The second – and I really hope I’m not stepping too far out of line into the realm of wishful thinking in saying second annual – Oklahoma Gaming Exhibition was my only shot at making it to any of the retrogaming events in 2004. As much as I had wanted to go to CGE as well, I also became a homeowner in 2004 and learned the art of prioritizing, and a trip to San Jose just wasn’t possible this year. OKGE is only a two hour drive to Tulsa, however, so there was no way I was going to miss it. I don’t want to get any debate going by comparing OKGE to CGE, but I will say this: if the only gaming event one could attend in 2004 was OKGE, it’d be hard to ask for a better show.
OKGE ’04 was held in the much larger facility of the Marriott Southern Hills in Tulsa, actually not too far from the site of the previous year’s show. For a relatively small event like OKGE to effectively double its size and add such features as working arcade games and special guests of honor in the space of a single year is a quantum leap forward. This is a show that’s going to stick around. With the curious absence of the Austin Gaming Expo after its seemingly successful debut in summer 2003, OKGE is poised to become the mid-south classic gaming event.
There were more vendors and exhibitors this time around, with old pros and new additions among them. Jesse Hardesty and his wife Angel were tirelessly making sure everyone was set up (and fed too, thanks to show sponsors Subway and Krispy Kreme) and ready to go, and I can’t even begin to express how much their efforts were appreciated – they both ran themselves ragged the whole day.
For my part, I once again brought three primary systems to the show – the original Magnavox Odyssey (a specimen of the first-ever home video game console), its underdog descendent known as the Odyssey2, and the Playstation with some retro arcade goodness, both import and otherwise. I also brought a boxload of working, battery-powered Coleco tabletop arcade machines, which were a huge hit, as well as numerous game-related toys and other memorabilia from my collection. Anyone who wanted to strike up a conversation or wondered how much anything was worth, or how it worked or its history, promptly got their ears talked off by yours truly. Kent Sutton came along again, holding the booth down while I stalked the OKGE floor snapping pictures.
The centerpiece of my display this year was meant to be an elaborate video loop chronicling the entire early history of video games, with key arcade games and home consoles front and center…but to my shock, the DVD player I brought along with me to play this loop was defective (it was a spare that we hadn’t taken out of the box and tried out before, and I didn’t bring a backup, so my apologies to those who wondered why the display went no further than 1980). This project will been seen in its entirety at next year’s OKGE – and I think you’ll like it even more. Loads of vintage commercials, clips from game-inspired cartoons, and well over a hundred shots of games in action that you may not have seen in years. So again, to anyone wondering where the display went – my apologies. It’ll be back next year.
As will I, after yet another great OKGE experience – there’s something about the southern-midwestern mindset that makes this show feel like home to me. When Kent and I hastily rearranged my display at around lunchtime to drop the video loop and get some real games going on that screen instead, the nice folks at Game Crazy loaned me a Playstation A/V cable when I discovered I hadn’t brought one. (Why I’d brought the PS1 to begin with, but no cable, is a mystery even to me – I’m not sure what I was thinking!) So, for the entire afternoon portion of OKGE, I was using a cable that someone else could have sold from their table – that’s the kind of friendly atmosphere that makes OKGE stand out, and that’s why I’ll keep coming back for more as long as the show is held.
That said, I’ll let the pictures tell the story now.
OKGE 2004 Pictures: