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dmw conf panel 7aOn Friday April 19th, 2013 I attended the the Digital Media Wire Games Conference in Los Angeles, CA ( http://www.dmwgames.com). The attendee list read like a who’s who of the game industry. From behemoths like EA, Zynga, and Dreamworks, to growing companies like Ouya, 2 Bit Circus, and Tapjoy, I was surrounded by the top names in gaming. If you’re picturing the DMW Games Conference as an upscale E3 , you’d be wrong. Well, you’d be right. Because there’s a part of E3 that most people don’t see which is just as, if not more important than the flashing lights and elaborate spectacle that’s usually reported on. There’s a part of E3 behind the scenes where deals are made and ideas are exchanged between the people that really drive the video game industry.That’s the DMW Games Conference.

 

When I walked into the Roosevelt Hotel, I felt a little out of my element. The place is beautiful. Beautiful. It’s so far from any convention center or hotel conference room that it really can’t be compared. So, I was just a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t expect to see cosplayers walking around, but I also didn’t expect a pool, bar, and carpet nice enough to sleep on. But hey, no matter how swanky the venue, deep down we’re all gamers inside, so I quickly adjusted. Plus, a few minutes in a VIP lounge relaxing in a deep leather chair overlooking Hollywood Boulevard has a way of making adjusting easy.

 

The DMW Games Conference is a series of panels where industry leaders discuss the parts of the gaming industry that most games don’t care about or didn’t even know existed. The ideas being discussed on these panels will greatly affect each and every gamer But these are the aspects of video games that are really driving the next generation and moving the industry forward. Panels included titles like Productized Monetization, Latest Trends in Ad Models and Micro Payments for Games, Maximizing Value and User Acquisition on Social Platforms, and What Does it Take to Get Funded. Sure, they don’t sound as exciting as Best Fighting Game Combos, or GT5 vs Forza 4: Burning Rubber, but believe me, the ideas being discussed on these panels will greatly affect each and every gamer.

 

dmw conf panel la aI attended 2 panels, one on User Acquisition Via Social Platforms and the second was focused on growing and enhancing the LA game development community. Hearing companies discuss the different ways used to convince people to play their games was very interesting, mostly because I’m sure that many gamers believe in the ‘Field of Dreams’ strategy. If you Build It, They Will Come. Well, when a developer has spent thousands (or millions) of dollars making a game,they can’t afford to sit in the proverbial cornfield and just hope people notice their efforts. The ways companies will pull users into a game are wide ranging. Everything from switching the font/color on a Download Now button, to completely changing the core mechanic of a game was discussed. It was also eye opening the extent that user feedback plays in a company's decision. I was reminded that the gamer is only a single part of a multifaceted machine that includes distribution partners, advertising providers, and marketing teams. What makes one of these groups happy, will usually make another group not so happy. It’s finding the balance thats the key.

The panel on growing the LA Game Development Industry was also extremely informative. When you see a story about a studio being shut down and it's employees scattered, there's a very good chance it was a result of the issues and decisions discussed in this panel.When you see a story about a studio being shut down and it's employees scattered, there's a very good chance it was a result of the issues and decisions discussed in this panel. Many people may not realize that 'Los Angeles' is actually a few dozen seperate cities that as a whole, make up L.A. County. And the diverse cities each have their own strenghs and weaknesses when it comes to hosting a company, from the trendyness of Santa Monica, to the star power of Hollywood. Los Angeles knows how important it is to have game developers in the city, especially since other cities are actively luring companies away. Montreal, Canada and Alberquerque, New Mexico may become the next hotbeds of gaming, or even a small city in the middle of China that is offering companies over a million dollars to relocate. Where the next 'triple A' title is born may have more to do with traffic congestion and tax rates than anything else. It's difficult to know whether Los Angeles will take to heart some of the suggestions (I, personally would like to see the Video Game Walk of Fame that was repeatedly mentioned), but to his credit, the goverment representative on stage was taking more notes than anyone in the room.

