Saturday night, I took my kids to the Louisville Arcade Expo (and met up with my friend Clay). It’s a local gaming event where 100’s of people bring in their arcade, pinball, console and PC systems and games from yesteryear. Then other people can show up, pay an admission fee ($25 for the day or $45 for the weekend) and play as many games as they want (no rolls of quarters needed).
This was our third year in a row of attending. You can read my previous recaps here (2015) and here (2014).
I was really looking forward to going to the Expo this year. If you can’t tell from my blog’s name, I love video games. I mean, I really love them. When I started thinking about what I enjoy about the event, I came up with three reasons:
- I love feeling nostalgic. Who doesn’t? Seeing and playing the same video games I played as a kid makes me happy. They’ve always been an escape for me, whether I was avoiding homework/chores/work as a kid or evading work/household chores/parenting responsibilities as an adult. Now that I think about it, not much has changed.
- I enjoy sharing my childhood experiences with my kids. All three of them are now at an age where I can clearly remember what games I was playing at that age. Even if they’re not impressed with the graphics and gameplay of the old games, I love telling them stories about what those games meant to me at their age (and even now).
- In a former life, I used to host video game tournaments and events. In 2001, I opened the Louisville Gaming Center, Louisville’s first console-only gaming center. Before that, I ran tournaments and get-togethers at various venues all over the city. You can read about my video gaming related adventures here. I love being in a room filled with gaming enthusiasts. It’s almost like being at Disney World. Almost.
Recap & Pictures
The Louisville Arcade Expo typically starts on Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday afternoon. I’ve learned over the past couple of years not to go Saturday afternoon because that’s when it’s the most crowded.
We arrived Saturday night a little after 7:00 PM. It was crowded in the front of the venue because of a Smash Brothers tournament that was finishing up. It was a little bit overwhelming at first because there were aisles and aisles of arcade and pinball games. Plus, there’s a huge section where vendors sell artwork, old video game systems and handmade video gaming-related swag. I had to pull the kids away from the vendor section because they love spending money and I didn’t really want to carry things around while we were playing the games (we already had to walk back to the car once because they didn’t want to carry their jackets). I told them we would look after we were done playing the games. The kids did talk me into letting them put $2 each into an arcade game raffle. (Thank goodness we didn’t win. I have no idea where we would have put the thing.)
For the next couple of hours, we walked around at a casual pace and played whatever games we wanted to play. My friend Clay was awesome because he helped me keep the kids corralled and watched one or two of them while I took the other ones to the bathroom. It made things a lot easier (and less stressful for me). It’s a pretty safe event for kids but it can be a little nerve-wracking in dimly-lit room filled with tons of people. The kids always want to go in different directions (not that I don’t blame them).
My favorite room at the event is where they have all the old console games. It’s where you can play all the different versions of the Nintendo, Sega Genesis and other systems you’ve never heard of. They have random consoles out in the main room as well but the side room was cooler and less crowded. I felt like I could more-easily watch my kids without having to stand right on top of them.
At one point in the evening, the kids started complaining that they were hungry. Instead of paying for the food they had on site, we decided to head over to Dairy Queen for ice cream. After about 30 minutes, we returned to the video gaming fun.
We stayed until 11:00 PM and I knew it was going to cause problems if we stayed any longer. Ethan wanted to play in a Mortal Kombat tournament but I talked him out of it because I knew it was going to take too long. Of course, we hit the vendors’ section before we left. Camden and I bought some posters (see the pictures below). One of the vendors gave Maddie a really cool bracelet. Ethan wanted to buy a Nintendo but I talked him out of it.
Here’s a recap (in pictures) of the night:
This was the main ballroom area where all the arcade and pinball games were. It was so cool seeing old video games projected on the wall. They had tournaments going on at various times and you could feel all the energy and excitement in the room. It was pretty cool.
Ethan checking out a random pinball game. When we first got there, it was a little more crowded and the more popular games had 1-2 people waiting to play. I personally don’t get too excited about pinball so I didn’t really want to wait to play anyway.
Cam playing the “No Fear” pinball game. The only nostalgia this game brought back was that everyone (me included) used to wear “No Fear” shirts back in the day.
Here’s a shot of the console gaming room (pre-1999). You can see that they had tables with the various systems all around the room.
