Maddy and Ryan had the opportunity to attend Retro World Expo in Hartford, Connecticut, held at the Connecticut Convention Center.
Retro World Expo is a video game related expo held annually in Connecticut. While they focus primarily on everything “retro”, which includes both games and collectibles, they had wide array of modern and tabletop gaming as well.
We got to the Connecticut Convention Center around noon, a place that we both knew well from our years working at a convention in the same location, and still managed to start the day off by getting lost in the parking garage. To be fair, it’s a confusing garage with multiple levels and stairs that only led down to the first level. When they finally arrived to the convention, they were immediately hit with a vibe that made them feel relaxed. It’s not a normal occasion where a person can walk into a convention completely calm. Often times, we are excited or anxious about a show we are doing or a panel we want to see. And despite us working as Atomic Blue, we were immediately greeted by such a chill vibe. This is the tone Retro World Expo sets — Relax and enjoy your stay.
Ryan was pleasantly surprised to find himself greeted by some familiar faces who he had worked with at past conventions, including the operations manager. It had become an opportunity to catch up! After picking up our press badges, which was the easiest badge pick-up we have ever experienced, we entered the showroom floor. Upon entering, the first section was the dealer’s room on the left and guests on the right. Some guests included the Gaming Historian, Pat Contri, and Daniel Pesina who played Johnny Cage in the original Mortal Kombat games. The dealer’s room was mostly booths selling retro games, action figures, and magazines. It was a nice breath of fresh air! Often times we go to conventions which are filled with dealers who are selling modern toys or games at jacked up prices, even though online sellers like Amazon have the same items listed at a regular price. This dealers room was treated more like a flea market, which was far more interesting to both of us, and we both actually bought things! That’s unusual for us at a convention. There were still seller’s with prices that were a little too high, but for the most part, everything was actually reasonable and within a price range that wouldn’t break someones wallet.
As we exited the dealer’s room, we found ourselves directly in console gaming where tables upon tables were set up with old box TVs running retro games. Behind them were modern gamers competing in Smash tournaments, both old and new. In the center of it all was a small stage set up where an announcer was pumping everyone up for the tournaments. We landed in the kids section first, where we played games like Pokemon Snap, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Bubble Bobble.
Then we hit the best part of the convention — The freeplay arcade.
At first, Ryan thought they would never make it on a machine — But as it turned out, there were SO MANY to choose from, there was plenty of room to play. This was also one of the first cons we had attended where groups of players would play a game, and then move onto the next one fairly quickly, respecting other players. We found ourselves on mostly fighter arcade cabinets such as Street Fighter, Killer Instinct, and Power Stone. As people who grew up in the age of arcades, the wave of nostalgia made us all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Ryan even found pinball machines to play, which was hard to tear him away from after several minutes.
The best part of the arcade section was the full X-Men Arcade game that sat in the center of the arcade. This was a staple to anyone who grew up between the late 80’s and early 90’s. As most of you know, we are obsessed with the X-Men. We have a whole podcast dedicated to it, the Mutant Ages. So we were on it in seconds. Ryan jumped right onto Dazzler and Maddy grabbed the control stick for Storm. Shortly after, we were joined by 4 other people who played through the entire game with us. We all laughed and made jokes about how we were all secretly Wolverine. It was honestly one of the better times we spent at a convention, playing games with new players.
The convention also featured a series of panels, which we only got a glimpse of because we lost so many hours on the console games and freeplay arcade machines. There was an after hours party, which we were bummed we couldn’t attend because we had a conflicting shoot scheduled for the end of the day. Next year, that is on our list of things to do!
Retro World Convention is honestly one of the best conventions we’ve attended in a long time. The staff communicates well with both us and each other, answering our questions without hesitation! They set the bar high for what not only a retro convention should be, but also what a gaming convention should be. We will absolutely be back next year!