Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SUPER! BitCon 2017 Video Game Convention


Since last month’s Pop Culture Collective column (published in AntiqueWeek) centered around Dallas Fan Expo, I hadn’t planned on writing about another convention so soon. But then disaster struck SUPER! BitCon, the biggest and best annual video game tradeshow in Oklahoma, hours before I got there.

Flash back to Friday, April 28. In preparation for my usual role of vendor at SUPER!BitCon, where I sell everything from Atari to Xbox, along with autographing copies of my books about video games, I loaded my Chevy Trailblazer with as many boxes as it could hold. Instead of heading up to Oklahoma City Friday afternoon as per usual, I had to wait until early Saturday morning to leave because I had a family obligation that evening—my wife was being recognized as Teacher of the Year, and, since I have good survival instincts, that’s certainly something I didn’t want to miss.

So I got up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday and hit the road at 4:30. My only stop on the three-hour drive from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City was a roadside casino to go to the bathroom and grab a free soda. Since casinos want you to stay put and keep feeding money into their machines, many of them keep customers carbonated and caffeinated with complementary fountain drinks.

The drive was uneventful, but when I arrived at the Oklahoma State Fair Park where SUPER! BitCon was being held (it’s a cheap venue for the amount of space you can rent), a cop stopped me at the road to the back entrance and told me a storm had ripped through the area earlier that morning, damaging the convention center and knocking out the power.

I told the officer why I was there, and he said, “There’s not gonna be anything going on here today.”

You can imagine how disappointed I was. In addition to supplementing my writing income and helping me promote my books, video game conventions are a blast, from panels hosted by popular YouTube personalities to arcade games set on free play to a huge room full of vendors selling a vast array of video games and accessories.

Load-in time was from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and I had arrived around 7:30. I checked the SUPER! BitCon Facebook page on my iPhone, and they had posted instructions for an alternate route that would allow vendors access to the convention center. I circled the labyrinthine State Fair Park a couple of times and finally found my way in, dodging tree branches and downed powerlines as I drove—I’m surprised we were allowed in at all.

The scene at the convention center was like some kind of fallout shelter, but colder and with less lighting. Since it had gotten into the upper 80s on Friday afternoon in Fort Worth, it didn’t occur to me to pack warm clothing—I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, which wasn’t nearly enough to counter the 47-degree temperature brought on by the cold front that had coincided with the storm.

I stepped inside the drafty convention center via a side door that was propped open. Since the only lighting was from several open doorways and the space left by an overhead door that had been torn down by the storm, I used the flashlight on my phone to look around, same as several other vendors were doing. Many vendors had set up the night before, but only one or two had lost any stock from water damage.

After wandering around in the barely lit darkness for a few minutes, I found my booth and then made my way to the front to speak with a couple of the SUPER! BitCon organizers. Obviously, they were a bit frazzled and shocked by the situation, but they were already expressing hope that the power could be turned back on later that morning. After all, Oklahoma gets lots of storms, and experienced emergency crews are always on call. I wished the organizers well and walked around a bit more, shivering as I went.

After speaking with a few vendors I knew, I went back out to my vehicle to dig through the boxes until I found the one marked “SHIRTS.”  I dug out a Captain American T-shirt and pulled it over the shirt I was already wearing for another layer of warmth. It wasn’t much, but it was something. I eventually decided to unload my vehicle and stack the boxes in my booth. At least it gave me something to do and kept me moving.

Finally, at 11:00 a.m. the organizers called a meeting and said they didn’t know when the power would be back on, and they were cancelling the show for the day. We could just leave our merchandise there in hopes of having the show on Sunday. I texted my friend, Delf Meek, who I was staying with that night, and who was going to help me at the show, with an update of what was going on, and he said to come on over—we could run around town, going to video game stores, thrift stores, used bookstores and the like. He also bought my lunch and let me borrow a coat.

Delf and I spent the afternoon thriftin’, junkin’, game chasin’ and, to borrow a term from Larry McMurtry, book scoutin’, and it turned out to be a pleasant experience. While we were upset about the show cancellation, going from store to store was a fun, funny and even heartening experience as we kept running into vendors and others who had planned to attend the show but were left with an open afternoon.

The mantra among all the vendors was to “make the best of things,” and that’s exactly what we did.

