August 9th, 2008 marked the fifth annual Oklahoma Videogame Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The show took a year off in 2007, but made a strong comeback this year.
[ OVGE — PRESHOW ]
My weekend actually started on Thursday after work when Mason and I hopped in the truck and drove three hours north to see Weird Al live in concert (review coming tomorrow). The two of us stayed in Wichita Thursday night and drove back to OKC Friday morning, at which point I started packing and loading for OVGE. I was running late (as usual) and wasn’t able to get out of town until sometime around 6pm.
My partner in crime this year was my old buddy Jeff (co-owner of Managed Data Solutions). I sold him on the idea of hanging out at a videogame show with me all weekend but he ended up working his butt off all weekend. More on that in a bit. My original plan was to pick up Jeff around 4pm and head toward Tulsa; in reality, I was so ill prepared for the show that we had to make several stops before we were able to leave. After picking up items from Home Depot, Party Galaxy, a VGA cable from Jeff’s work and a couple of iced coffees from McDonald’s while we were waiting for Susan to drop off the Pike Pass, we finally set out for Tulsa two hours later than planned. Go me.
In the back of the truck I had 8 30-gallon Rubbermaid tubs full of stuff for the show. The truck’s backseat carried four monitors, my dolly, and everything else. I’ve never used the luggage rack on the top of the Avalanche but I considered it. We had to shift things around simply to get Jeff’s laptop and bag of clothes into the truck.
We arrived on site just after 8pm, which kind of worked out since I like to stand around and talk instead of unpacking things. Upon entering the event we were greeted by fellow forum members Gapporin, Ubikuberalles and 98Pacecar, who helped us unload the truck. Loading and unloading help is always appreciated. 98Pacecar tipped us to a loading dolly where I was able to park and quickly unload all my crap. For the next few hours, Jeff and I worked independently — Jeff unpacked, cleaned and sorted all my for sale items, while I walked around, shmoozed, talked to patrons, set up my demos, and got sidetracked multiple times. This kind of set the pace for the weekend. I owe Jeff, big time. We finished everything about 15 minutes past midnight. From there we went to Walgreens to pick up some bottled water and other items, and made it back to the hotel room around 1AM with plans on waking up around 7AM.
[ OVGE — MY TABLE ]
Jeff and I woke up around 7:30AM. While Jeff got ready I ran to McDonald’s for two more iced coffees and some breakfast burritos. Jeff doesn’t normally eat breakfast, but I thought he might; if he didn’t want it, my backup plan was to sign it “Flack” and try and sell it for a dollar at the table.
With coffee in hand we made our way down to the floor. The final hour before the show was spent wiring up things, testing, tweaking the displays and, of course, cleaning and unpacking more for sale items. I can’t stress how much work Jeff did in that department. I covered his meals for the weekend but to get him to come next year I’m going to have to up the ante; maybe offer him a 10% sales commission or something.
While doors opened at 9AM, by 8AM people were starting to line up outside the door. I saw a few familiar faces out there, and when people start lining up and coming through the door you forget about all the money and time spent to prepare for the show (and back pain) and start to enjoy things for a while.
My main purpose for being at the show this year was to promote my new book Invading Spaces: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Arcade Games, but I decided to bring a few copies of my last book Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie and I’m glad I did. By the end of the day I had sold over 40 books — 27 copies of Invading Spaces (I think; I still need to do an official count) and another 15 copies of Commodork. Several people bought one of each, but a lot of people were people who had bought Commodork back in 2006, enjoyed it, and were excited to see a new book. It was really awesome to talk to people who had read and enjoyed the first book.
My idea for the show was to put some arcade items by Invading Spaces (a book about arcade machines) and Commodore items near my Commodore-related book. What I failed to do this year was print out any signage. This led to a lot of confusion about what was what, what was for sale and what wasn’t, and so on. I’ve printed out signs in the past but ran out of time this year and didn’t get around to it. If I only change one thing for next year’s show, this’ll be it. Next to my books I had a pile of Phosphor Dot Fossils DVDs for sale. Next to my books I wrote little signs that read, “OVGE SPECIAL — SIGNED — $15.” Just to be funny, next to PDF’s DVD I wrote, “OVGE SPECIAL — NOT SIGNED — $15.” I actually heard one couple saying, “What, does this think he’s too good to sign his own DVDs?” They bought one anyway and I explained the note. They laughed.
Jeff had his hands full the entire time. Before the show I told Jeff this year’s mantra was, “sell, sell, sell!” Getting rid of things was more important to me than the prices. For example, I started selling games for $5, but there were many 3/$10 and 2/$5 deals going on (the longer the day went, the better the deals got). Controllers and games sold really well, much better than the loose consoles. Complete consoles (machines, cables, and a controller) were selling for $40-$50, and yet I couldn’t sell loose NES decks for $10 and we couldn’t give away loose Sega Genesis consoles. Literally, we could not give them away. I made one guy a deal — three loose model 1 consoles and a controller for $7.50, and I was glad to do it. I ended up throwing away five more model 2 consoles. If you would like a free one, go dig around in apartment complex dumpsters next to the Tulsa Marriott. Hurry.
