’s gonna be a timeless classic that people are still talking about in 20 years, and EarthBound, no one’s gonna remember that.”
  • How has the VGHF mission has evolved in three years?
  • In the early days, Frank envisioned the foundation as a vetted, digital repository of information. There’s a lot of work to be done to get there, though. The foundation still doesn’t have good intake system. The biggest change since founding is recognizing things only they can do and what others can do. They will use resources to go out and seek things like video game source code from developers that trust them. They will not turn source material into gossip. Most resources are spent communicating, building bridges and organizing as opposed to actual archival work. Kelsey said it’s a matter of resources and dealing with volatile media. They’re currently focused on advocacy, building a premise of a world where people can study video games more easily. She talked to someone who came into Pink Gorilla that worked in the video game industry. The person had old builds that he considered “microwav[ing],” wondering “who’s gonna care about this game?” Kelsey concluded, “we don’t get to decide what becomes historically important later.”
  • Jeremy has found through hunting down Japanese game developers that worked on classic games 30 years ago that “people are often a very poor judge of the merit of their own work.” Some overvalue their work, others work for hire. It never occurs to them that the games mean something to people on the other side of the planet who will want to learn more about them. He continued you have to get over the barrier of humility, establish a sense of trust. It’s hard to get across, but essential if you can.
  • Frank recalled how in 2017, VGHF published an article breaking down Disney’s Aladdin on Sega Genesis: how it was made, the tools that was used, the animation process, and cut content. It was a very respectful long article. Thanks to the article, Disney and Digital Eclipse made Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King. They used source code from the archives to make a new version of the Genesis Aladdin game that’s on the compilation. Speaking of advocacy, Frank said “if we’re able to demonstrate our vision in a respectable way, … we start working with companies and archiving this stuff more often.”
  • What would you most like to accomplish five years from now? Speaking “for both of us,” Kelsey replied getting the source code initiative off the ground. There are legal hurdles. They don’t have legal precedent for putting source code online unless it’s open source. The first step is to be able to have that accessible in the library.
  • Before formalizing VGHF, Frank visited the Library of Congress’s film archives, which is also where video game archives are. He spent time with librarians who run that, and came to understand the function they serve. LOC has master film reels; companies get prints for remasters. “This should exist for video games.” He wants it to become commonplace where source code is accessible to people, especially abandoned source code. It should be normal, in the archives of any kind, and accessible to people.
  • Kelsey said it’s great to have original art and development documents archived in a way that’s accessible to people.
  • Frank lamented that no video game publisher can justify any labor for allowing access. Time is money. It doesn’t make sense for a for-profit company. Jeremy added that profit motivation is the biggest challenge to preserving video game history. Games that are safe bets are republished constantly – such as Super Mario World – while esoteric games are in rights limbo.
  • How does the foundation’s work apply to MMOs (massively multiplayer online games)? Frank said they can’t do anything about that right now, but on the bright side, companies have gotten significantly better about archiving their material. They’ve figured out how to have secondary market for their product with HD remasters. Kelsey said there’s no way to make an MMO feel the same way it did when it was active, even if you’ve saved everything. What’s useful to historians is many video experiences, oral histories, and blog posts. Frank’s wife is currently playing World of Warcraft Classic, which is not the same as the original. He said people are playing it in a different way.
  • “You can only go so far with anecdotal commentaries,” Jeremy said. “Having the hard copy there as proof is invaluable.”
  • Someone in the chat asked about getting involved in VGHF. Kelsey said there will soon be a need for people who understand library systems, like cataloging and sorting things. The website is going through remodeling. Reach out to VGHF on Twitter. Frank acknowledged the Patreon page with Discord access. “Hang out with historians like us,” he pitched, adding that “it’s nice to have this tight-knit group that we can have conversations with so that we’re not feeling like we’re on our own with this stuff, and you could help us solve problems that way.”

The last of the magnificent seven panels was at 2:15 PM Sunday: a second My Life in Gaming panel, this time with John Linneman of Digital Foundry:

