This year I attended Sweden’s biggest retro gaming convention. Retrospelsmässan 2018, which literally translates to The Retro Gaming Convention 2018 (very creative name), takes place once a year in Sweden. This year myself and 2 friends attended the event and bought plenty of games. We’ll do a separate articles later (or perhaps a video) regarding what we bought. But for now I thought I would just cover what the overall experience was like.
With 4000 attendee’s and 150 merchants, Retrospelsmässan 2018 kicked off with a bang. We arrived early, however there was already a line. A man called Hellan was first in line for the past few years and he continued that tradition this year. We were however further down the line, but still in the first 50. Out of 4000 that’s not bad. Knowing that we would have some free time, we busted out our chairs and lounged while we waited to get in.
Feedback from previous years showed that people were dissatisfied with the the time it took to get inside. That is now solved by having a faster payment process and a more organized crew. Half an hour before opening, 2 crew members went down the line and checked for people who paid or wanted to pay and then gave them a stamp on the arm. Being the special little angel that I am, I got 2.
This effective system eliminated the need to wait for people to pay once the doors had opened. Needless to say, we did not have to wait long to get in.
Once the line started moving everyone marched in a somewhat organized fashion. First we passed the friendly crew who checked our stamps. We didn’t even need to stop, the line was rolling along very efficiently. We also passed by crew who were offering food and beverages outside the convention hall. Not hungry, we headed right into the hall.
The Convention Hall
First impression of the hall, besides being crowded, is that the space looks very much like what it is, a storage hanger. It’s dark, and it’s full of people talking loudly, much like any other convention. Instinctively, the first objective is to get to the merchants tables and find that rare game before anyone else. To that end, the first table belonged to Mackapär, a local retro store that specializes in retro games. They seemed to have more unusual things on offer than other merchants, including a PC Engine GT (TurboExpress), which is quite rare and expensive. If there’s one table at Retrospelsmässan 2018 that I was draw to the most throughout the day, it was this one.
Other merchants also had a very strong selection of games for just about every system you can image. Some notable merchants include Spel & Sånt, Japon and Retroplay. You could easily spend a whole day rummaging through the extensive selection of retro games, consoles, peripherals and accessories. I don’t know how often you find this here, but I thought the Neo Geo had an unusually strong presence. A wide selection of AES and MVS games and consoles were for sale.
The sheer amount of people all trying to get to the tables made it difficult to move around. I can’t say there was any pushing or shoving, Swedish people tend to be very courteous. But combining that with the fact that it was dark and that it got very hot, meant trouble.
While this is subjective, as different people have different levels of tolerance, I did find the heat unbearable. Admittedly, I am quite sensitive to heat. But a few hours into the event I was basically sweating buckets. At one point I was afraid to lean in over a table in fear of splashing my salty sweat all over the games. Going outside didn’t help as the scorching summer sun was making it nearly as hot outside as it was inside. I had heard that faucets with clean water were placed around the area so that people wouldn’t get dehydrated. Unfortunately I didn’t see any of these faucets anywhere. I heard later from some of the crew that they regret not labeling them more clearly for people.
The one saving grace was a small demo-room adjacent to the main hall. Despite being full of running game consoles, monitors and TVs, this room had perfect air flow. As soon as you enter you feel a fresh breeze blowing from somewhere (Narnia?). For this reason alone I ended up spending most of my time in there. That’s also why most of the few photographs I took are from that room.
The Demo Room
Buying games is usually one of the most fun aspects of attending conventions like these. But I must say, the demo-room was so much more fun simply because of the setup. Unlike the main hall, the demo-room wasn’t overly crowded, and the heat was a complete non-issue. To top it off it had plenty of seats to relax on and an abundant amount of great games ready for playing. I would say that it’s one of the big saving graces of Retrospelsmässan 2018.
At one of the stations we found a young boy who seemed to be having fun playing Ice Climber. When the boy left, Sebastian decided to have a go at the same game. The boy eventually came back and rooted for Sebastian and pat him on the back when he did well. Sebastian had the perfect cheerleader, it really was as adorable as it sounds.
The Arcade Room
I want to clarify something. I think arcade games are awesome, especially shooters. Arcade game epitomizes retro gaming to me, perhaps more so than retro home console games. That said, I am no good at playing with arcade sticks. They are simply too uncomfortable for me to use them with my handicap. It wasn’t until recently that I tried my first home console arcade stick. For the most part I found that a normal controller was far more comfortable and afforded me more precision.
I know that that’s just me, but I feel that I need to clear that up because I didn’t try even one of the the arcade machines. The games looked amazing, I probably would have loved to play them with a controller. But the thought of the discomfort discouraged me from trying. I settled for being a passive observer, and took pictures of both strangers and also my friends as they challenged each other in fighting games. I feel a bit of regret for not at least trying. As poor as my performance probably would be, I think I could have tolerated the discomfort. When I think back on Retrospelsmässan 2018, this will probably be one of the things I regret.
Meeting The Neighbors (Gaming Grannar)
In case it wasn’t clear by this point, I am from Sweden. And in Sweden there’s a popular retro gaming Youtube channel that I and Sebastian are big fans of. The channel is called Gaming Grannar (The Gaming Neighbors), they are 3 people (Dave, Hiro, and Dave’s wife Ekken), and they make videos about varying retro gaming topics. One popular segment they have is called Spelsamlaren (The Game Collector). In the segments they visit a game collectors home and go through their entire collection.
Another thing that they do is visit retro gaming conventions and gatherings and make videos about them. As expected they were at Retrospelsmässan 2018. Sebastian and myself spotted Hiro, who was taking a break, and we just had to say hi and shake his hand. Yes, I shook a persons hand, it’s just as awkward as you might imagine. Hiro turned out to be super nice though and extremely friendly, and he was happy to talk to us, it was a real treat for us.
Interviewed By The Neighbors
Eventually, Dave showed up also, and they asked us if we wanted to be in their video. This is a common thing that they do when they cover conventions, they interview visitors and ask to see what games they’ve bought. We were pretty psyched and honored that they wanted to have us in their video. They did mention that their viewers wanted more of this type of content. That made me think that we’re only one of several people they’ve interviewed and that our segment might get cut out in the end. However, to my surprise we ended up being the only visitors they interviewed in the video. You can watch the entire video below, or skip to 41:33 to see the part with me and Sebastian. Be warned, it is in Swedish.
The Contests and Concerts
The last things we saw before calling it a day and leaving Retrospelsmässan 2018 were some contests and concerts. We didn’t participate in any of the contests, but we did observe Dave from Gaming Grannar as he battled it out in the finals in Tetris. He ended up taking second place, but it was a very close match. The day ended, at least for us, with an orchestra playing music from game soundtracks and other media. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the theme music of Star Trek Voyager at one point.
My Impression of Retrospelsmässan 2018
My overall impression is great. Retrospelsmässan 2018 was a fantastic success that yielded lots of fun moments, rare views and fancy purchases. The highlight for myself was the demo-room and meeting Gaming Grannar and being in their video. Also, some of the purchases I made were a big deal for me, but I will cover that in a separate article. I can’t wait for next years convention. There are still a few other events this year that I’ll be attending. But clearly Retrospelsmässan is the biggest that Sweden has to offer and it really is a treat that I can highly recommend.