Sadly, it’s another dull week for writing, with only Katamari Damacy being played in anger (all cousins and presents found, 93% item collection), mainly due to the weekend being reserved for an exploration into my other middle-aged love – anime – at AVCon. Whilst the anime & Japanese pop-cultural parts of AVCon were relatively poorly organised (screening times ignored, the last RvB movie being curtailed because they didn’t check how long it was before scheduling, panels being cancelled at the last minute for “unforseeable” – that is, legal – reasons), the gaming aspects were quite well done.

There were a plethora of tournaments (Rock Band and Street Fighter 2HD / 4 being the most popular), as well as an “Ultimate Gamer” competition – which saw hopeful contestants playing a bunch of older games (Super Mario Kart on the SNES, a Tetris variant, and a handful of others) as well as newer titles (Showtime challenges in Burnout Paradise the only one I can remember right now). The tournaments looked really well organised: electronic scorekeeping, tight schedules, and well-defined rulesets kept the action going. The Street Fighter tournies wound up with a decent sized audience, too, who were also well catered for.

The distribution of current-gen consoles on the floor was somewhat surprising; the 360 seemed to dominate the general-play machines, there were a stack of Wiis (and SSBB tournaments), and only a couple of PS3s – though, notably, PS3s were used for the Street Fighter tournies. A couple of other surprises: one slim PS2 seemed to be playing nothing but We Love Katamari all weekend, and one Wii was pumping out F-Zero GX for a good part of Saturday.

GameTraders had a decent-sized stall set up in the vendor area, and I caressed a new copy of Chrono Trigger DS for a few minutes with serious intent to buy, before eventually putting it down because (a) DS piracy leaves me wary of buying even “new” games, especially at open stalls like that, (2) I’d just spunked upwards of $350 on anime and manga, and (iii) I need a hundred-hour game on The List like I need a hole in my head.

So, gaming-wise, the weekend was a bit of a bust; but AVCon gave me the opportunity to stop and have a think about my hobbies, my passions. Because I was consistently one of the oldest people there (once the reluctant parent entourages were removed from the equation), and… well… it felt kind of lonely. In panels, in screenings, in pushing my way to the front of the Madman stall. In fact, during the dreary cosplay competition, the one highlight was firing up the DS and joining one of the many PictoChat sessions that permeated the weekend. Though one of my fellow Chatters was sitting right next to me, there was a point where I was clearly the dissenting opinion in the session; I asked why, I received an appropriate explanation, and scribbled “wow – I feel old.” “You ARE old” came the reply, causing me to whip my head around the room to see whether I could find my literary assailant.

The bloody cheek of kids these days!

I had odd flashbacks to RV4, the Retrovision event I attended in the UK back in 2004. It feels like a lifetime ago now, but the camaraderie and enthusiasm for the retro games on display then were unforgettable; a roomful of people such as myself reminiscing and replaying old classics (with frequent diversions into newer things, too). JagFest 2004 was a similar experience – open, inviting, friendly, understanding, and patient… all qualities sorely missing this weekend.

Sigh. Enough of that.

Lest I sound too grumpy, let me just toss in a quick link to a History of Gridrunner written by Jeff Minter himself, ahead of the forthcoming Gridrunner Revolution (formerly GR+++). As usual, Minter’s writing is divine, and he easily conjured forth memories of those earlier games (and check out his recent exploration into programming the Atari 2600 for more great stories!)

And then prepare for the release of Gridrunner Revolution with GR++… c’mon, it’s a paltry $10 for the PC or Mac. And it’s spectacular.

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