Go play outside, Episode 2

After the resounding success of the first outing, I was eager to bring the outdoor gaming fun to a larger audience. I wouldn't have to wait long. Less than a month later it was time for Anime Evolution, Vancouver's annual anime convention. Elliott and I signed up for the full 3 days of insanity and headed up by bus.

What we found was a lot different than we had expected. Instead of the neat orderly event which had been held in the new convention center downtown the year previous, we found roughly 4 billion costumed fanboys terrorizing the UBC campus. This meant there was as much or more of the event taking place on lawns and between buildings as there was inside. It would be perfect for some gaming on the go.

The second day we gathered up the necessary gear. Pentium was nowhere to be found so we were limited to bus travel. I decided to go with the smaller Commodore 1702 over my honkin' Sony PVM, both to increase runtime and make the trip up a hell of a lot easier. Games were Mario Kart 64, Starfox 64 and Smash Bros. In the backpack was 4 controllers, rumble packs, A/V cables, an extension cord and my geiger counter. I also brought a pair of brownies to give out as prizes.

I'm afraid I have no photos of the trip up as Elliott and I had our hands full. Suffice it to say that we were hot and the items were heavy, but we made it.

We decided to start in the shade of some trees behind what was serving as the main building for the madness.

Our gear went together in a flash...

And before the screen had come up there were people wanting to play.

Elliott takes on the first players with his usual cheery disposition.

I had no idea how the day was going to go. I was aware of how ridiculous we looked, and feared we would be a bit too silly for most people.

Then I remembered we were at an anime convention.

In minutes we were being swamped by people wanting a turn.

Ahh, but eventually the crowd thinned as people had had their round. Even Elliott briefly wandered off to let some friends know he had arrived. It seemed our shady location was bad for visibility. So we packed up and started wheeling around in search of a better place.

The crowd got much thicker as we moved around to the front of the building. That seemed more like it. I felt it was a little too thick though. We'd be in the way if we just sat down in the middle of it all. Not to mention distracting, given how loud a game of Mario Kart tended to be. So we kept going until we were on the edge of the crowd. It's a good thing we did, because we ended up directly beside the path to the bus stop which nearly everyone was using to get in and out of the con. Now we were getting attention!

We set up and found ourselves surrounded. There was an endless stream of people shouting "That's soo awesome!" or "Oh my god, they're playing Smash Bros!" as they passed by. The 28 year old Commodore monitor was still plenty bright for the mid day sun and its little speaker was pumping iconic '90s video game music across the field. And it's a good thing, because we had no shortage of people eager to play. We were able to sit back and enjoy the crowd as 4 players at a time battled it out under the pine trees. This also let us alternately go off to meet friends, get interviewed by the passing fans and take in a few panels. Wait, panels? Just how long did this UPS last? Well, it turns out that with the smaller monitor we were able to keep it up for around 2 and a half hours! During that time it saw constant use from countless anime fans without a single hiccup.

But nothing lasts forever, and eventually the charge indicator on the UPS was down to its last light. So as soon as the current game finished I packed it all up and wheeled the lot across the campus to the building which had been taken over for console gaming. The moment I entered the room there was a cheer and excited people came to greet me. "The N64 is here!" someone had shouted. It seems they were supposed to be holding a tournament in just a few minutes and no one had been able to find the N64 they brought. When they saw mine they mistook it for their own. I had to explain why on earth I was carrying one around an anime convention if it wasn't for their tournament before they would let me go. But then I proposed a deal. Might I borrow an outlet to charge my UPS in exchange for loaning them my N64 and controllers? That was perfectly fine by them, so I handed it over and found a quiet corner to park the rest of my gear.

Elliott and I chose this moment to take in the rest of the con while we didn't have any equipment to worry about. And when we did return, the tournament was just finishing up. What followed was a most unusual conversation as we attempted to wheel our stuff out of the games room. It went something like:
"Where are you going with that?"
"This is our equipment."
"Oh, we don't allow outside consoles in the games room."
"That's okay, we're just leaving."
Followed by a lengthy explanation.

By now it was a little after 4 and we had a good charge, so we set back up in the location which had served us so well before. I was expecting Ali at one point and since he's too cheap to have a cell phone, I simply had to make sure we were somewhere he would have to stumble across. Whenever he got around to showing up.

That turned out to be quite late, and by then my batteries were getting low again. So I pulled out my secret weapon: The extension cord.
By some stroke of luck there was an outdoor outlet on the wall of what was serving as the dealer's room. The extension cord was just long enough to go across the foot path, over a 10 foot drop and under a bicycle rack to reach it. Then we were set for the night.

And it's a good thing, because Ali finally made an appearance along with Devenne. Now we had the Smash Bros king to show those cartoon-watching freaks how it was done!

The gaming continued long into the night. That little CRT monitor was like a bug zapper, sending out its geek-attracting photons for what seemed like miles. Try as I might I wasn't able to get far enough away that its light couldn't find me. And since we were sitting next to the path that lead to the bus loop, nearly every con goer passed us on their way home. A lot of them decided to have a final game.

Some of them decided to have two.

When midnight finally rolled around we decided to shut it down and pack up. Ali offered to drive us home, and with some careful squashing we managed to get all 4 of us and the equipment into his car.

All told the day went brilliantly. We had no technical problems and all the players had a great time. You can be sure this won't be the UPS's last outing.

Page created December 27th 2010