This year represented a transition year for the Vancouver Retro Gaming Expo. For years it's operated in a very similar structure and location. Primarily as a venue for vendors to pedal their wares of the old-timey video game variety, and out of New West's historic Columbia. Now the convention "Beta Tests" it's fit with the new Anvil Centre (recently built) to define the next generation of the convention and it's crowd.
Obviously any change is going to have both positive and negative effect on a convention like this, the hope being that the positives will outweigh the negatives and make for a better show. One thing is for certain with the change of venue though, everything felt a lot more open than the previous years.
As an attendee/reporter for each of the following years one of my biggest, personal, complaints was the congestion the convention suffered due to the floor space of The Columbia. While it is a beautiful retro venue that felt thematic for a retro gaming show, it doesn't feel like it was intended for a show like this, where the vendors have stacked tables full of retro video games for fans to peruse and purchase.
Immediately upon entering the Anvil Centre layout for the show I could see everything nicely laid out and, even better than that, I was able to walk through the show floor without constantly being blockaded by groups of people looking at merchandise or simply going through they "Hey! There you are, I've been looking all over for you!" dance.
The tone of the expo also feels like it changed, mostly due to the new venue and layout, featuring the vendors a lot more predominantly than the previous years. As a consume I found it much easier to go shopping than I had previously... However, that didn't necessarily distract from the events happening either.
When at The Columbia, the expo was split into two floors: the main floor being the vendor hall and sharing the stage for some of the late night events (bands and floor shows) with the upstairs serving as a panel hall or sometimes overflow for vendors as well. Everything was kind of in flux the last couple of years as the space was worked out for which floor suited which pieces of the con. Some of it worked, some of it didn't, and more often than not both floors had to serve dual purpose.
Now, at the Anvil Centre, everything is far more intuitive and straight forwards. The first floor operating as the retail center with a large number of tables for vendors to sell at, the second floor acting as a showcase for things like the rarest of old consoles and the art gallery, as well as the theater which ran Bands and comedy groups throughout the day into the evening.
Finally, on the third floor, a series of rooms setup to point at podiums and allow for speaker series and panel hosts. Each of those rooms wired for sound and media presentations, putting forward a dual win in terms of being less annoying for those floor-goers who are there for the merch, and less background noise for those presenters trying to talk clearly to their audience.
Really the only things lacking this year were a sign clearly explaining the layout (something like what PAX offers upon entering, allowing you to know instantly where you want to go) and a better venue for the tournament play (one of my favorite features of any convention).
Due to the Anvil Centre itself being in transition this year, the tournament center was an under-construction restaurant. Hopefully next year the Tournament space can be more closely associated with free play, and then featured on some of the big screens in the theater for grand finales, rather than interested parties trying to gather round an old CRT for the epic finale of the Bushido Blade Tournament.
At the end of the day, VRGE proved that it can improve upon the formula and become a legitimate convention rather than a themed flea market. I for one hope it keeps the new venue and makes a couple of tweaks to provide the right vibe and flow that a show needs to be a staple of the Vancouver Convention scene.
For a full gallery of the event, and an option to hunt and tag your friends, check out our Facebook Gallery of VRGE2016!