Connecticut Convention Center //
On Saturday, September 8th, 2018 Raised by Gypsies brought its gonzo journalism style to Retro World Expo in Hartford, CT. My main plan was to follow Quentin around and try to experience the event through the eyes of a six year old while also taking in what I could on my level at the same time. The event started at 10 am so of course we left around that time and didn't get in to get in line until about 10:30. Shout out to the event person who gave me a confused look when I told him I was on the press list and he sent me to the Early Bird line because, hey, it was the shortest line and it got us in.
Outside the event but inside the building we saw a car themed around Jurassic Park which seemed to be the perfect way to start this off. When I first read about RWX my first thoughts were "Video games!" but the more I read about it the more I realized it was so much more and I figured that out once we got inside and started walking around as well. For months, I had promised I would buy Quentin plush toys of Mario and Luigi but we had to wait until RWX because I was sure we would find them there. This turned out to be true and it was actually the first thing Quentin found.
At first I wasn't sure whether or not to make such a purchase right away because I even asked Quentin if he was okay with carrying them around the entire time, to which he said yes, but the seller was nice enough to give us a bag so they spent some time in there and other items we collected throughout the day made their way into the bag as well. I did not really come prepared in that sense, but I did see people carrying around reusable bags and I have a bunch so I really thought that was a missed opportunity by me but something to put in my file for remembering for next time and just future events such as this in general.
Whenever there was a consule set up on a table with a controller set up for free play I noticed that Quentin would stop and play regardless of what the game was. I did enjoy that sort of free spirit vibe he has of "See a video game, play it" as opposed to the thought of "I don't really care about that character so I won't play" or something. There were quite a few things to do as well if you didn't want to spend money, but we ended up spending money, the second time being on this bead art that Quentin wanted because the characters he immediately saw were of Mario and Luigi.
Now, not only was this table giving away free Table Top pies, we were also told that the money spent on Mario and Luigi would go to help autism so that made feel even better about buying them. They were also put on laynards, so Quentin then wore them throughout the rest of the day. A booth was giving out these little plushies which are actually finger puppets for free with their business card so Quentin got one of those from a fish bowl when he was mesmerized by the jellyfish. (Stopping to see the jellyfish became a routine every time we passed them)
One of my favorite parts of RWX was that it had a wide variety of items showcased that didn't just apply to video games. There was art- whether you wanted a sketch, a print or one these really cool 3D shadow boxes of retro video games that we saw. There was a booth set up based solely around Japanese culture and they had a lot of Pokemon stuff, while others had comic books and such related toys. It was fun because at one point Quentin sat under a table and played with a toy of Yoda while I was digging through this box of random loose action figures which went from 1990's Marvel characters to wrestlers to some figures I couldn't even place, which is not something I can say a lot.
My theory about doing everything was not "Should we do this?" but rather "Let me ask Quentin if he wants to and then we will". There were three special guests related to Mortal Kombat - Richard Divizio (Kano), Daniel Pesina (Johnny Cage) and Anthony Marquez (Kung Lao) - and I had this thought that if they would pose for a group photo with Quentin I would totally pay for it, rather than having three photos with each of them. When I asked I was told yes and how much it would be and that was not a problem, though I must also admit I asked Quentin first if he wanted to and since he said yes that was why we did it.
I remember one of them (But I don't remember which one) asking who exactly the photo was going to be with- because it could have been any combination of Quentin and I- but when I said just Quentin they seemed more into it as well because some things are just more fun when you do them for the kids. I'm not just saying this to say this- because I never feel like I need to do that- but Quentin has this way about not really smiling in pictures and also he tends to look off to the side. This photo actually somehow became one of the single best photos he has ever taken and I couldn't be more proud of it.
Following Quentin we next made our way to a booth which had a game based around magnets. The thing about this which really struck me was how much Quentin was into it. He had picked up controllers and spent maybe five or ten minutes playing a video game and then moving on to the next one, but with these magnets we were there for a good half hour or so, both talking with the creator and playing the game itself. At one point, I gave him my email address and it felt like "Ok, we've got the jist of this game and will be moving on now", but no, Quentin wanted to finish the game that we were playing before we left.
