by Evan Duggan
VANCOUVER, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Jennifer Shudo stood in front of an old-fashioned arcade version of Super Mario Bros. She and a friend had been laughing and snapping down on the buttons of the 35-year-old classic game with the big box beeping and rattling.
They were at the Vancouver Retro Gaming Expo at Anvil Center in the suburb of New Westminster Saturday.
"For a lot of people, retro games are their childhood," Shudo told Xinhua, after their turn at the game was over. "A lot of people have grown up with these games."
She said game companies like Nintendo were central in the lives of kids who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of them still love that blast of nostalgia they feel when firing up an old dusty cartridge on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or the Sega Genesis.
"I know a bunch of adults who still play the Mario games because they just love them and they've seen the franchise itself grow," she said.
"While newer games have ... fancier graphics and more advanced gameplay and mechanics, I ... like the old retro games. We have more appreciation for them because that's where everything started from."
Videogame store owner Brian Hughes created the expo about eight years ago after attending a similar event in Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon.
The Vancouver event now takes up all four floors of Anvil Center.
"It's a celebration of retro gaming," Hughes said. "There is a mix of people coming down here looking to buy the games they've been trying to find and collect, and other people who just want to come down and be around like-minded individuals."
The one-day event included a vendor expo, panel discussions, live bands and even tournaments for games such as Mario Kart 64, Tetris and Dr. Mario.
"It's a nice, fun party atmosphere," he said.
In the vendor hall, hundreds of people pored over tables laden with old dusty Nintendo, Sony PlayStation and Sega games. At one table, some of the games were marked as low as 5 Canadian dollars (3.77 U.S. dollars). A copy of the classic Super Nintendo role-playing game Chrono Trigger was marked for 449 dollars (338.19 U.S. dollars).
Characters such as Link from the Legend of Zelda, Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog appeared to be among the more popular T-shirt prints people were wearing.
Keeping the old systems and games alive has become a business in itself.
Video game system repairman Matt Wells sat behind a table on which sat an original Nintendo. A remarkably sharp version of Contra was flashing across the medium-sized TV screen.
Wells also displayed a Japanese original Famicom, a Game Boy and a Sega Game Gear. He had modified them all.
He had modified this particular NES so that it could plug it into an HDMI port on contemporary TVs for a sharper, brighter image.
"As you can see, the picture is fantastic on this," he said, referring to the Contra game. "(The modification) will kind of make it look more high-definition."
He said he has found a niche market for the updated systems.
"(Retro gamers) realize that some of this equipment doesn't work as well on newer TVs," he said."They want the best possible picture. They want the best experience out of the original equipment."
Hughes, the expo's founder, said he noticed a change in the visitors.
"Over the years, we've seen a shift. Now it's a lot of families bringing their kids who are getting ... into the same retro games," he said.
Hughes pondered a particular question: what actually counts as a retro video game system? The original Nintendo? The PlayStation One? What about Nintendo 64?
"It really comes down to: what did you grow up with?" he said. "What are you nostalgic about?"