It’s Monday November 8th, 2021 and I am a tired, tired man. I spent this weekend at Midwest Gaming Classics, and its the 4th time I’ve attended in the last six years. Considering one year was canceled due to COVID though I guess that actually makes it 4 years out of 5 I’ve attended.

This year I decided to do something a little different, after my wife and sons decided they didn’t want to go this time, and splurged for the VIG (Very Important Gamer) ticket. The ticket gave me access to the Friday night preview, first access to the vendor hall on Saturday morning, and the ability to attend the after party on Saturday night. I also got an exclusive NES game, and Lanyard it was to hang off of, but decided to not wear the game. 

Friday Night

I arrived at my hotel on Friday afternoon and settled in before going to pick up my ticket and swag. When I got into the Wisconsin Center I had to get my COVID clearance, which entitled me to a green wristband to wear all weekend. It was than on to the ticket line and after about a 45 minute wait I finally got my wristbands for all three days, the aforementioned NES game and lanyard, name tag, and ticket for early vendor hall access. I returned to my room following, to dump the unnecessary items, and figure out my evening, before heading back over.

Friday Afternoon Milwaukee from my hotel room

On Friday night all that was open was the game room, and some of the smaller halls on the second floor. The gaming museum within the gameroom was fully set up by that time, which thats always a nice collection of playable home gaming consoles from the past. With few people attending the preview it was nice to sit down a play a few of them with no wait, or anyone lurking and waiting for you to leave. The arcade and main pinball area also had little if to no wait as well, however at this point many machines weren’t in place yet, and some of the Sunday auction block machines weren’t setup for freeplay, problematically these represented at least half the machines there that night. The vendors like Stern, and Jersey Jack also seemed only partially setup, as did some of the smaller exhibitors. I will admit this year we did see some skee ball machines which were unique and kind of cool to see at MGC, and trust me with the three top shelf Old Fashions I had in me later that evening, Skee Ball was fun as hell to play especially on free play and with four machines side by side. Eventually though things did get a little boring, and after a quick visit to some of the smaller halls from the perennial favorites, I returned to my room before the official end of the evening.

Saturday Morning

On Saturday morning VIG ticket holders had sole access to the vendor hall for the first half hour, as long as they had the special pass with. I will admit with the size of the vendor hall a half hour wasn’t very long, and I really didn’t find anything worth purchasing in that half hour. Although, it was fun to be the envy of other attendees, entering the hall first. There was a good selection of vendors this year, including some new food vendors. There were also a few vendors from the past that had not shown to more recent shows but had appeared this year. With that said though there were also a few that didn’t show this year. One being a vintage toy vendor who makes a regular appearance, and a seller of foam swords that are replicas of those from movies and anime. I’ve spent a lot at both booths for my sons the past few MGC’s, so I definitely noticed those vendors’ absence. 

Unlike in past years there wasn’t anything that particularly stuck out in the vendor hall as a gaming trend for this year. For instance in 2019 there was a strange glut of Vectrex’s, and 2018 a glut of Atari 5200’s. I will say that I did see two full Steel Battalion sets, and three Virtual Boys though. What I also didn’t notice was as many indy developers, or podcaster booths as I’ve seen in the past. I did see one indy developer who had a regular game storefront and that was also selling an indie title of their own (I’ll talk about that later), and also a few selling Vectrex Homebrews.

To be honest what I was hoping to see in the vendor area this year was a showing from the Intellivision Amico developers, especially considering they started pushing 8 new physical games for the system just last month. This despite the fact the system has yet to be released after nearly 2 years in development, and while holding customer orders and money.  

By Saturday morning in the game room, a several things had changed. For instance they had added more machines overnight, and some of the unplayable auction machines from the night before were now setup for freeplay. This meant that a lot more games were ready for play, but the crowd willing to play them was a lot larger. On the vendor side of the room the Stern and Jersey Jack exhibits stayed the same but there was no showing from American Pinball this year. I was also hoping Arcade 1 Up would make an appearance this year, but nothing from them either. We of course still had the MGC regular, Cosmotron, exhibit as well as a similar newcomer Killer Queen, which is a Joust like multiplayer game.

Saturday Afternoon

Of course Saturdays at MGC have a lot more to do than just the gameroom and vendor hall. This year I visited perennial host Guys’, Games, and Beer who are always very welcoming in one of the larger rooms on the second floor. Besides their normal game exhibits they also hosted the Steel Battalion exhibit, which has been a regular exhibit my oldest son and I visit and play every year, of course I played a little bit, but missed playing side by side with him. Garcade also had their perennial room as well, which had a big selection of games, and pinball, as well as DJ spinning 80’s and 90’s hits while 80’s cartoons played on a TV. Garcade was also giving out swag throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday.

This also represents the first year, in which I was finally able to sit in on the Retronauts live podcast recording. After running all over MGC, and to and from my hotel room all day it is was nice to take a seat for an hour and watch them record a live episode on the Virtual Boy, which by the way was really interesting and you’ll want to listen to when it comes out. 

One other interesting thing of note on that Saturday, was that the Milwaukee Veterans Day parade occurred. So while MGC was going on at the Wisconsin Center, it was also the staging area for the parade. I was lucky enough to sneak outside for a bit and take some pictures and video of it, as well as watch a bit, which was also a nice break from MGC.

Saturday also featured live wrestling at MGC. I knew there had been wrestling events there in the past, but I was never able to go see them. This year the ring was on the main floor between the game and vendor halls, where it was hard to miss the action. Being the first time I’ve seen pro-wrestling in person, it was a really fun experience to partake in with the crowd. It was even more fun to watch little boys around my youngest son’s age, ew and awe, at the events in the ring, making me wish my youngest was there to see it as well.

Saturday Evening

About an hour after the wrestling event the ring came down and the Cosplay contest began. I had seen all kinds of people dressed up in costumes throughout the day, but was amazed how few of them participated in the actual contest. The event went on for an hour and a half, with many of the costumes being genuinely very well done, even if I didn’t know who some of them were supposed to be. Most of the costumes were also, due to the event, family friendly but the best female cosplay winner’s costume wasn’t exactly family friendly in some respects. The male custom winner was by far the most impressive, with a highly detailed Samus Aran (yes, I know a dude playing Samus) suit. Even though this was the first time I was able to watch the cosplay contest take place, I had seen some impressive costumes in previous years, and this Samus easily ranked with those.

So my Saturday took in normal MGC game room, and vendor hall activities, but was also becoming a year of firsts. First year with early vendor hall access, first year sitting down to a live podcast recording, first year seeing wrestling, a parade, and also the cosplay contest but the evening wasn’t over for me. As the cosplay contest ended the vendor hall and game room was quickly being closed, and those without the afterparty pass were leaving for the evening. I, however, was staying. It was fun to see people ask if they could still get into the party, but that was only granted to the VIG’s. We moved away from the mainstage and practically to the other side of the Wisconsin Center while the main stage area was being readied for the after party. In the meantime rollaway bars were being setup, with some of us choosing to begin indulging right away. My order of an Old Fashion of course had many of my fellow party goers looking at me like I was the only adult in the room, while they ordered beer and wine. At the price they wanted for a mixed drink I would start off with two old fashions but convert to beer later that evening.

The After-Party, and After That

The “Afterparty” was supposed to start around 8:30 PM, but for some reason didn’t start till 9:30. I must admit in the hour wait I nearly thought about walking out, but by 9:30 was glad I didn’t. The first up on stage was Batsu, not a musical act but a Japanese style gameshow. It was actually very, very funny, and I was able to pick up a home version for Thanksgiving. Around 10:15 that was followed by The Gothsicles, a band that had some industrial sounds but light hearted songs about NES games, and animals. It was actually a lot of fun and some of their songs will be stuck in my head for a long time to come. Around 11:15 the group Kung Loa took the stage, a band fronted by Anthony Marquez who voices the character of Kung Loa in the Mortal Combat games. I stuck around till about 12:30 missing the final act, but beginning to really feel how much I had drunk. Yes, we geeky gamer types know how to party. Around 1AM I got some food, followed by downing some TUMs, water, and activated charcoal tablets. The end result worked and I woke up about 90% hangover free.

On Sunday I ate breakfast, packed my car, and headed for one more look around MGC, hitting both halls. I would’ve stuck till 4PM when vendor hall deals got really good, but was just kind of ready to go home, and left around 12:30 after finding a few NES games I was looking for on my wishlist.  

Personal Highlights

I wanted to say that I really did enjoy myself, and had a number of surprises at this year’s MGC. The above afterparty for one, as well as some of my other firsts in all my times attending MGC. I also had the interesting experience of sharing the same hotel floor as Christpher Sean, who voices Kazuda Xiono from Star Wars Resistance, and Scott Burns (voice of Bowser and a lot of other Nintendo characters) and his lovely wife, who I continually ran into in the elevator and elsewhere at MGC. It was a pleasure to meet them, truly. 

My MGC Wishlist

I will admit that I did have a few things that thought could use a bit of improvement, and a few wishes of my own.

Starting off with the latter, I’m still hoping the MGC’s get moved back to April in the future. The reason being is that November is a bit too close to Christmas, and at this time of year I’m thinking more about what to get other people, rather than what games or systems I want to add to my collection. In addition to that, April MGCs were always nice to attend for after a long winter, and gave me a lot to dream about during the long cold dark months before it. 

As for the improvements here goes. I think the show does gets better year after year, but there’s always room for improvement. 

  • For instance I think that for VIG members it should be an hour instead of a half hour in the vendor hall on Saturday morning. Unless you know a specific vendor has a specific item you want, and where they’re located, there’s no way a half hour is enough. 
  • Second, how about a vendor that has some breakfast foods at the event, donuts, some decent coffee, maybe even a few breakfast sandwiches. Not asking for IHOP or anything, but it would be nice to go from hotel room to MGC, without having hit a slow hotel restaurant
  • Lastly, how about updating the website, or at least changing it so the event calendar works better. Or perhaps also providing VIG ticket holders with a schedule of VIG activities. Outside of the kiosk in the ticket lobby there wasn’t much else that provided a schedule of activities. Better yet, how about an MGC app?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to complain, as I did enjoy myself this year, and I also really appreciate how the organizers provided some excellent entertainment value to this year’s event. I think that’s the biggest thing about the Saturday this year was just how much there was to do outside the vendor and gaming hall.

Would I go Again?

Well after having gone 4 times in five years, there’s a good chance I would go again. Would I buy another VIG, well I don’t know. The ticket had a lot of great perks, but was pretty pricey.