For those who don’t live in the Tri-State area or, more specifically, the Northern/Central New Jersey area, AVGC (or “A Video Game Convention”) is a smaller sized video games themed expo in the Parsippany area. Created and organized by Paul Solo, the convention has entered its second year.
After starting last September, it picked up a fair amount of buzz and attention pretty quickly. In both 2015 and 2016, it was held at the Parsippany Police Athletic League center. However, there has been discussion on if the convention must relocate much like other favorite expos in the past. Last year, it had an incredible attendance and had an unprecedented crowd to boot! Guests like “King of Kong”, Billy Mitchell, were live at the scene. Arcade machines lined up a whole gymnasium room. A live orchestra among various bands jammed in the day, while a burlesque show took stage at night. Panelists from all corners of the web took to the main hall and the conference room by the gym. It was vintage gaming bliss. At the time, the then-new expo had already found a proper niche and audience. This year, AVGC returned; back and better than ever! Jump ahead to continue.
Saturday marked the beginning of an experiment. The creator of the expo, known to the public as Paul Solo, figured one day wasn’t quite enough. And with that, Saturday marked a line up from sun up to sun down (and then some) with an extra day on Sunday to accommodate the headlining guests from Cinemassacre (including the AVGN himself, live at AVGC!) But, more on that later. With the same location and a pretty similar schedule, it felt much like last year. The large gym was stage shows and the arcade space, the smaller gyms were vendors and console gaming/tournaments and the conference rooms were used for panels. With a solid layout, there wasn’t much need to change too much up in that regard.
However, many of the issues I’ve had with it last year have more or less been tackled in some shape or form. One of the major ones was keeping the hallways from becoming too clogged. One of the halls, lined with vendors, seriously slowing the pace of the convention down. Now, the hallway between the entry way and the vendor hall were mostly clear, save for registration. In fact, the cleared hall made for the perfect quick rest stop. Also, parking proved to be a major issue last year. In fact, countless people parked on the lawn of the PAL earned themselves parking tickets. Given that this is a police training center, such is not surprising. Now, there was a series of shuttles between 2 major points, allowing for easier parking and travel. But, those are just some major complaints with last year they addressed. What about the rest of the expo?
Like last year, the arcade as well as console gaming rooms had quite the pleasing selection. This year round, they brought back some old favorites like Turtles as well as an assortment of pinball machines. Sadly, I did not beat the high score of Medieval Madness; thus, I had failed one of my goals during the con. But, oh well. At least I made the table on South Park, which sadly had quite a few hiccups throughout the convention (due to it being in the midst of restoration.) At least I got 4th place in the Simpsons beat ’em up, a staple of many kids’ arcade experience via boardwalk or birthday party at Chuck ‘E’ Cheese’s.
In terms of panels and guests, I was more than pleased with a wide variety of speakers, performers and the like. Making a return for the second year in a row, Montclair State University’s Video Game orchestra added some new tunes to their repertoire, including an interesting take on Cap’n’s song from Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Also reprising their performance was the burlesque team from last year, featuring a whole new round of performances, skits and cosplay antics. Retro Gaming in the Modern era returned with a more fine tuned panel less driven by sporadic improv and more structure. For the most part, I was just enjoying the strange sense of humor and making tongue-in-cheek jabs at various game licenses. On the more informative side, the PC Gaming panel gave me some information I myself wouldn’t have considered, despite being a semi-active PC gamer for several years now. Streaming 101 featured a good friend of mine and a new friend as well, enlightening the crowd on the joys of streaming… and how surprisingly simple it is to get into it, despite a hefty investment. And of course, Anime Parliament is always a great time. From the moment I put Adam’s favorite character, Isabelle, on trial; I knew that this panel had a good home at AVGC.
Special guests helped to really sell the convention for me. Last year, the subject of the famous “King of Kong documentary”, Billy Mitchell himself, appeared at the expo. I’m sure I still have a picture of me shaking hands with him somewhere. This year, Pat Contri (alias, “Pat the NES Punk”) both held an excellent panel and promoted his latest book, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide To The NES Library. And for those on the fence, this 400+ page book is enough to keep any NES collector or hobbyist satisfied for a ways to come. Sunday’s Guests of honor consisted of the Angry Video Game Nerd as well as other Cinemassacre greats! While chatting with the nerd about his channel was fun, getting lost in tangents about strange cult cinema and favorite albums from classic heavy metal bands was a blast. Too bad he didn’t have too much time to ramble with me.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. I saw a number of familiar faces, made some new friends and even learned a thing or too. On top of that, I encountered a fair number of things I thought I’d never find. This included an assortment of terrible Shrek cash-in games all in the same place as well as the famed prototype for the Nintendo/Playstation that was sadly not meant to be. With that, I encourage gamers of all sorts to give AVGC a look at. While it more so appeals to retro gamers, there’s still a fair bit for the more contemporary gaming crowd as well.