 

These are the types of discussions that go far deeper than the scope of this article. Also, the panels aren't the real point of the conference. The biggest draw of the DMW Games Conference isn’t the information exchanged in the panels (and there’s a lot of information). The biggest draw is meeting the other attendees. This is what the executive types call ‘a Prime Networking Opportunity’. Every attendee is a decision maker in the industry. From online developers, to console creators, to publishers. And they’re all there to talk about video games and hang out. Imagine shooting the breeze with a bigwig from Dreamworks on one side and an exec from Ouya on the other while VP’s from Activision and Ubisoft banter next to you. Sure, it -could- happen at Pax, or GDC, but at DMW, it was the norm. And you could do it with a drink in your hand. That’s where the true value of this event lies. A gamer in an expensive suit is still a gamer. And when gamers get together, they talk about games.

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The DMW Games Conference probably isn’t the perfect conference for the average gamer. First of all,it’s expensive. If you thought those 4 day PAX passes you got on ebay made a dent in your bank account, then the $599 starting price won’t seem like a bargain. And there aren’t any gaming displays or new release announcements. What it does have are rooms full of people who have made gaming into a business that rivals the film industry, and who are open and ready to talk to you. If you’re even considering becoming a developer or a pursuing job in the industry, it’s something that you need to add to your agenda. Plus, that leather chair is really comfortable.  

 -Derrick Hopkins

 

Published in All Games Blog
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 20:00

Anime Mid Atlantic 13 Report

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I have to hand it to Anime Mid-Atlantic.  They really know how to throw a party!

Whether you attended the Anime Mid-Atlantic for the cosplay, costumes, dances, video games, guests, contests, workshops , videos, card games or for the other fun activities – you could most likely enjoy doing it at Anime Mid-Atlantic.

 

Background of Anime Mid-Atlantic

Now in its thirteenth year, the Anime Mid-Atlantic is an annual event where fans of anime and video games come together sometimes to just hang out with new and old friends and have fun.  You can dress up as your favorite anime  or video game character in any form or fashion you like, of course, in adherence to the rules of the event.

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 Anime Mid-Atlantic was held on a beautiful weekend, June 14-16, 2013  at 725 Woodlake Dr., in Chesapeake, Virginia at the Marriott Hotel and the Chesapeake Convention Center.  Yes, the fun is spread between two buildings including the walking areas between the two.

 The Marriott Hotel and the Chesapeake Convention Center are conveniently located adjacent to  other hotels – so if  you were from out of town, you could stay either at the Marriott Hotel or at the other nearby hotels that were in walking distance.

Arrival at Anime Mid-Atlantic

I arrived at the Anime Mid-Atlantic  event towards the end of Friday night, and activities were still in full swing.   As I walked to the registration area in the hotel, I was met by one of the event’s security.  Still remembering and stinging from the coldness I felt when I attended the Civil War V video game tournament that  I covered a few months earlier, I had my guard up and immediately asked him why did he come up to me.  He responded that he wanted to know if I had any questions, and decided to approach me.  He seemed sincere, so I pushed my reservations about the atmosphere of  the event aside and asked him where I could pick up my press badge .

On my way to pick up my badge,  I met a young man who was dressed up in a costume  that included a feminine looking tank top and shorts.  He smiled and literally apologized to me for the costume that he was wearing, stating that he usually does not dress that way.   I laughed and told him he was “looking good.”

From that moment on, I knew I would enjoy  covering this event for Allgames.com.  Not only because of all the interesting events scheduled, but also and more importantly, everyone appeared to be very friendly and out to just have a good time.

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Video Game Room at Anime Mid-Atlantic

My plan was to focus mostly on video games the first day of the event. So after receiving my participant badge, I  walked the short distance from the Marriott Hotel to the Chesapeake Convention Center  where the video game room was located.

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On the way to the convention center, I enjoyed watching a dance contest where the participants were dressed  up in costumes. I also enjoyed the performance of a  hoola hoop dancer, who was dancing with a neon lighted hoop for a small group of admirers who had gathered around him.  It was dark outside, so the bright colors of the hoola hoop shone brightly against the night.  At one point during his performance, he jokingly said that he was getting tired, but he received a burst of energy and continued to perform when the cameras started flashing – including my own.

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When I reached the convention center, I showed my badge to the two ladies seated at the entrance, and I was happy I had  registered as a participant, because I was able to show my badge and get in.  At that time, I had not picked up my press badge.  I also like the fact that there was control as to who went where.  I, along with other attendees had to show our badges to gain admittance to several events, which in my opinion was an effective security measure.

When I reached the video game room, the moderator was writing on a white board, changing the closing time for the video game room from 2:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.  Whew! I was glad that I made it there before they closed.

Once in the room, there were about 14 monitors on tables lining the walls with a Just Dance video game going on in full swing.  Just about every type video game system was there, including the WII U.

A couple was dancing to the game, while two fully uniformed male and female police officers watched.  Yes – in addition to having staff security personnel, the event also had uniformed policemen there as well.  It’s possible that the policemen were there for the convention center security, instead of just for the event.   The police officers were smiling as they watched the Just Dance video game couple perform – so it looks like in addition to their security duties, they were having fun as well..

In the far corner of the small video game room was a guitar hero type set up with a standing microphone  and  large monitor. After one group finished playing the game, a young lady who had just sung,  asked if I wanted to play.  I complimented her on her singing and declined the offer.  If her personna was any indication of the type people attending this event, not only were they overtly friendly, but they were polite and cordial as well.

 In addition to the newer games, there were also retro video games to be played.  The retro game was centipede/space invaders, which I got the chance to play .   I witnessed a high score obtained by a video game player. Interesting enough, within the next few minutes, I also witnessed the high score of the retro video game being broken by a much younger video game player.

Unfortunately, the video game room closed at about 1:00 a.m., and we all had to leave.  But not to worry.  There was still a crowd of people out in the convention areas as well as back at the Marriott Hotel.

 

Saturday at Anime Mid-Atlantic

Technically I was at the Anime Mid-Atlantic on Saturday, since it was about 1:30 a.m. when I left. I was prepared to make a late night appearance at the event  Saturday night, but looking at the schedule, most of the events I wanted to cover had already happened.

 

The neat feature about the Anime Mid-Atlantic is that there was a schedule of events to cover just about every hour or so  of the three days.  You could either wander around and catch some of the happenings in an impromptu manner, or you could follow the  schedule and pick and choose which events you wanted to attend. 

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Interview with Doug Smith, Graphic Artist/Voice Actor

My first order of business on Sunday was to pick up my press badge, which I’m happy to report was ready and waiting for me at the registration desk.  When the volunteer staff handed my press badge he suffixed  it with “Have fun! – which I’m glad to say  -- I did.

Located next to the registration room where I picked up my press badge was another conference room where a group of people seemed enthralled at listening to the presenter.  I decided to attend this workshop that was headed by Doug Smith, a graphic artist as well as a guest at the event.

He gave training on graphic art drawing using the software, photoshop.  In addition to demonstrating graphic design techniques, he also took interesting questions from the audience.  Some of the questions asked and answered included how to show perspectives when drawing figures and objects, as well as how to show texture of items such as brushed metal, etc. 

At the end of the workshop, I got the opportunity to interview Doug Smith, and in so doing, I found out that he was not only a graphic artist, but was also a voice actor.  He told me the story of how he got into voice acting by accident when a company was looking for someone to play a part in voice acting, and he just happened to be seemingly there,  at the right place and at the right time.

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Other Anime Events

After leaving the workshop,  I got the chance to see part of an anime movie in the video room, which was located next to the rooms where board games were being played.

I perused some of the tables that were located outside the conference rooms in the hallways.  Some people were promoting other upcoming Anime events. In fact, I discovered there are several other  Anime events that are happening in the near future.

 

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Anime Pictures

 

As I continued to walk down the hallways that were bustling with people, most of whom were dressed up in costumes, I met a young lady who was dressed in a cute victorian type outfit and she had black and red ringlets for hair.  I asked her if I could touch her hair, as well as take her picture – of which she replied yes to both.

Yaaaa!! I had taken my first of many pictures of creatively dressed anime costumed participants at the Anime Mid-Atlantic.

I decided to leave the Marriott and take a short walk over to the Chesapeake Convention Center to see what was happening over there.

 

anime midatlantic slender

 

 

When I reached the convention center, a group of people dressed up as their favorite anime characters were just outside  the center playing a game similar to vogue – where you struck a pose  when the music stopped and was eventually eliminated from the game.  Everyone seemed to be having fun.  This is where I took my second picture of an Anime costumed attendee who was dressed in a black suit and tie – which appeared ordinary enough; however there was one big difference.  His face and head were completely covered in white cloth.  Someone who was also taking a picture of him told me his name was “Slender” when I asked who he was portraying. 

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Anime Mid-Atlantic Territory

Two nights before, I did not realize the full extent of the Anime event that was going on in the convention center.  At the time, I had only visited the video game room.

On Sunday, I found out there was a whole lot more at the convention center than the video game room.  Apparently the Anime Mid-Atlantic covered a lot more territory than I thought.

The hallways were  crowded with people, as well as vendors and it looked as if each conference room was also filled with people.

There was a large conference room set aside for autograph signing.  I decided to stand in line to get my Anime Mid-Atlantic book  signed.  As I waited in line, I had an interesting conversation with a woman behind the desk leading up to the autograph signing about a topic I would not have correlated with anime.  She told me about a website where there is an Anime cookbook.  With the increase of cooking reality television shows, I should not have been surprised that cooking had made its way to anime!

I asked the guest who was signing my event book if he did any voice acting for video games.  He said he would if he was asked; however, right now he did voice acting mostly for anime characters.  I liked the fact that when he autographed my event book, he addressed it to me, Ms. H! –  with an exclamation point after my name – very fitting to show just how much fun I was having at the event.

 

anime midatlantic beachball

In fact, I was not the only one having fun there.  In the autograph conference room, there was a large group of people sitting in the audience who were in amidst of friendly conversations, when I noticed a beach ball being hit back and forth over the crowd.  Of course, I could not let this get by me without taking a picture.

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anime midatlantic cosplayer3A Real Live Anime Character at the Anime Mid-Atlantic 

I next walked to the large vendor selling area.  If you were in a buying mood, you could purchase items from any of the vendors set up in the hallways and some of the rooms.

In fact, the hallways were filled with tables where people were selling any and everything related to Anime. 

Additionally, there was a large room set aside strictly for vendors which appeared to be  filled to capacity.  As I walked around the vendor area, I came across a booth where there was a young lady where I had to do a double take because she looked so much like a real life anime character.  She was Japanese and had very long blue hair styled with bangs and two very long ponytails.  I was getting ready to ask her if I could take her picture when her attention was drawn to someone else who was talking to her. 

I found out later that she was Yunmao Ayakawa, one of the guests when she appeared at the closing ceremony of the event with an interpreter. I got the chance  to take a picture of her at that time.

 

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Art Auction at the Anime Mid-Atlantic

I checked the schedule and decided to make my way back to the Marriott Hotel to cover the art auction.  While waiting for the art auction to start, I found a comfortable  and convenient sitting area at a table located right next to the front window that faced the front of the hotel.  It was here where I took lots of pictures of attendees dressed up in costumes.

In fact, I noticed a young man dressed up in an Assassin’s Creed outfit, which I took a picture of from a distance then, and closer pictures later when he made an appearance at the closing ceremonies.

By this time, it was about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday – almost time for the art auction!  I went to the information desk and asked her where was Restaurant A which is where the art auction was held.  She checked the schedule and told me the art auction ended at 12:30 p.m.  Unfortunately, the schedule I had was not the very latest, or had been changed.  Even though the art auction was over, I still had time to take more pictures of all the interesting anime costumed attendees – so all was not lost.

