From September 8 through September 9, Retro World Expo (RWX 2018) ran for its fourth year in Hartford, Connecticut, attracting about 5000 attendees altogether. This was my first year attending the convention dedicated primarily to retro gaming.
From the start, I knew this was a different kind of con than I was used to attending. Although there were separate rooms set aside for panels, all of the other main events were in one room. It was easy to take in the con and attendees pretty much in one fell swoop.
It also meant that it was pretty much impossible to miss events like competitions or cosplay contests, which was nice. In some conventions I’ve attended, these events are separated by rooms or even whole floors, which means I rarely see them except by sheer accident. Sometimes this setup can’t be helped due to capacity needs, but it’s nice when, as in this case, it can be.
One thing I wasn’t sure about was the contents of the show floor. With a name like Retro World, I was wondering if I’d be stepping into a world of hardcore modders and really retro collectors and stick out like a sore thumb. However, there was a healthy mix of rare collectibles, modding, and other fare. The videogame and pop culture items that were available ran the gamut of eras, though retro games and systems from the nineties and earlier were definitely the most prominent.
There were also other collectibles like trading cards, plushes, and posters, to be had. I didn’t find everything I was looking for (one day I’ll own you, Digimon World Dawn), but what I found were things I’ve been looking for for years with no avail at fair prices. Although there were many hard-to-find items or things I had plain never seen or heard of before, there were plenty of more common items as well. Unless if you were looking for the epitome of the obscure, you would have left the convention satisfied.
As for the “hardcore modders” and collectors, almost everyone was friendly, and tabled my questions about things I didn’t understand patiently. Similar to my experiences at ConnGo events, I found that vendors and those running panels were very open and willing to chat if they weren’t swamped. There was also a sense of teamwork with attendees I spoke to; if asked about certain items many were willing to point me and others in the right direction. Adding to the sense of community was the fact that I actually saw vendors from other local conventions I’ve attended as well as convention-runners.
The scheduled events at the Expo were great too. Some of the panels I attended were on assignment, which meant I didn’t necessarily know much about the subjects discussed. But they were all engaging even if that was the situation going in, and it seemed like many if not all of the hosts had experience running panels.
The auction was eye-opening as well, not just to see rare items up close and personal and getting a better understanding of the serious collecting community, but also because I had simply never attended any un-silent auction before. This year had over 100 lots and many more bidders, signifying an increase from last year’s auction.
I was in about the same boat for the cosplay contest. It’s probably been eight or nine years since I’ve actually watched one, so it felt a bit like my first one. It was a streamlined event with many serious cosplays, although the cosplay piece didn’t seem as big as in other conventions.
There were other little pluses in general. For one, attendees got parking vouchers that cut the price of the garage attached to the convention center. That might not seem huge unless you attend events at the Connecticut Convention Center, but that garage gets expensive fast! The center is also attached to a hotel, and I believe there were discounts available for congoers, which is great for out-of-staters. There seemed to be a decent amount of attendees from Massachusetts and New York, and I’m sure they appreciated that deal.
All in all, it was a fun convention that seemed like it would have something for everybody, as long as there is some interest in videogames or retro pop culture. Because the primary focus is retro items, there’s also an added assurance that you’ll be able to find things you’re interested or at least are familiar with, which is a nice change of pace if you’re like me and sometimes step into anime conventions and realize that you haven’t kept up with any new series and the series that you do like aren’t in vogue anymore.
Despite its 5000 attendees, the convention hall didn’t feel cramped, and there was a sense of camaraderie for fellow fans rather than competition for rare items or time with guests. The price is definitely right as well; weekend passes went for $45 before the event.
This year’s expo had more activities and tournaments that previous years, and I imagine that next year will have even more to add to the roster. Dates and a location has not been announced yet, but it seems likely that RWX 2019 will be in the fall again and at the Hartford Convention Center.