RetCon: 8-Bit Deep Dives, Letsplays and The Royal British Legion Greenford!

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Howdy all, welcome to my event review of RetCon (Retro gaming convention), or “how I learned to stop worrying and love old-school retro games”.

For some retro gaming letsplay goodness, click here for the video on my YouTube channel. I go through Duck Hunt, Double Dragon, Asteroid, and more!

Stay to the end of the video for a mini interview with one Chris Abbott, who’s very knowledgeable about the history of gaming music and technology. He was also kind enough to share me a version of his upcoming book “Little Book of Sound Chips”, which features virtual files of different music tracks discussed throughout. I’m not exactly the biggest tech-nerd, but I’m sure Mr Abbott’s explanations will be eargasmic to anyone who is. I am definitely going to have a good time reading and listening, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for when that book comes out and will try to cover it here!

Now, let’s start at the beginning of our tale.

Have you seen this cat? Well now you have: Saying goodbye to Flame before heading out to the event.

 

“Not to get political, buuuut”: I was reading this on the car ride there. Well, “reading”, I was skimming like hell. I share this because it reminds me of a fun fact from Doctor Strangelove (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb). Stanley Kubrick filmed it with colour in mind (despite being a black and white film), so the table at the war room was bright green to resemble a gambling table. To highlight how the world’s largest political figures are gambling with the lives of others, you see. I’m sure that wouldn’t go on to be topical for modern contexts in the slightest at aaalllll.

 

A model Commodore 64 signed by industry legend Rob Hubbard, micro-computer programmer and British musician, specializing in gaming soundtracks. To the right is the signed model alongside the actual Commodore 64 console.
That’s right, the mad lad actually had his own Scott Pilgrim-esque video game made about him.

My introduction to Double Dragon: Featuring the Sweaterlord!

I got to play Double Dragon at RetCon (which you can see me flail and fiddle my way through over on YouTube linked up top). With that in mind, at one point, I mention one “Big Joel” and “the famous scene” when the player character’s girlfriend is kidnapped by some thugs and there’s a brief glimpse of her undergarments as she’s being carried off. Well, here’s the backstory on that:

A long time ago, in a borough not far from mine, there was a 6ft self-proclaimed dirtbag leftist who introduced me to the wild and wonderful world of Lefttube (left-leaning youtubers making videos on political topics). Alternatively, “breadtube”, as a reference to ‘The Conquest of Bread’ book, which is like a second bible on leftist politics alongside uncle Karl’s Communist Manifesto.

So down the rabbit hole I went till I eventually found Big Joel, Lefttube’s resident wholesome sweater extraordinaire. He mixes up his videos on topics about everything from analysing online debates, far-right figures and Prager U (essentially the online left’s favorite punching bag, since their levels of dishonesty on everything are very much a “see it to believe it” kind of phenomenon).

This then lead me to Big Joel’s video critiquing one “Sargon of Akkad“, but we just call him Carl because for the longest time, his old profile picture of an old statue wasn’t even depicting the real Sargon of Akkad in the first place. You know that joke from the Inbetweeners where they’re like “you have a posh accent, but you’re just as dumb as the rest of us”? Think that, but also with a healthy helping of intellectual dishonesty about what feminism is (three words: Kristi Winters Debate) and a dash of xenophobia for good measure.

Back on topic, Big Joel’s video analysed Carl’s framing of one Anita Sarkeesian’s critique of Double Dragon. Click the link to the video mentioned in the paragraph above for a chill time discussing how interpretations of art work and more!

Moving on, here’s some assorted merch being sold at the event that looked pretty neat. Wish I could’ve written about this sooner so anyone looking for collector’s items would be in the know. Vinlys, games, consoles, shirts, the works.

Old Game, New Tricks

I haven’t played any kind of retro game since I was 8 or 10. One of my first gaming experiences being an old Plug n Play version of Mortal Kombat! Other than that, I also dabbled in a few gameboy consoles and games, so by and large, the oldest thing I ever played still had shoulder buttons, a D-Pad, an A-B-X-Y format and generally felt similar to hold from each other. Meanwhile, the games and consoles at RetCon were more bulky and felt more physical, likely in part because I haven’t played with a lot of them before. I was especially enthralled with how retro racing games felt to me at RetCon. Although I found it hard to swivel and turn half the time, it felt much more realistic and immersive, in part because of the bulk and physical differences compared to operating modern consoles with more condensed ease of button access and movement. Instead of a dedicated “go” button, I had to hold the analogue joystick forward in order to move, so Years of Academy Training  Wasted thanks to years of Mario Kart (check our Mario Kart merch at the store here). That said, it legitimately felt like I was zooming at the speed of sound, despite the fact that the graphics weren’t state-of-the-art.

The physics in the game Gravity Force 2 were also extremely skillful and hilarious at times. The aim of the game is you’re in a space ship and have to shooty-bang-bang your way through a maze. So I started off shooting some bullets into the air to get the hang of the controls, testing the waters, playing it safe… It was at that moment I found out the bullets in this game have gravity and someone forgot to turn off friendly fire, so it took me 4 times of accidentally offing myself to figure out that little chestnut! The way the movement of your space ship worked was that you propel yourself up, down, left, right or diagonally based on how you direct yourself in the air. Buuuuut, in order to stop yourself from crashing into a wall, you have to turn yourself around at the right angle in mid-air and push yourself back away! Very high skill ceiling, but still fun to play, almost like the Dark Souls of- oh wait *checks notes*… So Dark Souls is the Gravity Rush 2 of recursive action games!

Check our deals on Dark Souls games and merch here.

The History of RetCon

The convention was founded by Steve Bennett (no relation to Kaitlin Bennett, the online left’s favourite “secret leftist”) and the Greenford Computer Club, the first RetCon event taking place in 2018, though the club itself has been running for over 20 years.

Lockdown times notwithstanding, the convention has been running annual conventions as a means of celebrating the history of gaming for some 20 years. RetCon events are primarily run and organised by Mark White and Steve Bennett to this day. Had a nice talk with them about how Sir Clive Sinclair did a lot of good work with buying and looking into gaming tech at the time and trying to make it more accessible to people in the community. His obituary is also displayed at the convention, which is a highly recommended read for anyone looking for a glimpse into the British cultural context regarding the rise of gaming and console tech in popular culture.

Mark White and Steve Bennett said arrangements for the next convention haven’t officially started yet, but there are potential plans of holding the next one at the local Royal British Legion Greenford. Which brings us to:

The Royal British Legion Greenford: A Nice End to the Day

The Royal British Legion is the largest UK-based charity for members of the armed forces, providing lifelong support for members and ex-members alike since 1921. For more, click here to see their website, as supporting and learning about the struggles of those affected by war. As for how this relates, I had the pleasure of attending the RBL’s Greenford branch, which you can learn more about here.

After RetCon, my parents and I got talking with a nice bartender and an elderly gentlemen. At the entrance to the lobby, there’s a small table with jars of homemade jams, some of the profits of which go towards supporting the charity. I bought their plum jam and can highly recommend you buy a jar if you’re ever in the area! Behind the bar and seating areas, there’s also a room with a stage, which I imagine is where the next RetCon event would ideally be held.

Had my drink, said our goodbyes and that was that. Overall a very good experience, be sure to keep your eyes open on RetCon… Not to be confused with “RetroCon”, I made that mistake more times than I’m willing to admit while writing and proofreading.

Enjoy these final pictures and have a great day everyone!

And last, but not least:

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