For the 5th year, Game On Expo has put on an event in celebration of retro and modern video games, arcades, pinball, and table top gaming. I’ve attending all five years and I am glad to say this has been the most enjoyable of them all and its because of a wide variety of reasons. Before we get to the talking points, I just wanted to mention how in control the area around the convention center was as there were two other large events taking place in the same block over the weekend. It never felt out of control, chaotic, or anything out of the ordinary which was great as it is just makes things less stressful for everyone.
The event got started early afternoon on Friday and was your best chance to play the wide variety of arcade games and console games. You could find the usual suspects such as Mortal Kombat in the arcade area and Mario Kart in the console area but it was those unique or harder to find games that really got me excited. I’ve been playing video games since I was a child and not once I have touched an Atari Jaguar console and so it was pretty exciting to spend some time playing one as well as enjoying some Japanese import games for the Super Famicom. The gaming areas stayed busy all weekend with crowds enjoying gaming with their friends as well some friendly competition with strangers. The Super Smash Bros stage also kept attendees entertained with various battles happening on the latest version of the Smash Bros series. I do like how the theme of the stage seems to be what is big at the moment as last year the stage was dedicated to Fortnite. We’ll see what will be the big hit for the stage next year.
Friday also played host to a Pokemon voice actor reunion panel which featured Eric Stuart (Brock, James), Tara Sands (Bulbasaur), Rachel Lillis (Jesse, Misty), Veronica Taylor (Ash), and Megan Hollingshead (Nurse Joy). There wasn’t a moderator for this panel and it was just an hour straight of fan questions which normally isn’t the best situation for an entertaining panel (most questions are of the “what was your favorite” variety) but the panelists made the best of it still put on a pretty entertaining panel. I had only planned on staying for 10 minutes or so but I ended up staying the entire panel as the panelists all had good chemistry and were laying on the charm.
The crowds were okay on Friday but Saturday it really took off it might have been the busiest I’ve seen the convention. Big crowds don’t always equal good sales for vendors and artists but we no high priced photo ops or autographs, I would imagine sales were pretty good for most (if you were a vendor, I’d love to hear from you!). Along with the crowds came the cosplay which has always been a slight complaint of mine, no because there was cosplay but in years past, I always felt there wasn’t enough cosplay. While it obviously isn’t on the same level as an established anime con or comic con in terms of the amount of cosplay, it is a growing scene at Game On Expo which I love as you see more cosplay here that you don’t see at other conventions.
My one complaint isn’t that big of deal but it was enough for me to notice it… the amount of vendors who have zero to do with video games or even pop culture. New windows, lasik eye surgery, dispensarys, and ready to make meal deliveries made up some of the 16 booths that fell into this category. I know money is just as good no matter the vendor its coming from but I have a hard time believing at least a few of those spots could have gone to vendors or artists who could have contributed their services to the show and not feel out of place.
With that said, I still had a great time this year at Game On Expo. Since its move to Downtown Phoenix, I felt the show was a little stale but with the bigger crowds this year, there was an energy that had been missing the past couple of years. I look forward to see what the show has in store for us in 2020!