One of biggest electronic gaming gatherings in the region, the Midwest Gaming Classic in Oconomowoc, is packed with two solid days of personal computers, pinball machines and pong paddles. Tournaments, high score challenges, and a classic game museum were all waiting for gamers who traveled hundreds of miles to test their skills in the eighth annual convention over the weekend.
The con got its start as JagFest in 2001, an event dedicated to the Atari Jaguar console, but by 2002 had grown to include a large number of classic gaming consoles, arcade units, and pinball machines. Held this year over the weekend of March 29-30, the gathering attracted more than 1700 people. Though the bulk of attendees were older gamers who played classic titles in their youth, there were also many families introducing a new generation to the games, assisted with boosters for younger gamers to reach pinball flippers and even small Ms Pac-Man and Dig Dug arcade machines.
Admission was a mere $10 fee, with patrons given a wristband allowing free roaming throughout the halls of the Olympia Resort. The first stop for many was the dealer room, where game shops and importers from across the nation were selling a large variety of wares. Many tables had rows of vintage Super Nintendo games, and a few had pinball replacement parts and artwork. One gentleman, taking a cue from classic gamer and hot sauce mogul Billy Mitchell, was selling "Noob Sauce" with gamer inspired flavors like "Leet Sauce" offering "Pur3 Flavor."
The shadow cast by Mitchell in the 2007 movie The King Of Kong was definitely felt at the Midwest Classic. Interest in classic games and high scores were running rampant.
Walter Day, administrator of Twin Galaxies, the official electronic scoreboard of all electronic games, was present and was keeping track of many accomplishments. Operating a table adjacent to the tournament area, he sold copies of his video game score books and the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2008. Dressed in his signature referee shirt, Day happily shook hands and signed autographs throughout the weekend. He was keeping an eye on Rally-X, a classic arcade game from Namco with a Twin Galaxies high score that has been unchallenged since 1983.
The video game museum was quite a spectacle to even the best versed historians. In addition to expected appearances by the likes of Pong, the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and Atari hardware, there were machines like the Super A'can. This is a game console from Taiwan launched in 1995 that only ever saw 12 games released and put its manufacturer Funtech into debt so badly it ultimately sold its stock for scrap in the U.S. All machines on display were playable and many had a selection of games to sample.
Also on display and for play were some very unique games, such as The Three Stooges Pinball. This was a machine custom built by an electrical engineer from Oshkosh who actually built a soundboard from scratch; though it's completely unique, it looks and plays exactly like a machine you'd find in an arcade or bowling alley two decades ago. There were also dealers selling replica controllers for classic machines and one dealer who had unreleased original Nintendo games and imports built onto new cartridges that will play in any NES, bringing new life to a console that hasn't had a new title produced in nearly 15 years.
Here's a video tour of some of the highlights from the Classic:
Walter Day concluded the convention by mentioning that though he'd attended many other conventions, but "nationally, this is one of the best."