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anime midatlantic closingceremonies

 

Anime Mid-Atlantic Closing Ceremonies

The closing ceremonies were scheduled to be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Chesapeake Convention Center on Sunday, June 16, 2013.  To make sure there were no schedule changes, I verified the place and time – which had not changed.

I made the short trek from the Marriott Hotel back to the convention center.  The weather was absolutely beautiful outside, with sunny, blue skies – so the walk was an enjoyable one for me, in and of itself. Plus I met interesting costumed characters along the way.

After reaching the convention center and before going to the closing ceremony, I quickly checked the video game room to see if any changes had been made in the set up, etc..  The video game room was a little crowded than before; however, the set up was the same.

After leaving the video game room, I went to the closing ceremonies. 

Everyone entering had to show their badge – which I again thought was a good security measure. 

The closing ceremony consisted of the MC, Daniel Taraschke , thanking every body – jokingly, for not tearing the “place” down.  He then thanked everyone for coming and hoped that everyone had fun.  Next the guests were introduced and took the stage to additionally offer their thanks as well.  Most of the guests were there with the exception of a few who had to leave early.  The guest who I had interviewed earlier, Doug Smith, was introduced by the MC as their very own Tarzan -- took the stage and thanked every one.  Some guests actually ran up to and jumped up on the stage as a way to show their enthusiasm for the event.  

After presenting fan favorites awards, the MC ended the show requesting a group picture of the audience, with everyone posed with one arm outstretched with a finger pointing.  I moved over to the center audience section to be sure I would be pictured and joined in the fun.

 In the midst of taking the group picture, someone asked if there was a beach ball around.  Sadly, there was no beach ball to be thrown; however, the audience made up for it afterwards, by some posing for pictures and others doing impromptu dances.

After waiting in line, I was able to interview Daniel  Taraschke and obtained his assessment of the overall event.  In his words, he dubbed the event, “a success.”

(Listen to Ms. H's interview with Daniel Taraschke below)

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Pros of the Anime Mid-Atlantic 

  • Very well organized
    • Professionally made brochure and badges.  Brochure included rules of the event which were clearly and concisely provided.
    •  Friendly, safe location including staff security and police officers
    • Convenient location with other hotels in walking even
    • Eating available in the establishment
    • Impressive caliber of guests
    • Suitable time frame for the event – 3 days.

 

Cons of the Anime Mid-Atlantic

  • . In my opinion, I did not like the use of the term “black man” that was thrown around  in jest during some of the exit presentations.  For example, at one point when a person went on stage, he said, “I have the imprint of a big black man’s hand on my behind.”     At another  time, someone in the audience  yelled out in response to something the MC said, “I’m glad I’m not the only “black man” here.  Even though these were said in fun – I think the event was brought down a notch – since, again, in my opinion, we were all there to have fun – regardless of our race.
  •  I think it was mildly disruptive when two young ladies during the closing ceremonies in the audience yelled out one on one conversations with some of the people on the stage.  They would yell out their comments and the guests would respond, which was again done in fun – but I think this sort of alienated the rest of the audience. Happily, their comments were few and did not dominate the presentations.
  •  Video game area need to be larger to accommodate more people.

Recommendations for the Anime Mid-Atlantic

 

  • Even though it may be difficult due to the size of this event, I recommend the event organizers try to keep last minute changes to the very minimum.  For example, closing up the video game room l hour earlier than posted in the schedule as well as  changing the time for the art auction were, in my opinion last minute changes.  If I had arranged my video game room visit according to the schedule I had, I would have arrived at the event at 1:30 a.m. and found a locked door instead of video games.
  • Have a large sign posted somewhere in either the hotel and/or the convention center announcing the event – including a marquee – if available.  I did not see any Anime Mid-Atlantic signs posted, unless I missed them.  In fact a couple drove up to the front of the hotel and asked the costumed characters what was going on out of curiosity.  If a sign was posted, it would have been obvious that the fun-filled Anime Mid-Atlantic event was in full fling!