The best stop of the day was a big, musty comic book store that reeked of old-school retail. Silver Age comic books lined the wall behind the cash register, supplementing boxes of less expensive back issues positioned in rows in the middle of the store. There were also disheveled shelves filled with action figures, toys, video games, superhero coin banks and other geeky gear. Most impressive was a row of vintage Ben Cooper superhero costumes still in the box.

The power at the store had gone out, so we used the flashlights on our phones to look around. After about half an hour, I got a headache from squinting at all that treasure, but it paid off. I found some cheap boxes of sports cards to sell by the pack in my antique mall booth, an issue of Pizzazz magazine that I was missing, and a copy of Movie Special Magazine featuring Flash Gordon (1980), one of my favorite films.

Best of all was a box of 70 Doctor Who paperback books from the 1980s. The store owner said he “doesn’t really deal in books” so to make him an offer. I got the entire lot for just $50. I’m just a casual Doctor Who fan, so the books aren’t for me—I can sell them at comic book shows for $6 each.

That night the SUPER! BitCon organizers hosted an after-show party at the local Main Event, even though there was no show. The party, where Delf and I hung out at the bar with YouTubers like The Game Chasers and 8-Bit Eric while others got their NES copies of Double Dare signed by Marc Summers, was a blast as we held to our “make the best of things” attitude. However, by this time we—or at least I—figured the show would be cancelled for Sunday as well. Despite the hardship, all the vendors, YouTubers and everyone else involved expressed far more concern over the fate of the organizers than their own lost revenue. After all, the organizers had much more invested in the event than we did.

As fate would have it, emergency workers managed to restore the power to the State Fair Park by late Saturday night, and, incredibly enough, the show was in full swing by 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. It remained busy all day, with attendees and vendors equally excited that the event was salvaged. The organizers were especially relieved—if Sunday hadn’t happened, there likely wouldn’t be a SUPER! BitCon in 2018.

While the lost revenue from Saturday still stings a bit, I’m grateful for the experience. Bonds of friendship were strengthened, it was nice to see the vendors more concerned about the organizers than themselves, and it turned out to be a heck of a fun weekend.

In all that darkness—both figuratively and literally—no one panicked, got overly discouraged or even had a bad attitude. Selflessness, unity and perseverance were on display everywhere as we did our darndest to “make the best of things.”

I call that a win.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

ColecoVisions Podcast #29 -- Miner 2049er & Quest for the Golden Chalice


Check out the new episode of The ColecoVisions Podcast, where Willie Culver, John "Gamester81" Lester, Robert Ferguson (of Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast), and I discuss a number of topics, including Super Bitcon, Miner 2049er, Quest for the Golden Chalice, and Adventure (for the Atari 2600). As always, we had a lot of fun talking about our favorite hobby. Thanks to Robert for guesting on the show, and to Willie and John. You can listen HERE.





VHS Rewind -- Interview


I was interviewed recently by Mark Jeacoma of VHS Rewind.
You can listen HERE.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Nostalgic Review for Encyclopedia of KISS


I love the nostalgic nature of this Amazon review of my KISS book, written by someone named Kris Anderson: 

I spent two years between ages 12 and 14 listening to KISS virtually every day. Alive II was on a constant cycle among me and my friends - so much so that we could speak and sing every word that was uttered on that album. It wasn’t the only one, but it was definitely part of the soundtrack of our lives.

It took some time for me to receive this book and it was worth the wait. So much so that I read it in one sitting! This is not your average encyclopedia. This is a very detailed; very cross referenced volume of information that is perfect for super fans and average fans alike.

Organized alphabetically, each entry covers any aspect of KISS that you can think of: personnel, events, music, songs, individual projects, related bands, former bands, venues, producers, merchandising etc.

Not only are these areas covered, they are cross referenced. Some entries are substantial. This is true in particular about the members of the group – original and replacements. Each is covered in equal depth.

What I loved the most about this book is that it is not filtered through the Gene Simmons/Paul Stanley prism. Equal weight is given to Peter Criss and Ace Frehely as there is to Eric Carr, Tommy Thayer and others. Too many times in “official” KISStory, the story cuts out the original members who we grew up loving.

This is such a fun read. I literally could not put it down and stayed up way too late absorbed in all the details. After I finished, I dug out Alive II and flashed back to my teen years – black light posters, incense and KISS! It rocked!

