What to Look Forward to at PRGE

Kole here.

It's the weekend before the 2014 Portland Retro Gaming Expo, and I'm completely stressed out. I'm worried about the flight. I'm double checking that all of the swag and doodads I ordered will be delivered on time. I'm already starting to pack. I'm taking a mental inventory of all of the booth gear we have left over from last year, and making a shopping list for the inevitable Target run. I'm trying to shore up my meager Street Fighter II abilities so I don't make an ass of myself. I'm double-checking our recording and editing schedule to make sure that all of our shows will come out on time while I'm on the other side of the country. I'm putting our remote recorder through its paces, hoping it gives us the right audio quality. I'm making an outline for the live show, praying that I don't start spouting more nonsense than usual thanks to my nerves.

Most of the time, my heightened level of worry doesn't make sense. Whenever PRGE comes around, it feels justified and real. There are lots of moving parts, and it makes my stomach turn. But it's not all bad. Nope, we do it because it's fun.

It's fun to set up a booth and spend two full days meeting new people. PRGE attendees and volunteers are almost universally nice, engaged, and curious about what we're doing there. Last year, our second year in attendance, we had several returning guests who had become fans after talking with us the previous year. Everyone at PRGE shares a similar passion, and it's just small enough that you have a good chance of meeting most of the people who attend.

It's fun to make and hand out physical stuff. Everything we make is immortal and abstract, so we put a lot of effort into making cool physical stuff that bears our show art. The booth began as a way to promote Watch Out for Fireballs!, but the network has grown and now we can talk about a whole bunch of shows. We have stickers and buttons and brochures advertising Abject Suffering, Bonfireside Chat, and other shows from the network. Yes, it's marketing. We hope that the buttons serves as a reminder to go check out our podcasts. We hope that meeting us in person will make people more loyal fans. But it's nice to give things out.

It's fun to hang out with new friends. For as much as I talk with Gary when we record, I only get to spend any actual time with him once a year. Last year, we were joined by the Bob and Ray from the Retronauts, and Jenni from Video Games Taco. This year, we'll have the majority of the Duckfeed.tv network crew all in one place. Myself, Gary, and Nick, along with Brayton (from The Pitch) and Ben (from The Level). Bob's coming back, and so is Jenni... along with the rest of the Video Games Hot Dog/Taco crew. I'm meeting some of these people for the first time. These are people whose work and personalities have impacted my life in some way from a distance, and now we can actually talk face to face. That's remarkable, and I'm really jazzed about having an opportunity to celebrate with my peers and collaborators for a whole weekend.

It's fun to explore the show floor. One side of the hall is filled with arcade cabinets and pinball machines. Some of them are old favorites, others are oddities and rarities I'd never have a chance to play elsewhere. The other half is filled with exhibitors. Some are indie devs, some are homebrew devs. Some are retailers selling crates upon crates of old games and systems. Others are artists who sell posters and other physical things celebrating old games. It's a very diverse room, and I try to spend a little time at every booth when I'm there.

It's fun to talk in front of people. I was nervous at last year's live show because it was such an alien experience. Recording is something I do in a comfortable carpeted room, two beers deep, with the safety net of a thoroughly-prepared outline in front of me. Recording live means staring the audience in the face, feeling fully aware of how much I'm pulling my thoughts out of my ass. But people show up, and we laugh, and they shout out, and I survive. I'll do better this year, I think. That people will leave the show floor for an hour to hear us talk isn't aggrandizing, it's humbling, in a very positive way.

The Portland Retro Gaming Expo is the one opportunity for me to take this thing I do in my spare bedroom out into the real world. I'm incredibly grateful that PRGE exists, and that all of you fans and backers have given so generously to make it possible for the network to attend. Our hope is that you're not just funding a vacation, but rather funding something that can pay dividends for the network and the shows you enjoy. Our hope is that we can expose the shows to new people, and expose ourselves to more diverse new experiences that will broaden the reach of the content we make.

No matter what, this would be much harder without your support. If you're going to attend this year, please make a point of saying "Hi" and kicking my ass at Street Fighter II. If you can't attend this year, please consider coming out sometime soon. It's a great time.