[ OVGE — THE SHOW ]
2008 marked Jesse “Crossbow” Hardesty’s fifth OVGE, and it showed. Things ran smoother than ever, and as far as I was concerned there were no hiccups throughout the day, not even small ones. The small projector screen from 2006 was replaced with a much larger one that could be viewed from anywhere in the room. Every table had something at it and I daresay there was something for everyone there. There were lots of fighting games on display and several tournaments for both newer fighting games and older consoles. And it wasn’t just the older people interested in the classics this year. I saw a very excited twelve-year-old pick up his Atari 2600 door prize and immediately began scouring tables, looking for cheap games. “I’ll buy anything but E.T. That game sucks,” he told me.
There were lots of old friends there — along with Crossbow and the aforementioned Gapporin, Ubikuberalles and 98Pacecar, it was also great to see all my old friends like The Stranger, Mr. and Mrs. Icbrkr, Steve W, Namzep, Jeff Cooper, Jason from Trade-N-Games, Josh Risner, Jordan Hamilton, Greg Little, and uberfighters Dustin and Max. There were also plenty of new people to meet there this year as well, including Zachary Knight (representing the Electronic Consumers Association) and Brett Weiss (author of the fantastic book Classic Home Video Games. It was also great to see Brandon Staggs this year — in 2006 he attended the show as a visitor; this year, he was there representing Retro Gamer Shirts. It’s always great to see another retrogaming convert! I also got the chance to meet several new Digital Press and Atari Age forum members, including Phuzzed, Wraith Storm, Life of Brian and Brother of Brian.
I saw and talked to people of all ages at this year’s show. I talked with a twelve-year-old at great length about Commodore 64 disk drives, and a seventy-year-old man about old computer games. While walking around the floor I saw one group of kids playing Rock Band, and another couple of kids playing games on an Apple II+. My favorite buyer of the day was a nice lady in her early 30s who bought one of my Nintendo consoles and four games. I told her the games were 3/$10, but when I realized she had three kids with her, I let her pick a fourth (I have two kids, so I know how that works). I got a kick when the lady said, “I didn’t know they had Zelda back then!” but I laughed outloud when she showed an NES Q*Bert cartridge to her ten-year-old son who replied, “Who’s Q*Bert?”
Around lunch time my wife stopped by and brought the kids to see daddy’s table and book. I think it was cool for the kids to actually see me selling and signing books. I couldn’t get Mason off my SuperGun (which was playing Donkey Kong, Jr. at the time) the whole time he was there. It’s funny, I have that PCB installed in a cabinet at home and he never plays it!
One of the things I’ve learned from attending past shows is that the crowd you draw depends on what you display. By putting Every now and then, worlds still collide. My favorite quote of the day came from an eight-year-old checking out my custom SuperGun, housed in a TurboGrafx 16 console. “Why do they call it a TurboGrafx when the graphics suck so bad?”
[ OVGE — POST SHOW ]
The show ended at 5PM and people were still mulling around the show floor. 98Pacecar finished packing before I did so he borrowed my dolly and had his truck loaded up. Gapporin and Ubikuberalles helped him move his stuff outside, and again I have to stress, if you want to help somebody out at one of these shows, moving things is always, always appreciated. I ran to get my truck so I could pull into the loading dock as 98Pacecar was pulling out. By the time I arrived in my truck, the guys had already moved almost all of my stuff out into the loading dock — thanks, guys! While loading, Jeff informed me that I was coming home with three fewer tubs of stuff than I left with. A winner is me!
During the show I set one of the thirty-gallon tubs aside for stuff that under no circumstances was coming back home to Oklahoma with me. The first thing that went into the tub was the five loose Sega Genesis consoles that were left. I couldn’t give them away for free, and I still have two complete working setups at home. (98Pacecar, Jeff and I brainstormed a few uses for them, including a version of shuffleboard or even a “Genesis toss.”) An old Atari cartridge holder, some old NES plastic boxes of 98Pacecar’s, and a few other items went into the tub. Immediately after the show, we drove to the apartment complex next to the Marriott and emptied the tub into into the dumpster. Bye bye, crapola!
As Jeff and I circled back around from the dumpster we saw 98Pacecar in his car and Ubikuberalles and Gapporin in theirs, so we devised an impromptu dinner plan and drove next door to a Chinese buffet. The food was okay but it was nice just to sit down and unwind for a few minutes with everybody.
After dinner it was time to head back home. Jeff and I made it a few miles down the turnpike before we stopped to stretch, pick up one last McDonald’s iced coffee (official drink sponsor of the 2008 OVGE), stretched, and hit the road. We made it back to OKC Saturday night around 9PM.
One thing everybody wanted to know is, “What did you buy?” Would you believe I only picked up two things — and they were both books? One was Trade-N-Games’ new price guide. It’s $25 and 400 full color pages with thousands of photographs. The other (as I already mentioned) was Brett Weiss’ Classic Home Video Games, another terrific addition to the collection.
Thanks to everybody who made it out to OVGE this year!! Thanks to everybody who stopped by to buy a book or just to say hi. Thanks to Gapporin, Ubikuberalles and 98Pacecar for their help throughout the day and extra special super duper thanks to Jeff for his help throughout the weekend — the table would not have happened without his help.
Here are my photos from the show: http://robohara.com/albums/ovge_2008/
Here are Brandon Staggs’ photos from the show: http://picasaweb.google.com/brandon.staggs/OVGE2008
As other photo albums surface, I will add them to this post.
See you in ’09!