I will likely spread this more (maybe on a weekly basis even) but there is a Kickstarter up for it and even if you don't seem interested in the game (Though I admit it was a lot of fun to play, somewhat simple to learn the rules and it's small enough that you can take it with you anywhere) you should keep in mind that if you have kids, grandkids or know people with kids in general, this would make a great experience for them because if you gift it to them and then they go and play with their friends at school it will certainly catch on. I know I'm going to try and get several for Christmas presents for kids I know.
We approached an area dedicated to table top games, mainly Dungeons and Dragons, and as Quentin was impressed by the various dice they had for sale a woman approached and asked us if we were into D&D but I told her no, Quentin just loved dice. It's funny how now though Quentin loves dice and hopefully one day it can lead to him being more involved in games (like D&D) which he can use those dice in. I don't know if I believe in gateway drugs, but I certainly believe in gateway games.
As we headed back around the other side of the convention we found Bob Backlund by himself so we stopped to talk with him. We met Mr. Backlund a year and a half or two years ago at the Meriden Library where I purchased his book but was too ashamed to tell him when I talked with him this time that I haven't read it yet. He had these really cool cardboard posters that made me feel like the days before everything was digital and I knew I needed one of them to grace my walls. As I kind of suspected though, Mr. Backlund existed only on a cash basis so I had to find an ATM because of the $40 cash I had brought with me I was down to $10.
Mr. Backlund was nice enough to find an event staff member for us to then point us in the direction of an ATM. We came back and there were a few people in line but we waited and got the poster signed, which was $20 but will pretty much stay on my walls forever so I feel as if that (and seeing Mr. Backlund again) is something you truly cannot put a price on. I also should note I bought a Blu Ray for myself of the movie "Orgy of the Dead" and it was one of the only things I actually bought for myself.
At a table where you could sign up for a video game tournament, we were to approach them only because they had this small Mario set in front of some other things and Quentin wanted to point it out to me. Quentin spent some time playing a Mario arcade game before he sat down at a table top deal (like they used to have in diners) to play Pong. At first, we were just kind of watching but people around us started moving so the guy playing told Quentin to step on up so Quentin did. To me, that was a really cool moment, seeing Quentin partake in something such as that.
Our final stop at RWX was to get a mystery box which Quentin had asked for at one point but because of the size of it I said we wouldn't get until the end so we weren't carrying it around the entire time. Inside the mystery box was a custom made pillow for Game of Thrones, which I don't watch but is cool because the grey theme to it matches my couch, a plush Ms. Pac-Man, a light up 8bit Street Fighter Akuma, a plush Hoopa, a Destiny puzzle, a Spider-Man blind bag (Which turned out to be Doc Ock), a starter set for Magic The Gathering and a Mega Man air freshener. I think we made more than our money back and Quentin was happy with everything we got. Hopefully, he will use the cards to get into Magic one day.
Because I forgot about it until just now, it's also worth noting that I signed up for an email list and received a free copy of Old School Gamer magazine which came with a poster and was well worth the time and emails I have since received. I wish I could've given everyone my email address but perhaps next year I will. One thing I learned for people who attend with a "business" (whether you're an artist or just selling games, etc.) is that Quentin picked up business cards because he liked that Mario was on them. So design special business cards for such events as this that children will grab and you'll likely gain more interest.
Going down the escalator on our way out some woman going up was staring at me. I assumed it was because of the mass of merchandise we were carrying- Quentin with his Mario and Luigi plushies and giant mystery box (Which is great just for the box itself as well) and me with my bag full of stuff and Bob Backlund signed poster. But the woman ended up saying "I know you, right?" I said "Umm, I don't know. Maybe?" "You're Steve Wood, right?" Seems telling her I am in fact *not* Steve Wood was a fitting way as any to end this day and journey.
Post: A week after Retro World Expo, I was talking with Quentin about it and he said he wanted to go again but he meant he wanted to go within the next few weeks. I had to explain to him that it's only once a year but that we could definitely go back next year.