TORG Gaming Expo enters its eighth year with the Columbus Convention
Mike Colletti’s ever-growing convention for players returns on Saturday, September 25 at the Lewis Center Superkick
Eight years ago, Mike Colletti could never have imagined a full-fledged convention for TORG, an acronym for The Ohio Retro Gamer. Originally, Colletti’s TORG Summit Facebook page served as an online gathering place to celebrate retro gaming culture and to sell and trade games. But over the years, this small circle of enthusiasts has evolved into something that transcends vintage Neo Geo consoles and Ms. Pacman cabinets.
“What we’re doing this year, to differentiate ourselves from just being a place to buy and sell games, is really make it an experience,” Colletti said of the game. TORG Game Fair, which takes place on Saturday, September 25 at the Columbus Superkick in Lewis Center. “In addition to the game exchange, we have invited comic book collectors, anime enthusiasts, cosplay enthusiasts, toy sellers, 3D model makers and custom artists.”
Indeed, the umbrella of nerd culture has grown exponentially every year at TORG, and Colletti, along with his partner Rachel Oscherwitz, have followed suit. Superkick will be their third location change since the start of the convention, and with over 150 vendors covering 32,000 square feet, TORG continues to grow. But according to Colletti, it’s not primarily a lucrative business. Instead, her quest is to create a family event that retains the feeling of a tight-knit community.
The game remains at the heart of TORG. Beyond the nostalgia required for arcade games and vintage consoles, there are ongoing tournaments throughout the day. All tournaments are free with admission, and a few, including a Dr. Mario Championship and a Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out Challenge, include prize money for the winners. Friendly competition is also a common thread with the TORG mascot, a character created by Colletti. At the exhibition, the costumed mascot roams the premises and faces the competitors who will have it.
Much like the virtual game adventure, the exhibit incorporates in-person play in the Kids Zone. There are treasure hunts, live trivia, secret treasure chests, and rock-paper-scissor competitions that add to the experience for the youngest participants. With or without kids, hardcore or casual game fan, Colletti is constantly adding elements to the convention so that everyone can find something interesting.
Star Wars fanatics take note: The 501st Legion, a Lucasfilm-sanctioned charity, will be on site with a recreation of the Jaku Hut, as well as costumed Storm Troopers who will go on a bounty hunt to find participants in the crowd. and award them a Star Prize on the theme of wars.
Colletti said the door prizes (valued at over $ 4,000) are one of the biggest draws on the show. The entry price guarantees a chance to win modified Game Boys, PlayStation 5 systems, a set of mahjong imported from Japan and other sundries. Additionally, participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters, as TORG will be offering a cosplay contest.
Considering the number of subcultures that have been incorporated into TORG, it’s likely that it feels like a more traditional comic-con, rather than just a place to spend money on that elusive copy. by Battletoads. And being among your tribe is something a lot of gaming enthusiasts have missed during the pandemic.
“There are a lot of people in this community who only see each other in person at these conventions,” said Colletti, noting the two-year absence from the show. “It is a very gratifying feeling to see the interactions within the community and the friendships that are formed through this common bond.
The TORG Gaming Expo takes place on Saturday, September 25, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For tickets and more information visit torgevents.com.