One of my highlights for the evening was playing Super Tecmo Bowl, my all-time favorite Nintendo game, with my oldest son, Ethan. I’ll give him some credit. He indulged me as I won 62-0 with my Houston Oilers. Super Tecmo Bowl is timeless. I could play it any time and wouldn’t get bored. It’s pretty amazing that I don’t own an NES and THIS GAME.
Maddie playing Super Mario Brothers. I had a proud moment because she kept pointing to the game saying she wanted to play. She got really excited when the system opened up and she got to play.
Ethan checks out Virtual Boy. He wasn’t impressed.
Maddie and Camden play Street Fighter 2 on Super Nintendo. Maddie was actually pretty good at the game and beat her brothers and me more than once each. She was a button-tapping machine! It was her highlight for the evening.
Clay and Camden fighting in Street Fighter 2.
Here’s a shot of the main room from the entrance. You can see that it’s a pretty big space. There are additional rooms off to the side not pictured with old console and PC games in them. Those were my our favorite spots because they weren’t too terribly crowded.
Here’s a map of the setup. It’s a really big space and I was blown away by how many more pinball and arcade games they had this year. Hopefully they’ll fit in even more next year.
The kids were complaining about being hungry so we took a break and went over to Dairy Queen for a round of Blizzards.
Ethan checking out the Star Wars Episode 1 pinball game.
Maddie playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis, my second all-time favorite gaming console. I owned a Sega during my teenage years and enjoyed playing many sports games on it. Sonic was just about the only non-sports game I owned for the system.
Camden checking out Rampage on the table-top arcade game. He said it was one of his favorite games.
This was the first year I remember seeing a LAN setup at the Expo. I’ve never been a PC gamer but I definitely miss Halo LAN parties on the Xbox. This reminded me that I’ve been wanting to host my own LAN party. I’ll have to do that soon.
Ethan, Camden and Maddie playing Mario Kart on the Nintento Gamecube. They loved how it was projected on the wall. Mario Kart is one of our favorite games on our Nintendo Wii at home.
They had a couple of original Microsoft Xboxes linked together with Halo. I wanted to play but didn’t have the chance because a bunch of punk kids kept hogging it. Haven’t their parents taught them anything about sharing? I still love playing the original Halo whenever I can because that’s the game that got me started in hosting video gaming tournaments and eventually led to my opening of the Louisville Gaming Center. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t get to play. 🙁
Lemonade Stand is an Apple II computer game from way back in the day. Once I started playing it, it seemed fondly familiar. I’m guessing I played it in the computer lab in elementary school. It was fun but it’s no Oregon Trail.
Speaking of Oregon Trail, this is definitely NOT a picture of me playing the game. My biggest disappointment for the day was that they didn’t have the version I played in elementary school on the Apple II. They had some lame color version this year. I refused to play it. Okay, I didn’t refuse to play it. There was always someone playing so I didn’t get to. Fortunately, we got to play it last year. Update: Apparently they had Oregon Trail on the Apple II but I missed it. I blame the kids!
Maddie plays a table-top pinball game. I think she liked it because it was just about the only pinball game that she was tall enough to play.
Ethan enjoying Hang-On in the arcade game section.
Ethan playing a game that looks exactly like Super Dodgeball on the NES. It was actually on a console system I hadn’t heard of before. The sign sitting next to the system said “PC Engine” but Google said that the system was called TurboGrafx-16 Entertainment SuperSystem in the United States and PC Engine in Japan and in France.
They had these little educational sheets next to all the old systems. It’s pretty cool reading about old systems and games that I never owned or had forgotten about.
I had to get the obligatory photo of me and the family. A big shout to Clay for taking the photo for us.
I took a picture of the Louisville Arcade Expo sign on the way out.
I finally bought some artwork this year! The artist, Rusty Shackles, has been at the event every year. I have a pretty big Simpsons collection so I thought the wrestling poster was awesome. Camden picked the Batman poster. Pro Wrestling was one of my favorite NES games back in the day and Starman was my favorite wrestler in the game.
Overall, it was a really fun night. Next year, I’ll probably try to take the kids early on Saturday when the event opens and then go back later in the evening to play games by myself.
If you’ve never been to the Louisville Arcade Expo, you’ve been missing out. Make plans to go next year. You won’t be disappointed.