|By Brett Weiss
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Retro Gaming Expo is in its eighth year as the premiere classic video game convention of the northwest. Occurring Oct. 5-6 at the Oregon Convention Center, the event will feature approximately 70 vendors selling vintage (and modern) video games and related items, from the Atari 2600 to the Xbox and all points in between.
In addition, PRGE will host an auction, four tournaments, a costume contest and a number of celebrity speakers, including Pitfall! designer David Crane, Keystone Kapers creator Gary Kitchen, and Video Olympics programmer Joe DeCuir, who helped design, build, and produce the Atari 2600.
According to event organizer Rick Weis, the best part of the show is that visitors will “be able to play and talk with people that love the old games, just like you.”
Partnering with Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade, Weis promises 100-200 arcade games and pinball machines set up on free play, which means there’s no reason to bring quarters to the show. Attendees can also try their hand at a variety of beloved home consoles of yesteryear, such as the ColecoVision, Nintendo NES and Sega Genesis.
Weis is a longtime video game collector and industry advocate, beginning his obsession, like many seasoned joystick jockeys, during the glory days of the 1970s.
“I’ve been playing video games since I can remember,” he said. “I would go with my parents to a mini-putt golf course and play all the games they had. I needed a step-stool just so I could reach the controls.”
Shortly after Weis received an Atari 2600 (then called Atari VCS) for Christmas in 1977, the year the system was released, he began collecting video game cartridges.
“At that time all my friends were collecting baseball cards, and I had no interest in doing that,” he said. “After about two weeks of playing my Atari, I thought, ’Why don’t I collect Atari 2600 games?’”
Collecting for the Atari 2600 has been a supreme challenge and a decades-long endeavor for Weis.
“At first it was easy, with games not coming out so fast, but it wasn’t long before I starting getting behind with all the new releases,” he said. “Here I am more than 35 years later, and I’m still working to get a complete set.”
During the Atari 2600’s lengthy run, from October 1977 to January 1992, more than 400 games were released for the console. To finish out his Atari 2600 library, Weis needs only four cartridges, four boxes, and three instruction manuals, making his collection one of the best in the world.
“It’s a very expensive hobby,” he said. “I collect for other systems, but once something comes up that I need for my Atari 2600 collection, I may need to sell something else.”
If Weis is lucky, he may find one of those missing items on a vendor table at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo.