RetroWorld Expo: Vintage Video Games Return To Hartford

Kris Krohn was 5 years old when the original Nintendo came out in 1985.

"I remember it like it was yesterday. I played everything," says Krohn, who is now 36. Video games became his life.

In May 1990, a semifinal round of the Nintendo World Championships was held in the Hartford Civic Center. Krohn was there. Now he wants to bring old-school video-game culture back to Hartford.

Krohn, who grew up in Manchester and now lives in California, and two friends — Bil McGee of Sandy Hook and Lance Cortez of Stratford — are founders of RetroWorld Expo, a celebration of vintage video games that runs Oct. 14 and 15 at Connecticut Convention Center.

This will be the third annual Retro World. The two previous were held at a 30,000 square-foot space at the Toyota Oakdale Theater in Wallingford. The space at this year's expo has more than tripled, to 100,000 square feet.

"The last two years, it was just too packed," Krohn says.

The expo will feature exhibitors, gaming tournaments, cosplay and free-play consoles, arcade games and tabletop games like Magic: The Gathering and board games such as Scythe. Vendors will sell games, toys and collectibles and video game-inspired artworks.

Retro gaming is the focus, but new games will be featured, too. "We've expanded to video games in general, XBox One, PlayStation 4, but the majority is old-school,N Nintendo, Super intendo, Pinball, Pac-Man," as well as Donkey Kong, NBA Jam, Street Fighter and Neo Geo.

Krohn's favorite old game is "The Legend of Zelda," which came out in 1986. Cortez's favorite is "Mortal Kombat," which made its debut in 1992. "It had such a big impact, not just on me but on everyone around me," he said.

Many of the celebrity guests at the expo are YouTube stars who review games. Some are professional cosplayers, and two are motion-capture actors who portrayed Johnny Cage and Raiden in "Mortal Kombat." A Hartford radio personality, "Culture Dog" Sam Hatch, also will appear.

The organizers are particularly excited about the appearance by Leonard Herman, who wrote "Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Home Videogames," the first comprehensive history of the video-game industry.

The first home video game console, Magnavox Odyssey, was introduced in September 1972. It connected to a TV and had two controllers attached by wires.

"The games were simple — ping pong, handball, just two dots on a screen bouncing back and forth," Herman says. "Only two graphics were possible, two tiles and a ball. It had plastic overlays you could put over the TV screen to simulate real graphics."

The video-game industry crashed in the early 1980s, as the market became saturated and as game play migrated from consoles to computers. The introduction in 1985 of the Nintendo NES revitalized the industry.

Herman says retro gaming has been popular for a long time, but the trend was jump-started by the introduction of miniature systems such as NES Classic Edition and Super NES Classic Edition, which replicate the games and graphics of old-style gaming.

Social media also played a huge role in the trend toward retro games, Krohn says.

"It's just way easier to talk about this stuff. There's a Facebook community of retro gamers. YouTube stars talk about retro games. YouTube has taken the retro gaming market to a whole other level."

RETROWORLD EXPO is Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m and Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford. Admission on Saturday is $30, $15 ages 6 to 10. Admission on Sunday is $25, $15 ages 6 to 10. A two-day badge is $45. A two-day kids' badge, for ages 6 to 12, is $20.

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