*You can order Encyclopedia of KISS HERE

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Interview with PopNerdTV's Alex Thompson


I recently interviewed the perpetually positive Alex Thompson,  Chief Content Coordinator with PopNerdTV, and co-host of Nerd Portalfor an article I'm working on for the July issue of K Magazine. I will cull some quotes from the interview for the piece, but I decided to go ahead and publish the entire interview here in order to give fans of comic books, video games and geek culture in general a little behind-the-scenes info on the website, YouTube channel and Alex himself. Enjoy!

BRETT WEISS: You live in Keller, correct? Did you grow up in this area?

ALEX THOMPSON: We film in Keller and our CEO, John Martin, currently lives in Keller. I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and moved to Temple, Texas at the age of six. It wasn'' until I finished my associates degree that I was accepted into the University of North Texas as a music major, which quickly changed to a broadcasting major, that I moved to Denton where I still currently live.

WEISS: Are you a millennial? What does that label mean to you?

THOMPSON: I guess I am technically labeled as a millennial, but I was raised by my grandparents, and most consider me an old soul. The term millennial has its negative connotations with a group of people born in a certain time, but weren't the baby boomers saying the same things about the Gen-X crowd back in the '80s? It is all just a cycle--millennials grew up in a time of technology that I think causes some to believe in instant gratification. Success only comes from time and hard work, which is something my grandfather always told me.

WEISS: Did you grow up reading comic books?

THOMPSON: Surprisingly, I did not grow up reading comics. I did spend a lot of time in front of the TV set, though, and shows like X-men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Animated Series, Super Friends, and Spider-Man all inspired my love for comic characters. It wasn't until I moved to Denton, and not knowing anyone,  that my now-fiance decided to go on eBay and buy me a box of Venom comics to read that my love for comics blossomed. She recalled me talking about how at the time Venom was one of my favorite comic characters and how I disliked his portrayal in Spider-Man 3 that she randomly decided to buy the box. I think she saved me from a lot of bad things in my past by doing this though. Comics can change old habits by forming new hobbies.

WEISS: Did you grow up playing video games?

THOMPSON: In my childhood, video games were life. I had my group of neighborhood friends who each had different systems and games. We would get together and bike from one person's house to the next to spend hours playing games. I can recall my aunt having an NES that I would just push buttons on because I was too young to know what I was doing. Another thing that I miss so much is the time I would spend with my grandfather in the arcades. He would play Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, Primal Rage, and all kinds of arcade games with me. I don't think my love for games really blossomed, though, until I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. It was my first console just for me, and after I played Super Mario 64, I was hooked. Later on I had my phases with Tony Hawk, fighting games, first-person shooters, and whatever my friends or I could get our hands on. I will say the arcades of the '90s influenced a lot of my choices, though.

WEISS: What comics and games do you enjoy now?

THOMPSON: Currently, I am still a Marvel fan boy. I'm really into the classic cosmic Marvel stuff done by Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, Roy Thomas, and more. I have also always been an X-men fan, and even though they aren't very popular now a days, I still read almost every X book that comes out. On the DC side of things, you can't go wrong with Hal Jordan. In the video game world, I still play my original N64 very often. I have started to collect old systems now since I am an adult and can afford things,  but for new games I'm stuck on playing Overwatch and Grand Theft Auto V.

WEISS:What has geek culture meant to your life beyond entertainment value?

THOMPSON: Back in high school, most people would see me as the complete opposite person I am now. I used to go out a lot and party with no real care about the world that was going on around me. Most people think that starts in college, but for me, college was where I kind of found a new hobby with fandom, and I used this to try to make my life more meaningful. I have always been a social person, and growing up I was always into the geek culture, but doing the full 360 and coming back to it really impacted my life.

WEISS: What is your day job? Is it related to your interest in geek culture?

THOMPSON: My day job is kind of similar, but the topics are different. I am a web content coordinator for a digital marketing firm that deals with insurance companies. I oversee and edit what goes on company websites and manage a numerous amount of blogs for insurance. Never did I think I would end up in an office reading about insurance all day, but the job has its perks, and my coworkers are great!

WEISS: What is PopNerdTV? How does it stand out from similar YouTube channels?

