Editor’s note: Aaron had the dubious honor of attending the 2009 Video Game Expo in Philadelphia as a member of the press. Check out his hilarious report from the show floor. -Brett


vg_expo_arcade

The Philadelphia Video Game Expo — or, as its promoters would like to call it, “America’s Video Game Expo” — celebrated its five-year anniversary last weekend, and I was fortunate enough to attend.

OK, maybe I misused the term “fortunate” there, because VGXPO was an utter mess.

Having attended last year’s convention, I had set my expectations to what I thought was a reasonable level. I expected to experience a show similar to the one they threw last year. Nothing spectacular or newsworthy — just a convention where a video game enthusiast could come and be surrounded by games.

That said, I knew I was in for trouble when I picked up my press pass. Instead of a nifty media badge allowing me unfettered access to anything I might find interesting, like I had last year, they gave me a yellow wristband on which they hand-wrote the word “press.” Thanks a lot, guys.

 

With press pass on wrist, I wearily headed to the show floor. A couple of independent developers greeted me with obligatory fliers for their upcoming games dressed as their imagined characters. Par for the course so far.

Beyond them, I saw the ample space understandably given to Nintendo, considering they were the top exhibitor this year. Then I scanned the rest of the floor. “Where is everything else?” I thought to myself.

To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, I have included a picture of the show floor:

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This town…is becoming like a ghost town. -The Specials

The pamphlet boasts 150,000 square feet of floor space, and as you can see, they decided to use every inch of that space to give you lots of elbow room. Inside of this elbow-allowing space resided a variety of mildly interesting and somewhat dumbfounding activities divided into sections that were labeled in the handy-dandy pamphlet.

Now, before I list each section and what you could expect to see contained within, allow me to state that this “map” that VGXPO gave out might be one of the most poorly made I have ever witnessed. It is so awful, in fact, that I have decided to include it here:

VG_Expo_Map
So…which way is north?

You see what I’m talking about? If this map was a person and you asked this person directions, he would act really annoyed while avidly avoiding making eye contact, waving his arm in some general direction, and saying something like “uuugggghhhh.”

To make matters worse, two of these sections, The Colosseum and Live Action Gaming, were not even there. As in they were empty spaces.

But enough of what was not at the VGXPO. What was there?

Tournaments!

Alright, maybe the exclamation point was a bit extreme. The truth is that they had less then one third of the tournaments that they had last year — no Counter-Strike v.1.6, no World of Warcraft Arena. You could, however, compete in an ad hoc tournament in one of four games: Halo 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, or Street Fighter 4.

Also, push-ups. I’m not shitting you!

If competition was not your forte, you could always go to the VGXPO Arcade, which afforded you the chance to beat the game that you might not have had the quarters to accomplish in 1995. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to complete Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator?

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Who’s that handsome devil is behind the controls? That would be Harold Burnett, infamous third chair of Sophist Radio.

Another one of VGXPO’s claims to fame is the Retrocon. Last year this was held in a separate section of the convention, giving those interested in video game collection a place to pick through years of nostalgic titles and merchandise. This year they decided to house this area within the convention proper, between the arcade and the unutilized Tabletop Gaming area.

This section was one of the only interesting areas of this convention. Sure, most of the stuff was overpriced, but where else are you gonna find some of these games?

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You may have noticed that I have neglected to talk about the best and maybe only reason to attend this year’s VGXPO: Nintendo.

Truth is, Nintendo did not disappoint. To be fair, maybe being the only really interesting part of a giant shit sandwich makes what I saw there a tad bit overblown in comparison. But whatever — I got to play New Super Mario Bros Wii!

I also played the unreleased Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the DS, in addition to Punch-Out!!, Wii Sports Resort, and some random DSiWare titles and WiiWare titles.

My excitement was only deflated by the fact that no one was available for interview and I was not allowed to take pictures, regardless of how many handwritten press passes I had obtained.

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They wouldn’t allow me to take any pictures inside the Nintendo area. So I took this instead.

So is VGXPO really worth the price of admission? Last year, I would have said that, while catastrophically disorganized, it was still worth the ticket price. But that was before I really understood what the phrase “catastrophically disorganized” meant.

VGXPO now seems beyond repair. The problems appear deep-rooted within the organization — starting with Ed Fleming, who a made drunken ass of himself at PAX — and sadly, I don’t see them being fixed in the foreseeable future.

~Aaron Rivers, read at The Sophist, heard at Sophist Radio

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