Huddling around a Galaga machine, several complete strangers watch as a single player clears wave after wave of enemy ships on the large screen before him. His score climbs with every frantic button tap and joystick maneuver. The crowd is suspended in apt awe, watching the entertaining ordeal unfold until finally, the player falls to an errant enemy ship and is defeated. This kind of scene is rare nowadays with the move to online gaming and streaming, but is briefly revisited at a convention like Game On.
The Game On Expo took place in the Phoenix Convention Center over the weekend, marking its third year for the show. With a heavy focus on retro games as well as modern ones, the convention has been a boon for gamers young and old to experience the full spectrum of video games. This year boasted the same variety of activities including things such as Mrs. Pac-Man tournaments, booths with retro gaming art and merchandise, virtual reality gaming setups and a full free-play arcade for attendees all weekend.
The guest list also reflected the same mix of video games from the past and present. Voice actors such as Dave Fennoy (The Walking Dead, Metal Gear), Ellen McLain (Portal), Patricia Sumersett (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), and Overwatch alumni Anjali Bhimani, Carolina Ravassa and Josh Petersdorf were just a few of the many featured at the convention. A reunion panel for the entire motion capture cast of the original Mortal Kombat games was also held over the weekend, much to the delight of fans young and old.
While the programming and guest list was solid, the Expo’s move from the Mesa Convention Center to its new Phoenix stomping grounds was not without some speed bumps. The space felt awkwardly laid out, with an open main stage for concerts and panels throughout the day being set up only steps away from several vendor booths. A large free play arcade area got easily crowded, making foot traffic somewhat difficult at times. Bigger panels were thankfully held in soundproofed rooms away from the action, and were largely unaffected by the noise pollution.
Undoubtedly the entire event felt far more physically condensed this year. While the new space allowed for some new ideas on how to use the convention center area, the Expo could benefit from a few more panel rooms to coordinate concerts in. Regardless, attendees still appeared to have a good time patronizing artists and vendors, playing in tournaments, cosplaying or getting autographs from their favorite gaming celebrities. Game On Expo still appeared to be successful, but needs to work out a few kinks in its new space for next year.
Take a look at the photos we captured at the Game On Expo below!