by Roloff de Jeu

Until a few years ago, We Euros had to resort to the US to meet fellow collectors at big meetings. I was in Dayton, Ohio at RGVC-Con in 1996, one of the first ‘big’ classic gaming enthusiasts meetings that spanned a full weekend, held in a hotel and had a whoppin’ 18 visitors. Later I went to a bigger Electronicon in Philadelphia (1997) and a silly afternoon-meeting in Paderborn, Germany (1998), until I finally decided that it was time to get some people together in Europe, Euro-style, on a Euro-budget. After some months of prepping and hard work, me, Marco Kerstens and Arne Kuilman were proud to present Euro-Con’99, in Amsterdam.

For only $40 a person, just over 20 visitors from all over Europe enjoyed a full weekend of classic gaming in a big lodge (with dorm and kitchen) just outside of Amsterdam, all expenses paid. Although it did not feature a load of arcades, sellers and programmers, we did have competitions (one being the Official Decathlon Championship, sponsored by Activision Germany), a trade session, a quiz, videos, and an auction, as well as loads of great food and drinks. The weekend was a great success, and we had proven that meetings could be held, be it at a small yet cozy scale.

For me, CGExpo ‘99 and 2K came along (incredible!), and I visited last April’s great PhillyClassic 2001. But last October an event was held that had much anticipation here in Europe: Eurocon 2001, the follow-up of Eurocon ‘99.

Again, the number of visitors was not as big as hoped, but 23 were enough to have an amazing weekend all together. For half of them it was a reunion; the others were quick to join in and become part of the family. The program held was close to that of the gathering in Holland with one big extra; a night out in Blackpool. This classic city at sea of pleasure and fun was only a few miles away from the hotel were Eurocon 2001 was held. It featured a massive amount of gambling houses, arcades, and a huge lunapark at the end, with the biggest rollercoaster in Europe. As close to Las Vegas you can get. All 23 of us ended spending our pences at an arcade with a great number of classics from the mid-Eighties, from Space Invaders II to Return of the Jedi to Gauntlet. When the event closed way past it’s legal closing time, we went off to get some drinks at a bard and do some cheesy dancing, then off to the hotel to finish off the night with some Samba de Amigo.

Again, after a great weekend of gaming, trading, show & tell, stories, and lotsa pints and good food, this event proved to be one not only to remember, but to repeat once again in the near future. Although some of the one-day events held in the UK (named “Brit-meets”) had as many as around 50 people, it looks as if meetings in Europe will always be small. Enthusiasts are scattered all over, and have to travel great distances to such a venue, which can bring high costs and take up that rare amount of spare time. Another factor is finding a place that’ll satisfy all and offers nearby (budget) hotels, and that can hold a large group of people.

In March, another meeting will be held in Vienna, Austria for an initial group of 35 people. This group might be able to grow if enough people show serious interest. Or is there a way for large-scale expo’s? Just a month ago, a serious one-day trade & sell session was held at a small convention centre in Frankfurt, Germany. I was there, with some of my Euro buddies (me and Marco stayed over at Marc Oberhauser’s and met up with other Eurocon vets at the meeting) to sell classic goods, trade some, buy some, and meet up with many unknown German fellow collectors. We figured we’d probably be buying off the other sellers (around 40 tables were filled with goods). Much to our surprise, a steady flow of enthusiastic hobbyists visited all through until the end of the day, and were happy to buy and swap. In all an amazing amount of over 100 Germans swamped the floor! Half the size of what I had seen in Philly, which was held in a huge hotel, and had a large room with arcades to accomdate the show.

This Classic-Börse as it was named, proved to be another milestone in the history of bringing classic gaming freaks together in big numbers. Add a good amount of arcades on free play, some competitions, a mix of people from the industry (as well as some sponsors), and one day we might have the perfect match between a comfortable, warm, intimate get-together, and a large fun expo. There are plans to add a big classics-section to a big computer/Atari event in Berlin this year. In the meantime, I’ll just have to hop from con to con, from the 1,000 attendee freak-fests to the little group reunionsl; meeting old friends

and making new ones, which for me is the best part of this hobby. See you soon!

Many reviews, richly illustrated, can be seen on Info on AustroCon 2002 is available at (that’s two underscores!)


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