THOMPSON: PopNerd is a labor of love that is made by fans for the fans. We started out as a project among a group of grad students at the University of North Texas before I was even involved. Eventually they ended up getting busy with other adventures and projects, leaving PopNerd kind of on a hiatus. Later on I met John as a student of his. I presented a short documentary to him as a final project over the rise of comic culture in the Denton area and how the rise of diversity in comics was becoming more and more relevant at the time. This was when Jane Foster ended up becoming Thor and Marvel was doing their big switch up with characters. John had mentioned the site before, and I needed an internship, which lead to me becoming a writer for the site. After about 5 months of me doing what I could, John asked me to become editor in chief, and we put together a writing team of students and fans to front the push for nerd culture that seemed to be lacking as a media outlet in the DFW area. Soon we started adding video content, and from there we pushed off on our journey. I would like to think we stand out from other YouTube channels because we all have this vision of what we want to be. Like I said, most of us are just big fanboys and girls with a love of expressing ourselves and entertaining others. We don't want to feel like all the other sites who like to use click bait and spoilers to drive traffic. We want to be organic and genuine with our movement and show the world that fandoms are still around and loud in the DFW area.

WEISS: What is your current role with PopNerd?

THOMPSON: Awhile back, I gave up my responsibilities as editor in chief to my good friend Jake Combs and started to focus on video content as the Chief Content Coordinator. I am responsible for making sure things get done on time and managing the interns and production teams. I like to think of my self as a multi-role kind of guy. We all do this for free so sometimes you have to take on multiple jobs.

WEISS: What are your plans for PopNerdTV moving forward? Where do you see the channel and website five years from now? Do you hope to make it a full-time job?

THOMPSON: Moving PopNerd forward has been a challenge because no money is involved. We are trying to focus on quality and content for now, and social media has been a big help for advancing our material to larger audiences. We have a great social media team and set of content creators who I am thankful for. Every day we see the progress made and continue to research and brainstorm ways to promote ourselves and the DFW area. I would love in five years to be doing this full time. I can see the website and channel blowing up, but it takes time and hard work. Finding advertisers and people who want to invest in us is tough for a company that has only been pushing content for a little over two years. I love the involvement from the students in the DFW area and the creators and shop owners we come across daily. We have high hopes that PopNerd can eventually be built into something that will not only represents the DFW area but Texas as a whole. We want to get our voices out there.

Check out a recent episode of Nerd Portal:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Interview with PopNerdTV's Cierra Caballero


Check out my interview with the lovely and talented Cierra Caballero, one of the co-hosts of PopNerdTV. She's the horror hostess (of a sort) with the mostest, she fronted a really cool rock band while she was in high school, and she's a funny and intelligent girl, which you'll gather as you listen to the interview. We talk horror, science fiction, absurdism, film, geek culture, belief in the supernatural, and more. The interview cuts off abruptly at the end, but it was pretty much over--just needed to sign off. Click HERE to listen.

Also, check out one of her Jump Scare videos:

And her former band:






Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 - NOW ON AMAZON KINDLE

My book, The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987, is now available on Amazon Kindle, which is an app that you can download for FREE on your phone, tablet or computer. Check it out HERE. 


There have been many top 100 books before, but rarely one like this. Here are the best of the early video games, shown in over 400 color photos and described in incredible detail in the entertaining and informative text. Each game’s entry features production history, critical commentary, quotes from industry professionals, gameplay details, comparisons to other games, and more. This book celebrates the very best of the interactive entertainment industry’s games from this highly crucial, fondly remembered decade. This pivotal period was marked by the introduction of the indispensable Atari 2600, Odyssey2, and Intellivision, the unleashing of the underrated Vectrex, the mind-blowing debut of the next-gen ColecoVision and Atari 5200, plus the rebirth of the industry through Nintendo’s legendary juggernaut, the NES. Whether you’re young or old, new to the hobby or a hardcore collector, this book will introduce you to or remind you of some of the greatest, most historically important games ever made.

*"This is an amazing book...detailed information...very high quality all around." - 8-Bit Eric

*"Truly beautiful from cover to cover...It should be a fixture on every coffee table in a video gaming household...Each section of the book is well-written and accompanied by high quality artwork and photos." - Patrick Scott Patterson
 
*"Author Brett Weiss knows his stuff...a respected name in the classic gaming community...he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information...the book is suitable for just about any type of video game fan." - The Video Game Critic

*"100 Greatest Console Video Games 1977-1987 is truly an excellent book that anyone interested in video games should own. Whether you want to read about the details of the games or just admire the tons of images within its pages, this book is for you. Will you agree with every game selected? Unlikely, but thats part of the fun. If you dont find a game you think should have made it within the main book, be sure to check out the appendix at the end with 100 honorable mentions. That game may have made it there." Rating - 10/10." Retrovideogamer.co.uk