Closing Remarks  -- Anime Mid-Atlantic

All in all, the Anime Mid-Atlantic looked to be not only a success but a great one at that.  It was an event that you can go to and conversate with and be around others who share your interests in anime, and video games and all that goes with these fun venues.  You can dress up as your favorite character and in a way, bring to life  anime characters who you have probably admired virtually, and can now  give them the breath of real life, so to speak, at an event such as the Anime Mid-Atlantic.  If you have a competitive spirit, you can participate in the many contests to see how you measure up – or you can enter just to have fun. If you want to learn more about the different facets Anime, there were many workshops available as well. 

The saying that would wrap up my personal assessment of the Anime Mid-Atlantic event would be –“ And fun was had by all!”  Well done.

 

Published in All Games Blog
Saturday, 03 August 2013 17:39

Seattle Retro Gaming Expo 2013

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Last month, I had the chance to attend the third annual Seattle Retro Gaming Expo. While only in its third year, the event was held for the first time at the Seattle Center. The Pacific Northwest is a haven for retro game collectors and gamers, so Seattle figured why let Portland have all the fun?

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The convention itself is still in the process of blooming. This year, the sponsor was Game Gurus, a local game store that trades and sells used games, including retro and even board and card games. Other sponsors included Pink Gorilla, Another Castle, and The Airlock, all associated with retro gaming and which can be found within Seattle and the surrounding areas. But the event was not only for those living here- many other vendors showed up from all over the country, including Anime Haus and Hyperkin, who brought along the Retron 5 for attendees to play before its release. Even collectors and employees from game companies were there selling parts of their personal collections.

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Aside from game sales, there was also a part of the convention for artists. Jewelry, hats, goggles, trinkets that look like sweets, soap shaped like controllers, and even custom gamer blended teas were on sale. Some of the vendors included DigitalSoaps, 2.5d Sprites, and LuvCherie Jewelry. Also, choose your own adventure books for adults were available from Choose o Matic Books.

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The next room over held freeplay consoles. Here, large groups of friends and even strangers gathered around retro consoles to face off or battle on together. While pinball was not a feature at this expo, the list of freeplay games was immense, including every U.S. SNES and N64 game, as well as games on systems such as the 3DO, TG16, and the Jaguar. On Saturday, this is also the room where Arcade Armageddon held their qualifying rounds to enter their tournament. Arcade Armageddon is an annual partnered event with SRGE, and it's only in its second year. This year, it was held right next door at The Vera Project. All expo attendees were able to play a mixture of retro games to qualify, and those with the highest top scores of the day were then allowed to compete for prizes, including retro systems, games, and more. The tournament, set up in a style similar to the movie The Wizard, also featured live performances by Fighter X, Danimal Cannon, The Icarus Kids, and Mega Ran. Contestants battled each other in rounds of Saturn Bomberman, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Street Fighter 2 Turbo. The final round was a previously undisclosed game, and was finally revealed to be Ice Climbers.

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Both days at the expo featured panels on topics ranging from chiptunes and collecting to survival horror and trivia. (Although the survival horror panel, hosted by panelist Ryan Payton, was changed at the last minute to focus on the revival of retro gaming through independent developers.) The last room offered 10 player Steel Battalion rounds, as well as many other games like Counterstrike and Wolfenstein that offered up to 16 player link ups. The freeplay and Steel Battalion rooms were some of the best offerings for getting hands on with retro gaming I've seen at any convention. The possibilities were enormous, and everyone in these areas seemed to be having a great time.

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Overall, I enjoyed my experience and am looking forward to next year, but I wish there had been MORE. MORE panels, with a more diverse cast of panelists and types of gamers addressed in the topics, MORE artists, basically more people getting involved. Those working behind the scenes at SRGE and the partner events have done an amazing job establishing the event, and they have built a solid foundation for a larger expo in years to come. It's up to us, the expo-goers, vendors, artists, and gamers, to step up, join those already involved, and make the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo reach its full potential.

 Click Here to See Photos from the Expo


 

Published in All Games Blog