The 2018 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo is in the books. Both comics and entertainment were in full swing again this year, and TVGB was right there catching the action. First, I want to get this out of the way by saying kudos to the organizers for rearranging the show floor this year, which featured gaming more at the center than it has in years past. Its prominence on the floor also meant that it was insanely packed at times, where attendees had to squeeze through bodies to get to what they wanted to see or play – which is not so different from walking around the show floor.
I Play Games (IPG) was back this year to bring gaming to the masses, both new and old school. Flat screens and CRT TVs were lined up on tables with every major console represented back to the 16-bit era. The Nintendo Switch also made its debut on the show floor this year! IPG always does an excellent job bringing together attendees to play games and take a break from perusing comics and attending panels. They also hosted a couple of tournaments, so there were even more reasons to hang around the area.
Do you remember Mutant Football League? Well it has officially made a comeback on both PS4 and Xbox One. Demos of the game were set up to test out the new version whose license had been dumped by EA when they took on the exclusivity of the NFL rights. My first impression was that MFL mixes in a heavy dose of NFL Blitz. Controls are easy enough and similar to what you’d expect in Madden, except that throw to Rob Gronkowski was actually to a mutant named Throb Brawnkowski. And yes, this game is riddled with mutant knock-off names for both players and teams. This seems to be a fun arcade style football game to play with friends, and fits the $20 price tag.
Magic: The Gathering had a big presence this year with tournaments happening all weekend. There were both amateur and league play going on, and I would have loved to have hung around for an entire day’s worth of Magic. A tabletop area was set up next door to the Magic area for those looking to sink an hour or two into trying out a new board game.
Wandering around the gaming area, I came upon some interesting looking pinball machines. When you are walking up to the Zen Studios PinballFX booth, it looks like these are actual mechanical pinball machines, but it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t the case. These machines use flat panels and mechanical components to make it feel like you are playing the real deal. I jumped on and played a Marvel table that heavily featured the X-Men. The buttons and lever pulls respond to your every action, almost like the machine has a built in rumble pack feature. There was even a tilt button if you are into that. These machines feature over 50 pinball games, ranging from video game-specific boards like Skyrim and Doom to entertainment-specific boards like Family Guy. You can check out their info at blog.zenstudios.com.
Lastly, there was an VR arena set up near the autographing area. Knowing my motion sickness, I dared not enter the arena for fear of losing my lunch (that consisted of a pretzel with cheese because convention food is the pits). MassVR put up the arena and from pictures I’ve seen online and on their website, this looks like a really cool experience if you are in the Chicago area. Check our their info at massvr.com.
What was missing this year? Twitch not being there was noticeable. Their broadcast brought more excitement to the floor with tournaments and game demos. SyFy took up where Twitch left off, but there wasn’t anything there that centered around gaming. There are more than a couple Chicago game developers that were also absent. The indie developer scene in Chicago has always been active, but it would be nice to see BitBash or another group show up and represent. Understandably, this could be an expensive event for exhibitors, but the amount of exposure possible is astronomical. I’m okay with BitBash doing its own thing, but would love to see some representation at the biggest entertainment convention in the Chicagoland area. My guess is that it didn’t help that PAX East was going on simultaneously in Boston.
In the end, I still had a great time. I’ve also come to expect this level of gaming at C2E2. We’re lucky to have other smaller events mixed in the Chicago area so satiate the hunger, but let’s wait and see what’s in store for next year at C2E2 2019.