Pittsburgh is home to a number of pop culture conventions that center on comic books, TV, and movies, including Steel City Con, Wizard World Comic Con Pittsburgh, Tekko, and Horror Realm. One venue that has been lacking in the The Burgh has been a gaming convention…until this past weekend, when RePlay FX filled the concourse at the David L Lawrence Convention Center with thousands of video games and thousands of gamers.
The inaugural RePlay FX took place between July 30th and August 2nd, and hosted the fourth annual Kong Off—a contest of Donkey Kong fanatics—which was won by Hank Chien with a score of 662,100. That immense score still looks up at the 994,400 with which he won the first Kong Off in 2011, and Chien’s 2012 personal best of 1,136,600 is currently the third highest score in the world. While most of the games in the RePlay FX were free to play, In the middle of the DLC concourse was a row of Donkey Kong stations for Kong Off players only, and to the side of each station was a video screen that displayed the player’s ongoing game.
The attendee’s convention badge gave them unlimited access to all the games, as well as the other peripheral events, such as concerts and panels. RePlay FX was devoted in the main to vintage games, not only vintage coin op video games and vintage console video games, but vintage pinball games. There were eighties classics like Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Asteroids, Missile Command, Space Invaders, Tron, Tempest, Rastan, Dig Dug, and later games like Crazy Taxi, The Simpsons, and even the Fix It Felix video games that were made to satisfy fans of Wreck it Ralph.
There were also a number of video games scaled down for small fry, and a few of the more elephantine of the inflatable castles that kids like to jump in and on.
The sole game exhibitor tent at the inaugural RePlay Fx was Raw Thrills, makers of Big Buck HD Wild and the 2013 Batman stand up that are both popular in arcades. Their tent consisted of one Batman, some racing simulators, and the rest was Big Buck HD set up for the zombie update, In Case of Zombies: Doe of the Dead. Other vendors were selling pinball and video game accessories and vintage toys, and there was one comic book dealer, Comic Wreck, which had great prices and a great selection of comics, Doctor Who memorabilia, and posters.
In addition to the video games, there were four tables stacked with board games for players to enjoy, although this board game room remained a sidebar to the event for the duration of the convention.
Better attended than the board game room was the concert area outside the concourse, which featured a number of rotating musical performances, including Scott Blasey of The Clarks, Inverse Phase, Flashback, and more.
Overall, the first RePlay FX was a memorable and exciting event, with only a few issues. On first arriving, the variety of video games and pinball games seemed inexhaustible, and my memory of eighties’ arcades was exhumed over the course of the weekend, with even the most forgettable games finding a place in the concourse. I played not only those perfect games that cannot be improved upon, such as Asteroids, Ms. Pac Man, and Tempest, but also games that I wished lived up to my memories of them, such as Defender, Battle Zone, and Tutankhamen. There were fairly playable games that irritated me in other ways, such as Taito’s Superman, in which the Man of Steel throws fireballs. No, Taito….just no. I played some pinball games that I had never seen before, such as The Rolling Stones and Rocky and Bullwinkle. There were only a few non-functioning games in the concourse, and finding one occasionally did not negatively affect my experience, as the designs and artwork of the non-working games also contributed to the atmosphere of the event. What’s an arcade without an “Out of Order” game or two?
On Friday, attendance was a little low, which made it more pleasant, on the one hand, due to having less competition for games, but more worrying, on the other hand, as I became concerned for the future of this amazing event. On Saturday, however, attendance was steady and much more reassuring, but this meant that we had to walk around for a few minutes to find open games to play. It also meant that there was more game-hogging, with one game to my knowledge being monopolized by a single player for well over an hour. With all games set to free play, game-hogging is less often about skill at the game and more often about pressing continue ad nauseum. The convention organizers can be applauded for the sheer mass of vintage game tech that they marshaled into the convention center, and the continual excitement that crackled there, but may wish to consider how best to regulate the free play atmosphere with some convention etiquette in future installments of RePlay FX.
That being said, RePlay FX in their first convention skipped past the usual shortcomings of other new conventions. They gambled on a big space—the best convention space in Pittsburgh—rather than going for a cheaper and smaller outlet. This meant that while there was some waiting on games, there was no crowding and only the smallest of lines. RePlay Fx is a highly recommended event, and you should bookmark their home page if you would like to catch the second installment of this convention.