  • This was John’s first U.S. convention appearance. He’s an American expatriate based in Germany, and previously France.
  • The main topic for the panel was gaming technology.
  • October marks seven years since MLiG debuted.
  • John joined Digital Foundry in 2013, as well.
  • Frame rate graphs
  • Video creation process
  • Preferring retro games to modern games
  • Coury praised John’s wealth of knowledge.
  • John said he can look at a game and immediately know how it’ll play.
  • John pretends he’s giving an E3 demo when capturing modern games. Try called it a “cinematic approach.”
  • Gaming technology originated for Coury with Quake II with its Voodoo graphics accelerator by 3dfx Interactive. He didn’t think much about it again until seeing John’s videos, as did Try.
  • SLI (scan-line interleave)
  • The evolution of John’s videos
  • What started John down the gaming tech path was seeing the Daytona USA arcade game in 1994.
  • Try’s entry was F-Zero X on Nintendo 64.
  • Try lamented that people will fight over frame rate, saying 60 FPS (frames per second) retro games are impossible. Coury said that’s likely due to early 30 FPS YouTube videos.
  • John is a self-taught video editor. Coury and Try come from video editing backgrounds.
  • John’s first video in 2015 took a long time to put together
  • John and Try exchanged profundities: John’s pearl was “nobody will ever see the video you didn’t make,” while Try recalled his grandfather’s words of wisdom: “good enough never is.”
  • The trio went over their video editing techniques.
  • Try believes editing more fun when you’re providing each other material. He also used the term “G-roll,” which G to the Next Level liked in the chat.
  • John said “it’s more fun to work with a group now, when it’s possible.”
  • What’s the toughest part about making a video? For Coury, it’s writing. Try is better at that, saying he enjoys it, though he said he gets wordy at times. Coury leans more into editing, which is toughest for Try. The toughest part for John is stress. He feels a sense of accomplishment after finishing a video’s introduction. Then, the writing becomes easier. He writes in chunks.
  • Coury has been experimenting with writing outlines, taking bullet points (like the ones in this post) and turning them into paragraphs.
  • John uses Notepad.
  • Try writes notes so he doesn’t forget.
  • John on editing: “What could look cool here?”
  • Try: Slider shots
  • Coury: Comparison shots
  • Coury cautioned that “you don’t want to repeat shot ideas from episode to episode.”
  • John is proud of the intro to his Analogue Super Nt video.
  • Try is proud of the Play It Loud intro to the MLiG Super Nt video, with its low frame rate, Play It Loud music, and Kevtris soundbites.
  • Coury: Hands-on feel
  • They spoke of the Analog Frontiers series (part 1, part 2).
  • Try’s dog Sandy made a couple of cameos in the panel.
  • John’s PC gameplay capture was used by Try in a video via PC monitor.
  • Why does John say “Mega Drive” instead of “Genesis“? He loves the name, and has more Japanese Mega Drive games than Genesis games.
  • Try believes the PC Engine scene is bigger than TurboGrafx-16 scene. That means there’s more interest in the PC Engine than for its North American counterpart, which released two years after Japan.
  • What were their first experiences seeing RGB on a PVM? John’s came circa 2004. Coury’s first experience was seeing Dreamcast in composite on a CRT. For Try, it was S-Video in college in 2002 and then RGB explanations on Hazard-City.
  • Voiceover techniques
  • Capture techniques
  • Storyboarding and animation
  • John: “I just envision it in my head.”
  • Coury suggests that if you get stuck, step away and try again the next day.
  • Two of Try’s creative locations are in the shower and on the toilet.
  • John is most proud of the video he did on the making of Onrush. He filmed it all in a day and edited over three days. It’s not the best, but he’s proud nonetheless. It didn’t get many views because the game didn’t get much attention.
  • What are your dream documentary subjects? Coury’s is Working Designs. Try would like to profile the original Final Fantasy staff, including creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. John’s dream subject is the original creators of the Sega Saturn. He’d like to understand the entire process, from initial thought to release, and its legacy.
  • What’s the most powerful mini console? John said the Capcom Home Arcade. For hacking purposes, Try went with the PlayStation Classic. Coury’s choice was the Super NES Classic Edition.
  • What videos would they like to do over or differently? Try would like to redo most older videos. The voiceover has improved so much over the years. He would redo the Myst series video. He wouldn’t have written his opinions into the script or use first- or second-person terms.
  • Has John gotten pushback from a company? Once. Most are happy. On his Redout video, he made a small error regarding the Xbox One X version. He received threats. (A retest video followed.)
  • John tries to be positive and documentary-like in videos, helping people understand things. He’s not a raging critic, referring to “angry videos,” though he can’t fault them.
  • They all prefer the OSSC to the Framemeister.
  • They think of Bob Neal when referring to bob deinterlacing.
  • There was a question in the chat about Analog Frontiers with Saturday’s information reiterated. New to this panel was Try considering a spinoff called Analog Frontiers Gaiden. John offered to do a Gaiden video about The CRT Wizard in Germany (referenced in this tweet). Try also noted Artemio Urbina and Tim Worthington will appear briefly in part 5. (Artemio previously appeared in part 2.)
  • They all prefer open world over simulation in contemporary games.
  • Try believes the generic AAA game formula has become tiresome.
  • What’s your favorite modern game? John was torn between Sonic Mania and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Coury’s favorite is also Monster Boy. Try’s is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Nintendo Switch.
  • Thanks to everybody who hung out and watched.
  • John said it was good to see G To the Next Level in the chat. He feels like he’s competing with him on Genesis videos. (Here’s one such video.)
  • Thanks to John for staying up late, as it was 10PM local time.

The panel ran 45 minutes over its intended 3:15 end time. Like the Saturday panel, this one is available to watch on the MLiG YouTube channel:

I don’t think I’ve ever taken this many notes for a blog post. It was a worthwhile endeavor to archive the discussions I witnessed. I hope to be back at the Cradle of Aviation Museum next August to take many photos of panels and exhibits, meet and greet the panelists, and pickup retro games from vendors. Stay safe and healthy, and thank you for reading.