Video gaming in Metro Vancouver is becoming a more popular way to let loose and have fun.
Whether it’s a multi-million-dollar E-sports tournament, having dinner at a gaming-themed restaurant, or experimenting with virtual reality – the opportunities are boundless.
But as gaming and tech companies move forward with innovations, some people are looking BACK – at retro gaming.
In fact, Metro Vancouverites are finding all kinds of reasons to travel back in time – and “kick it old school.”
What’s in your attic?
How about your storage, or basement? For some, it’s old year books or evidence of past fashion faux pas.
And for others it’s old video games.
LISTEN: Tech Me Out – Retro gaming gains popularity in Vancouver
Yes, those “old” video games and their consoles – some people feeling that ping – or PONG of nostalgia – when they hear names like “Atari,” “Super Nintendo”…try “Sega Dreamcast.”
Just ask John Lester, who runs a YouTube channel where he reviews video games, with a focus on what’s usually called “The Classics.”
“We’re talking thousands of games, and, a couple hundred consoles in my collection, so it’s taken some time to accumulate that.”
Yes. You heard him. Thousands of games. But why?
“I’ve always managed to hold on to my consoles as a kid, for the most part, and most of the games, so I mean I guess I could say I’ve been collecting for the majority of my life. I find – the nostalgia part at least for me – and the simplicity, just the graphics, just…to me, it’s like a story… And you look at it like music where people like to listen to classic music: 70’s, 80’s music. I kind of the feel the same way with games: people like to hold on to that and enjoy it.”
Retro Gaming Expo gets a bigger venue
While you could say Lester, AKA “Gamester 81” on YouTube, is on the more extreme side of retro gaming, it’s not uncommon to see people dusting off old gaming systems and plugging them back in.
In May, the Vancouver Retro Gaming Expo which is now in into its fifth year, actually had to “level up”.
Expo organizer Brian Hughes says the demand to experience older video games on computers, consoles and arcade units has been growing the last few years.
So, they moved from a smaller venue in Vancouver to the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, which easily hosts hundreds of fans.
“The full attendance list, including vendors and volunteers and guests… just over fifteen hundred. Because of the new venue, we were able to add additional vendors, more content, more bands, more free play, more tournaments – just more of everything.”
Not bad for something that started out as an observation by Hughes when he was in Oregon.
“We started five years ago. I had gone down to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo and really enjoyed it. I thought, ‘wow, that’s really cool. Why doesn’t Vancouver have this?’ So I came back to Vancouver, and started talking to people and then I was like, ‘yeah. I think I’m going to do this. I think I’m going to give us a Retro Gaming Expo.”
And lo! The Vancouver version was born.
Retro games appeal to all ages
The neat thing is you’re not just seeing a bunch of adults crowding around old MacIntosh Computers or Nintendo Game Cubes.
That’s something one retro gamer noticed as he perused a pack of old PC games.
“We’re just thinking about how, you know, there are kids here, and there’s adults here, and the kids are looking at the classic games of their time, which was when we were already in high school in our time, but, you know, we’ve also got the games from when we were kids – so it’s really neat to be able to see them and really enjoy that classic feeling together.”
The cost of old school games
But gamers of all ages aren’t just PLAYING video games at these conventions.
They’re also looking at BUYING them. And sometimes that comes with a hefty price tag.
On my adventures at the Expo, I came across a table with a Turok 2: Seeds of Evil Nintendo 64 DEMO game cartridge.
This game, a first person-shooter , came out in 1998.
I owned and played the game in my childhood years, and didn’t think much of it when it was given to me as a present.
Fast forward to 2016, and you can easily get the game used for less than $10 online.
But because this is a DEMO Turok cartridge that, at one point, belonged to Nintendo – and there aren’t many of them out there – the vendor was looking for someone to buy it for $700.00.
But Lester brings up a fair point:
“A lot of the times the more expensive games are the ones that aren’t very good, because they didn’t have a very good run.”
In this case, Turok 2 is probably considered the odd game out, because on most gaming review sites, like IGN, it’s rated at at least a 4 out of 5.
So, a demo cartridge exclusive to Nintendo will set you back a pretty penny, but could make a great addition to your potentially expensive collection.
Hughes says it’s not uncommon to see vendors at the expo put hard-to-get items at a shell shocking price:
“There were a couple of vendors that are traditionally more expensive than others, and, on one hand, people just don’t buy the things that are expensive from expensive vendors, which makes the other vendors look better. On the other hand, some of the vendors that charge a lot more money – they have certain rare items that other vendors might have sold much quicker.”
And CKNW’s Business Analyst Robert Levy agrees.
Between time, supply and demand, it’s hard to settle on stable pricing in the retro gaming world.
“There’s a search process. Finding the things that you want to buy. It’s very interesting because you think of sites like eBay or Craigslist, or that kind of thing, and it also – it almost makes the market a little more liquid and favourable to the consumer where you could search and see what different people are paying for items or selling items for and that adds to your advantage, because you can price shop a little bit, and it increases the competition. But then you do it the old fashioned way, you go into collector’s stores, or antique stores, you know, there’s not much to compare games so, it’s a willingness to pay and vendors often have the advantage in that aspect.”
Whether you’re looking to make a quick buck or make memories, John has one piece of advice for those who are interested in collecting or playing retro games:
“Collect the games that you really enjoy . You know, NES is always fun, or classic Nintendo, because that’s popular, but they’re also really expensive. Go for the games you really want. And maybe focus on the system that you really enjoy, and start from there.”
So the next time you’re rummaging around your attic and you see that Super Nintendo hanging around, who knows?
It might be worth starting it up and playing a game or two…or three…or four.