While I am an avid gamer, I haven’t had the chance to go to a lot of gaming conventions in my life. I’ve been to PAX South twice and on, August 11th, I had the opportunity to go to Game On Expo here in Phoenix, Arizona. Thanks to Real Women of Gaming, I got to get a media pass for this 3-day event. I was unable to attend all three days, but luckily that didn’t stop me from seeing a lot of great things at this Expo. This is the first expo where I didn’t go with friends, but instead with my niece, nephew, and a friend of theirs. Three kids in an expo hall by myself? Was I nuts? Turns out they behaved really well. And it gave me a different perspective of the event.
This is Game On Expo’s 5th year, so they are still establishing themselves and building their own community. And I have to say, they are doing a great job. Everyone we talked to was incredibly nice and the crowd was fairly polite. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a number of parents with their kids there. Much more so than at bigger conventions. I think this has to do with the sheer amount of games they had available for people to play while they were there.
The theme this year was Mario and they had voice actors from some of the games available for photos and signatures. There was the voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, plus Jen Taylor and Kenny James. There were Pokemon voice actors Tara Sands, Eric Stuart, Rachel Lillis, Megan Hollingshead and Veronica Taylor. There was also Mary Gibbs, the voice of Boo from Monsters, Inc, Hellena Taylor, the voice of Bayonetta, Tim Kitrow from NBA Jams and E-Sports personality Chris Tang.
There was a section for old-school arcade games! There was Ms. Pac-Man, Paperboy, Pinball, Tekken and so many more! I have to tell you that I’ve never laughed harder at a kid playing a video game as I did at two of those that were with me when they tried to play Paperboy. They kept getting hit by cars, people, and even RC cars and they were like, “this is so hard!” Like kids, arcade games were supposed to be hard! They wanted us to sit there and spend more quarters!
Then there was a section for older consoles. They had Ataris, Nintendos, N64s, Segas and more! They were available to be played by anyone when they weren’t being used for the Retro World Championships.
Of course, we can’t forget about having an e-sports area with the ability to play Fortnite, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11 and others. There were tournaments for these games as well, but mostly I saw a lot of families having a great time playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I know we went and played it a few different times. I have to say, my 10-year-old nephew is better at it than I am. I had to go old-school and smash buttons because I had no idea what I was doing. I did randomly do some great combos, but mostly he kicked my butt 2 outta 3 rounds!
There was a small Virtual Reality booth that had two set-ups for people to try. They were only usable by those over age 12, so only my niece got to try it. It was really amusing to see her trying to move around in the game while sitting in a chair with that giant headset on. While we were watching her, some guy came up and played Beat Saber on expert! He was really good too; it was fun to watch.
There were rows upon rows of merchants at Game On Expo. There were merchants I expected to see like The Army recruiters and local businesses looking for extra exposure, even though they have nothing to do with games. This particular expo also had tons of merchants selling used games for every console you can imagine. And then there was also the jewelry, cosplay props, art, knitted plushes, bookmarks, decorations and other handcrafted items.
Smitty Tut Designs was one cosplay prop purveyor that I had to stop and stare at. This is a husband and wife duo where he makes metal shields, pendants, swords, etc in the garage and she sells it all. The items were beautifully crafted and when I went home to look at their website, I was even more blown away.
Another booth I was blown away by was Amber Skies. She is a cosplayer that also does art and her dad was the one that was there when we first stopped at the booth. The kinds and I thought the artwork was beautiful, but the best part was her father showing us her cosplay books. He was so proud and loved helping her get it all together. I was amazed to hear she did a Nebula cosplay (from Guardians of the Galaxy) and that Marvel saw it and asked her to do another. She got to do a whole photo shoot and meet some of the cast. Every geeks dream!
I totally cannot forget to mention Rocket A Go-Go and Stormy the owner. She was the first booth we stopped at that Sunday and she was so welcoming and excited to be there. She had a booth that promoted multiple businesses – Electric Bat Arcade, Yucca Taproom, Rocket A Go-Go and That Rocket Gal. She told me about the awesome artists she supported and was selling for. They had handmade geek purses, custom sunglasses, accessories and jewelry for sale. I bought my sister an adorable Star Wars clutch for Christmas this year – of course, I wasn’t able to actually wait that long and gave it to her when I took the kids home!
One of my other favorite booths was the Non-Profit Cosplay for Charity booth – Umbrella Corporation: Arizona Hive. They raise money for the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA. Having cats myself, I always like to help less fortunate animals when I can. We got some cool syringe pens and a zombie cupcake pin for donating. Plus these props they had were really creepy and awesome.
I may not have a lot of experience with expos and conventions, but this one was fun. It was way more family oriented than the big ones and I think that having cons like that is important for the younger generation. The kids pooped out early and we didn’t make it to the Kid’s Fortnite Dance-Off or the Puzzle competition, but I think they would have been a lot of fun. They did have a blast playing tons of video games, some that I hadn’t even heard of, and looking at all the great cosplays. I would definitely recommend Game On Expo to anyone who likes to shop geek culture, meet great people, play video games and meet actors from their favorite games.
If you want a full list of guests, vendors, etc you can find that on their website.