Got back to San Diego last night. I miss everything about the trip already.
So the reason I went on this whole trip was not only to attend ReplayFX, but to also meet up with two of my friends that I had never met in real life, but have known online for over a decade. They live in New York & Connecticut, so I flew into LaGuardia on Wednesday and the three of us drove from Connecticut to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the way, their first experience with one (I'm a seasoned vet, chicken & dumplings FTMFW), and they loved it. We stayed in an amazing loft right that we found on Airbnb by what our hostess referred to as "The German Club" (Teutonia Mannerchor). Yeah, the neighborhood was a little grungy but what the hell, sometimes you gotta get out of your comfort zone and really, we never felt anything less than at ease the entire time.
We finally hit the Convention Center at around 6-ish, got our |33+ VIP bags, and aimlessly walked around the HUGE show floor. Seriously, it was epic! Yeah, it was on a cement floor, which was a little tough on the feet after a weekend. But it was a small sacrifice to be able to enjoy all of these machines in one place! It was a little bit of a bummer to have so many pinball machines non-accessable to the public for the first two days, though. At about 8PM on Thursday, the Pinburgh area was completely empty, and I thought I had read somewhere that they were open to VIPs after hours, so the three of us walked around the area for a bit, even playing a game or two, before someone came up to us and nearly ripped us a new one. That COULD have been a sour way to start the whole experience, but fortunately, when we calmly explained to the guy (who was actually trembling with anger when he walked over to us) that we didn't mean to be out of place and we meant no harm, he calmed down, telling us that it had been a long day, which I totally understood.
On Friday, the three of us started our own little micro-Pinburgh, playing three player games to see who would have bragging rights until next year. I totally dominated those two, but to be fair, I've been playing pinball all my life (and I still suck), whereas they hadn't touched a flipper button since they were kids. They actually won a few rounds, and I'm sure that now that I've ignited the spark in them, they'll be hitting up Modern Pinball on a regular basis to hone their skills and give me a run for the title next year!
We partied a little TOO hard Friday night, so Saturday was spent doing quieter things, like reflecting on our place in the universe, and playing board games from ReplayFX's HUGE collection of titles to choose from! I introduced my friends to the joys of Dominion (and got trounced for my efforts), and we got to play our first game of Galaxy Trucker in meatspace, rather than online (and I got my ass beat in that, as well!). I was really glad to see the board gaming section of the festival get some love after being moved down one floor, because it was DEAD on Thursday night.
The VIP lounge / trivia / Nintendo World Championship event Saturday night was awesome! Nice little selection of meat and cheeses to nosh on, which was good as my table went home empty handed (and my friend was fuming that nobody listened to his Mortal Kombat trivia answer). Also, homegirl in the cowboy hat that switched tables and ended up winning twice? She should be flensed.
Sunday ended up being a LITTLE bit of a bummer, as games were being turned off and in some cases whisked away before 5PM! I know that's the kind of thing that happens at these huge conventions - I've been to E3 before and Sunday is usually a ghost town - but it's a drag when you pay money for an event and a good amount of it is gone before the day is over. Having a VIP badge for the whole thing made it not hurt so bad - glad I played AMH on Thursday, cause it sure wasn't there on Sunday - but if I only was able to attend on Sunday for whatever reason, I'd have been mighty unhappy to not be able to play everything that was advertised as being there.
That brings me to another little bitch that I have to do: to the people saying "ohhh, there were so many machines to play, if one doesn't work / have credits, just find another game to enjoy" - sure, that's a great glass half-full silver lining way of looking at things, but that doesn't change the fact the event was advertised as "everything free to play" which wasn't always the case. Mr. Game's Motor Raid (I think that's what it was called) didn't have any credits on it every time I went by it until Sunday afternoon! But don't think I'm whining, just offering constructive criticism for next year.
I'm hoping that there IS a next year, and a year after that, and a year after that.... forever! And I will be there every year!
tl;dr? Pros and Cons:
PRO: Holy shit were there a lot of games at this event!
CON: But some of them didn't have credits or controllers (in the case of the console games) and it wasn't clear as to how to obtain the things that would make them work.
PRO: Americas Most Haunted!! Full Throttle!! The Hobbit (I didn't get to play it, but it looked incredible)!! P3 / Lexy Lightspeed!! BTW, Aurich, I would definitely spend some time with the P3 hardware before writing it off completely. It is HOT ISH. And in the arcade: Neon FM!!
CON: All these wonderful games and Stern's Mustang wins game of show?
PRO: Seeing Billy Mitchell in the flesh, looking angelic in head-to-toe white. Dude is WAY taller than I thought he was.
CON: People who hog machines... I'm looking at you, group of four who wouldn't let nobody near the damn Quick & Crash machine!
PRO: The look on my friends faces when they saw Apollo 13's thirteen ball multiball for the first time.
CON: The look on my friends faces when they had to drain all the balls of a six player game that someone walked away from in order for us to start our own game.
CON: The non-uniform TVs of every shape and size in the console lounge...
PRO: ...but, as my friends pointed out, these games were made for CRTs. Con withdrawn!
PRO: Being drunk and eating a Primanti's at 3AM
CON: Immediately barfing up the Primanti's as soon as the cab back to the loft started moving (he got it all out of the car, he's a champ, but the cab driver still kicked us out)
PRO: The view of the city from the Convention Center "Poverty Simulator" (I kid you not)
PRO: Brunch at Meat & Potatoes
PRO: Missile Command, cockpit style
PRO: Seing Keith Elwin and remembering I bought replacement pinballs for my Monte Carlo from his shop!
CON: WHERE WAS MONTE CARLO ON THE FLOOR? WAS IT EVEN THERE??
PRO: The marvel that is Hercules
CON: Hercules was broken half the time
PRO: Atari pinball artwork
CON: Atari pinball gameplay
PRO: Going to ReplayFX, seeing the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, staying in a wonderfully funky & unique loft, and hanging out with two excellent young men
CON: Going home