GameOn Expo 2023 Review


GameOn Expo

August 11-13 2023

Phoenix Convention Center

The Valleys premier video game event returned to the Phoenix Convention Center for three days jam packed with panels, contests, celebrity guests and gaming of all varieties. Thousands of eager attendees flooded the exhibitor hall filled with vendors hawking new, used and rare titles, anime aplenty and lots of gaming, be it in video, tabletop or card form while spectators stopped to watch the massive screens displaying fierce head-to-head competitions, danced to featured musical performers such as Shihori and Mega Ran or immersed themselves in vintage and modern cabinets and systems from Q*Bert to Dance Dance Revolution.


Icons from divergent fandoms including but not limited to Steve Blum, Daisuke Tsuji, Kyle Hebert, Lindsay Siedel, Cristina Vee, Sean Chiplock, Christopher Judge, Ryan Hurst, Bruce Thomas, Jeff Steitzer, Ryan Bartley, Marty O’ Donnell, Brianna Knickerbocker, Robbie Daymond, Ray Chase, Max Mittleman and many more were on hand to interact with the adoring populace, signing autographs, snapping selfies and reenacting beloved scenes and lines from film, TV and of course, games. Artists, cosplayers, eSports personalities and content creators too numerous to name mingled and from the photographic evidence and smiles constant, everyone had a great time. Even Earthrealm’s mightiest warriors came to battle the malevolent forces of Outworld celebrating 30 years of Mortal Kombat with Katalin Rodriguez Ogren, Master Daniel Pesina, Carlos Pesina all in attendance, along with the behind-the-scenes magic makers such as Paul Niemeyer and more.


The whole weekend was filled with events, activities and of course panels but due to having only a single day in my schedule to spare, I was only able to catch one but was happy to see my friends and favorites Radical Reggie and John Hancock, along with  have a lively yet relaxed free form discussion with the audience regarding a myriad of topics and tropes in the gaming world with special attention paid to the current and future state of retro games and collecting. The Art of Nintendo Power exhibit was the definite diamond in the rough as while it was unfortunately tucked away in one of the panel rooms, it thankfully had a bright neon invitation to beckon in Fan Club members new and old. Nintendo Power was always eagerly awaited at my childhood home as in the pre-Internet days, print media was a source of the news, reviews and future birthday & Christmas wish list that couldn’t arrive soon enough. Gorgeous original art, layouts, sculptures and more filled the gallery of my halcyon days and it was wonderful to see how it all came together, often from meek origins and rushed deadlines; a personal favorite was the controversial Simon’s Quest cover with the cheapie variety store slab of latex with the glowing eyes evocative of the old-time spook shows but nothing more than equally spartan effects. From Mario to Zelda, Samus to Simon, all the heavy hitters were well represented along with some lesser-known properties that deserved the star treatment Nintendo Power gave them along with wholly original talents like Howard and Nester.

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The arcade cabinets and pinball tables are always my most cherished section, especially as ZapCon did not occur this year for the first time in a decade. Many kind folks lent stunning original, new and refurbished machines and I particularly enjoyed playing Tapper, Mr. Driller, Legends of Valhalla, Carnevil, Donkey Kong 3, all the candy cabs and the crowning achievement of finally beating House of the Dead 2 with my brother, who I was grateful to have as my guest. Speaking of guests, as a devoted Uncharted fan, I had to get a pic with Nolan North who was so fun and kind, Nadji Jeter who is best known as the voice of Miles Morales in the newer Spider-Man titles but will forever be beloved as Sam from The Last of Us and finally Mr. Boomshakalaka himself, Tim Kitzrow who despite digging his cash cow of NBA Jam, elected to have one sheets of some of my favorite pinball tables signed, The Twilight Zone and Elvira Scared Stiff. Finally, it was a pleasure to see old friends like the wonderful Mary from Zia Records and my man, the multitalented EX001 ( but also to meet new ones like Patrick (@PdubsArcadeLoft) and Daniel (@BiggggyDsArcade) who I’ve been a huge fan of for years and despite us all living in AZ for ages, I hadn’t run into until now.


Big things are shaping up for the future of GameOn Expo with 2024 moving to a new date in March and a new venue in the North Building of Phoenix Convention Center and it is well earned. Neal, John and Co. (including the multitudes of volunteers) do an amazing job, achieve massive growth in 8 short years,  beginning with a miniscule budget and limited experience running an event of this magnitude but they have rocketed leaps and bounds since it started in 2015 at Mesa Convention Center and a con I’ve attended every year since (sans 2022 when I was hospitalized and had to have emergency surgery – yay!) and hope will forever have unlimited continues.