Start Here!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

beforemario at Gamescom 2015 - part 1

About three weeks ago I returned home from a great experience, tired but very satisfied. After exhibiting part of my collection at last year's Retro Game Event in Hilversum, The Netherlands, for an audience of about 3000 visitors, this year I had the opportunity to exhibit at the biggest video game stage in the world: Gamescom.

For those of you who don't know, Gamescom is a video game trade show that is held annually in Cologne, Germany. It is the premiere video game show in Europe and the world's largest gaming event, measured by exhibition space and number of visitors: with 345,000 visitors, more than 6,000 journalists and 700 exhibitors!

And this year, beforemario was one of the exhibitors!

badge worn with pride

The number of visitors to Gamesom is truly staggering; a sea of people that overflows the Koelnmesse for five long days. This year the event ran from the morning of Wednesday August 5 to the evening of Sunday August 9.

South gate, one of four entrances

The Koelnmesse is a huge conference center, with eleven large halls, some of which even have two levels. Gamescom occupies all halls.

All developers and publishers of PC, console, handheld and mobile games from around the world show their latest wares, with many as yet unreleased games on display and playable for the first time. People queue for hours to play a single new game for only a handful of minutes.

The booths are lavish affairs with zillions of screens, flashing lights and thumping music. Not the kind of place for people with sensitive senses.

Nintendo was also present, showing playable versions of Mario Maker, Star Fox Zero and Zelda Triforce Heroes.

The first day of Gamescom is trade and press only and relatively quiet (with emphasise on 'relatively'). The other four days the show is open to the public and the crowd quickly swells to crazy levels. All tickets to the public days sell out well in advance.

Typical crowd roaming the walkways between the exhibition halls

Besides all the latest newest games, there is also room for older stuff. In fact, in the upper level of hall 10, there is a sizeable section dedicated to retro games.

The retro gaming section of Gamescom is presented by a large group of mostly volunteers and collectors, coordinated by René Meyer of Haus der Computerspiele.

part of the exhibitors at the retro gaming section

This group is a dedicated and knowledgeable bunch of people, who together created a nice overview of games and game systems from the last forty years or so, most of which were working and could be played by the visitors. This was complemented by a number of retro exhibits in show cases.

I was invited to participate in this year's retro gaming section and show part of my Nintendo collection of vintage toys and games. It was the first time I joined an event of this scale.

My preparation started a few weeks before the event, by selecting the toys and games to include in the exhibition and packing these in plenty of bubble-wrap.

For the exhibition I choose items from my collection from Nintendo's early card manufacturing days up until the release of the Famicom in the first half of the 1980s. I packed about two-hundred items in total.

I included a full working set of Game & Watch games, which turned out to be one of main attractions for many of the visitors to the beforemario exhibition. Not really surprising, as these evoke a high level of nostalgia in most gamers who grew up in the 1980s.

Although I got somewhat nervous taking these items on the road - as most are quite fragile and hard to replace - I was also excited by the prospect of sharing these with a large group of fellow Nintendo enthusiasts as well as with folks who were as yet unknown with this part of Nintendo's history.

The items filled around twenty big card board boxes, with some additional items packed separately as they did not fit inside these boxes.

In the early hours of the day before the Gamescom would start, we set off in a camper van, taking with us all these boxes with vintage Nintendo goodness.

After a four hour drive we arrived in Cologne, and parked the camper van right next to the exhibition hall. It would be our home for the next six days.

I was joined on this trip by two gamer friends, Sander and Mart, who helped me unload and set up. Sander is great Nintendo collector himself and he also brought some items for the exhibition from his own collection.

Inside the hall many people were already busy painting, laying carpets and putting out tables and chairs. The floors were still covered in protective plastic sheets. The other retro game exhibitors were also arriving in one by one.

As the opening of the Gamescom was less than 24 hours away, many people would be working until late, some even deep into the night, to get everything ready on time.

We wasted no time and started unpacking all boxes and filling the show cases for our exhibition.

The organisation had arranged ten nice glass cabinets for us, with four shelves each: a total of forty meters of exhibition space to fill!

The beforemario exhibition was arranged more or less chronologically, with cabinets number one and two showing Nintendo playing cards and board games. Cabinets three to six were filled with Nintendo toys, from simple plastic toys to increasingly sophisticated electromechanical toys.

Cabinet seven housed Nintendo's early light gun games and cabinet eight the first Nintendo home consoles from the late 1970s. The final two cabinets showed the Games & Watch series and the Famicom with a range of accessories.

In the afternoon, Florent joined us and helped finish the installation of the exhibition. Florent is the author of The History of Nintendo book series and the publisher of my own beforemario book.

With Sander and Florent, both very familiar with Nintendo's history and these vintage items, I had the most wonderful help I could ask for. We had a lot of fun together, arranging all items in the cabinets so they looked their best.

We put up some posters and added a table to present and sell the beforemario book. By now the plastic covers had come off the floors and revealed a nice bright green carpet.

Sander did a great job with the Game & Watch show case. After trying a couple of different arrangements, and putting in many hours, he found a way to display them that really did justice to these nice hand held gems.

We put fresh batteries in all sixty Game & Watch games. It was a splendid sight to see them all working. Especially the row of Table Tops and Panorama Screens looked very nice, with their colour game play which was unique when these were first released in 1983, and still almost magic to this day.

With the work almost done, we received our first visitor: René from Haus der Computerspiele, with signature hat, took a quick look around and liked what he saw.

At the end of a long day, after driving to Cologne and spending almost twelve hours installing the exhibition, we were tired but very happy with the result. It turned out even better than we had hoped!

It was time for a selfie with the final result. We made it in time and were ready for Gamescom 2015 to start the next morning!

In the next two parts of this report, I will take you on an extensive tour around the exhibition and share some memories of the five days at Gamescom 2015.

1 comment: