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OVGE 2005 Report - The Atari Times

OVGE 2005 Report

Another successful year for the OVGE
by Ethan C. Nobles

July 18, 2005

Ok, so shoot me. These are last year's photos. Ethan, did you bring your camera to the 2005 show?!

TULSA, Okla. – Once again, Jesse Hardesty put on a great show for Atari enthusiasts living in Oklahoma and the surrounding states.

Sure, it's no short drive from my home in Benton, Ark., to the Marriott Southern Hills in Tulsa, but Hardesty's Oklahoma Video Game Exhibition (OVGE) was worth the trip. Now in its third year, Hardesty said the event has come a long way from 2003 when the vendors were few and people started to run out of things to do early in the day.

The OVGE, held on June 18, offered a little bit of everything for classic video game fans. AtariAge.com was on hand with plenty of homebrewed titles and demos, tournaments were constantly running throughout the day, everything from classic games to the latest installments for the current line of consoles were available for sale and their were even free plays on standup arcade games such as Missile Command.

And, there was a nifty little item on display for fans of the Atari 2600 – a working demonstration of the neo-Atari's Flashback 2.0 console. The standalone unit, when released, will feature a selection of 2600 games and a controller that can replace a vintage Stella controller.

Albert Yarusso, co-founder of AtariAge, said the controllers should be a welcome sight for 2600 owners wanting to pick up some new joysticks. Also, he said the mechanically-inclined should be able to hack the Flashback 2.0 so cartridges can be plugged directly into the machine – pretty nifty stuff considering a honest-to-goodness Atari console hasn't rolled off the assembly line since 1991.

Of course, AtariAge provided some of the biggest hits of the show in the form of homebrewed games, five of which were debuted at OVGE. The three new 2600 games released were Go Fish!, Fall Down and Warring Worms: The Worm (Re)Turns. Additionally, Astro Invader was available for the ColecoVision and 5200 owners were able to pick up their very own ports of M.U.L.E. – a game that was amazingly popular with computer gaming fans in the early 1980s.

Yarusso observed the OKGE has grown in popularity over the past couple of years, right in line with the public's increasing interest in classic gaming. Hardesty said the show was a success, but he's not terribly surprised as he spent a bit more on marketing this year as evidenced by the radio advertisements that promoted the event.

Still, the OKGE was unusual this year in at least one respect – I never thought I'd see the day when a camera crew for a local news outlet would be on hand to cover the event, and OKGE was even mentioned in “The Tulsa World.”

Some of the vendors on hand said they noticed a welcome boost in sales. Brian and Ginger Green of Bentonville, Ark., made it to the show again this year and said they showed a profit early in the day. Brian, however, was quick to point out that his presence at the show had little to do with making a buck.

“I would be here even if I had nothing to sell,” he said.

Yarusso said Green's attitude was even shared by homebrewers. He pointed out there's not a lot of money to be made in putting together classic games, but programmers are able to get a sense of pride in completing a project, receive some notoriety among console fans and contribute to the hobby by helping support the aging systems that a good number of us still play and enjoy.

Brian Eno was on hand to oversee the tournament for his game, Warring Worms: The Worm (Re)Turns and socialize with other Atari fans. Eno said the game is a sequel to Warring Worms, a title that sold about 200 copies.

Programming for the Atari isn't a way to get wealthy, but the notoriety among Atari fans and the challenges of putting together an enjoyable game for an obsolete system make the task worthwhile. He pointed out programming for the 2600 is a completely different experience than putting together a game for a current-generation console.

Eno said teams of programmers, graphic designers, musicians and other people gather to produce modern games, but a 2600 programmer can complete a game by himself.

“You're capable of making a game as good as it can be on this,” he said. “It's just fun.”

Eno's game – a much-improved variation of the old Surround game – is a lot of fun. He seemed to take particular joy in showing it off to OVGE attendees and whipping them like dogs at it (I still maintain he had an unfair advantage since he wrote the thing!)

I thought the six-hour trek to Tulsa from Benton was a fairly long trip, but that was nothing compared to the amount of time it took Andrew Davie to get to OVGE from Tasmania.

Davie was on hand to show off his work on Boulder Dash, a game under development for the 2600. Davie's not unfamiliar to the homebrewing scene as he released Qb on the XYPE label for the 2600.

Davie, like Eno, said the 2600 provides programmers with a unique experience.

“Programming the Atari is kind of a throwback,” Davie said. “It gives you everything you need but no more. That's the challenge – to make fun games on minimal hardware.”

He said the Atari, like arcade games from the early 1980s, is geared toward gameplay more than graphics and sound. Atari programmers, then, have to concentrate on the elements that make a game enjoyable rather than visually or sonically impressive.

Events like OVGE are great for the classic gaming scene because it gives people a chance to meet each other, Davie said. He said he's kept in touch with people through the AtariAge forums for about a decade, but getting to meet them in person was certainly worthwhile.

Hardesty said that contact between fans of console games is the very thing that makes events like OVGE important. He said console collectors probably don't have a lot of people who share their interests in their various communities, but the OVGE gives them a chance to get together, trade games and talk about their hobby.

“A lot of the local collectors probably weren't aware there was such a large number of them,” Hardesty said.

Hardesty said, unfortunately, he's not sure if the OVGE will be back for a fourth year. Of course, he said that last year and put on a more impressive show this time around. Hopefully, history will repeat itself.

For more information about the event, visit the OVGE site at http://www.ovge.com.

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