Believe it or not, there are self-identifying geeks and nerds that don’t religiously play video games. Shocking, I know.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the fun!
Game On Expo is a gathering of streamers, competitors, and hobbyists alike. While many of the attendees have a relatively vast knowledge base of games, console history, or even binders full of gaming cards, others come to test the waters of the gaming world. And that is exactly what I did when I walked through the doors of the Phoenix Convention Center.
To keep this in the realm of gaming, I gave each subject a bit of a scoring system, where I was pleased with something, it got the topic 10 XP. Every time I saw or thought of something I liked, they got more XP. For those who don’t know, XP stands for Experience Points. And for those familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, think of the points as an inspiration bonus for each subject!
So without further ado, here is a non-gamer’s, alphabetized guide to Arizona’s largest gaming convention.
The first thing you see when entering the enormous hall, is the dozens of classic arcade consoles, lined up with people all hovering around legendary classics, like Super Mario Bros. and PacMan. The consoles aren’t only old school. Some of them feature newer games such as Cup Head.
If you are over 21 years of age, then you might be aware of a groovy little bar in Downtown Phoenix called Cobra Arcade. It’s a real arcade with adult beverages, bringing together the atmosphere of a classic hangout and a laid-back party. Cobra Arcade provides some of the consoles to Game On Expo for attendees to enjoy for free.
And if joystick gaming isn’t your thing, then there is a ton of other options around the hall, including Dance Dance Revolution, Mario Kart, classic World of Warcraft on computers, and even games that don’t need a screen.
Score: 100 XP
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Board and Card Games
Game On Expo features far more beyond screens and controllers. Tables are set up everywhere, to allow guests the chance to sit back, and use their brain with a bunch of different board games. From role playing, to strategy, there was something for everyone. All of the tables were very open and
inviting for new players, and that shows a lot about how well Crit Hit managed the 20 tables of smiling, happy attendees. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time the moment they sat down. They let players take the games to open tables, and they played to their heart’s content.
Score: 60 XP
The cosplay at Game On Expo is progressively getting more welcome to more than just game fandoms. Anime, fantasy, and pop culture characters were walking around the hall, and not one looked out of place! It is one thing to have a con be geared toward one topic, but it shows a very good rapport with the cosplay community when con-goers feel comfortable wearing whatever cosplay they choose to the Expo!
Not only was the hall full of cosplay, the guests there were some of the best crafters in the art. Troublemaker Cosplay came from Colorado and lit up the lobby with her Loki. Superheroes Unlimited brought out Buu and Trunks to defend the Earth. And Horsemen Of rocked their Choco-bros look from Final Fantasy!
Score: 100 XP
It was absolutely wild to walk by the eSports arenas, and not be in awe of the 10-year-old kids absolutely slaying at Fortnite and Super Smash Bros. This was the first year Game On Expo hosted an eSports Zone, with hundreds of consoles and PC’s. The three stages held huge screens, showing the matches in real time. While it seemed intimidating to sit at a console or monitor yourself, it was still genuinely entertaining to watch the pros at work.
Score: 90 XP
Fun 4 Kids
For an event really geared at games, there was a genuine surprise at the lack of young attendees. While there was a Kid Zone, there was still about one kid out of every 15 adults I noticed among the crowd. This event was really marketed as a family-friendly experience, but I think they need to expand on that with more things for the kids to do. I may not be an expert, because I am not a parent, but I am 23-years-old, and I do watch cartoons geared for ages 10+. And from a kid at heart, this area is lacking.
Score: -50 XP
This is a really awesome draw for the crowd. Supporting local and out-of-state music is one of the most important things the art industry can do. Plus, music is a major part of the gaming experience. If you don’t believe me, you need to play Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64.
Bands set up their own booths and played music in one of the farther corners of the con floor, and it was magical. Walking past one, I heard a rendition of the Mario Bros. theme song, and it made my heart full with nostalgia. I loved it. They can totally expand on this more, and possibly give the musicians a whole area dedicated to their craft and inspiration. One booth even had a game console setup! It was like looking into what truly made them a great addition to the Expo.
Score: 100 XP
If you do a web search for the word “pachinko,” you’ll find out that this dazzling machine is actually a popular arcade game of its own in Japan. It is also a type of gambling machine, that is not really common here in the U.S.
With little silver balls, a player gets to play a kind of pinball game, but this version can win you money if you strike targets just right. The newest machines were set up in the front, while the older ones were in the back. The trouble is, this game is extremely difficult for newcomers to get into. It looked like it took some practice to get the hang of the flashy, chaotic consoles.
Score: 45 XP
Rock Band Karaoke
This is always a huge draw for the non-gamers of the Expo! Rock Band and Guitar Hero are the ultimate party games! Being able to rock out to some classic, beloved jams, while gamers get into the zone with the music. Everybody wins!
Score: 200 XP
If you are looking for anything that fits an old console, or a game you can slightly recall from 10 years ago, chances are it was in the vendor hall. The wide variety of artists to traders, retail shops to collectors, really was a great way for a lot of people to congregate and find what suited them best. The rows toward the middle of the hall did get quite congested at times, but I believe that is because this event has a need to grow.
The only time there was a concern was Saturday, when the Phoenix Convention Center was forced to jump into action and turn down the A/C. Too many people in the crowded halls did make for an uncomfortable atmosphere. In other words, it was too hot and soggy. That changed around 2:00 PM, as the cold air finally began to push through the massive hall. My greatest concern from this, is that they likely underestimated the size of the weekend crowd, and with the start of schools in the Valley, there might be a slight outbreak of illness. I would know. I was sick.
Despite the grubby conditions, there are a couple of vendors I would like to give honorable mentions to. Anime Plus Yuma carried face masks for sale, and common courtesy is to not get people sick. Goth Geek Inc. was one of the coolest booths I came across, because their dice sets were all unique and sold in boxes, or mini coffins! And finally, the WeeGonza Bazaar for their lovely customer service!
Score: 40 XP + 10 for the honorable vendors!
Saving the best for last… Virtual reality. Not too many people have their own VR set-ups at home, so this is a great chance for people to get into gear, and give it a try. VR gaming is set to be the next big wave of the industry, as they continue to work out minor movement and audio bugs. The world itself slips away, and you can immerse into an entirely new location, with a quest on your hands. Or just play a game of ping pong. The point is, whatever you can imagine, can likely be created through VR, and it was heartwarming to see people get the chance to experience that first hand.
Score: 150 XP
With the score tallied, we have an 845 XP for Game On Expo!
After writing this, I feel like I may be able to call myself a gamer!
If you experienced anything that differed from what I have written above, please leave us a comment below!
Photo by Chocozumo!