RePlay FX: The Razzle-Dazzle, The Splendor, and The Fringe

Of the fandom conventions in Pittsburgh, RePlay FX is fast becoming my favorite. While I may be biased, having attended since its inception, or since its rebranding as RePlay anyway (in years prior, it was Pinburgh, which still maintains an impressive presence), in its fifth year, the show has become a solid entertainment venue. While RePlay FX has always had razzle-dazzle, in the form of its constant arcade lightshow, and fleets of coin-op, console, and pinball games, in 2019, there were signs that the convention had become healthy and viable in ways other than its impressive spectacle and growing attendance, such as vendors flocking to the convention in larger numbers and greater variety, and convention-goers distributed throughout the entire show floor, enjoying all of what RePlay FX brings to the table.

And outside the show floor as well. While the tabletop gaming has been relegated to the concourse since the early year of the convention, after Thursday this year, that spin-off rarely had open tables, so that when two of us sat down for a game of Splendor, we had to share a table with another game in session. While most of these board gamers had heads bowed over gateway games like Ticket to Ride and Catan, a few hip gamers threw down Horrified and a few other games getting good GenCon buzz. Families with children also use the concourse as a rest stop, taking a breather at the giant floor checkers, fussball tables, or eighties entertainment center, comprised of a mottled brown couch, NES, and coffee table strewn with vintage TV guides to complete its time travel effect.

While
cosplay remains minor at RePlay FX compared to Tekko or Steel City
Con, there were a handful of Stormtroopers, Marios, and other
enthusiastic cosplayers in attendance. That said, there were
absolutely zero cosplays which I would call riveting, or even
noteworthy. While interest in cosplay is usually a good gauge as to
fandom participation in an event, I don’t believe this is the case
with RePlay FX. Despite the lack of cosplay and visible signs of
fandom participation, RePlay FX 2019 was suffused throughout with a
buzzing wave of enthusiasm. People were not only enjoying themselves,
but chattering about it. As the demographic broadens a little,
cosplay should become more dynamic.

If
my eyes seem drawn to these fringe activities, they’re a practical
slide rule to gauge the growth and performance of the convention. As
the arcade and pinball games have always been the hugest draw for
RePlay FX, it should be no surprise that these areas continue to see
substantial increase, given the steady interest, but with the
“fringe” areas having wait times, such as lines forming at
vendors, and increasingly limited table space for board games, here
we see RePlay FX threatening to break free of its current shape and
become a local gaming megaconvention. Cosplay should become more
popular as the fringe areas of the con develop. While I admit this
optimistic prediction may be biased by my hope for great things from
RePlay FX, my perceptions are also shaped not only by my experience
with local cons, like Tekko, Wizard World Pittsburgh, and Steel City
Con, but attendance of large cons, like San Diego Comic Con, New York
Comic Con, and Mega Con. If I’m wishful in small part, I believe in
large part that the outline of a much bigger event is visible in, and
being shaped by, these current trends.

RePlay
FX: The Soul and The Aura

If you’ve never been to RePlay FX, you may wonder, ‘what’s the draw?’ Perhaps you’ve been to other gaming conventions, like a PAX or GenCon, and your standards are set by these other gaming fandom venues. Why should you come to RePlay FX?

While
you can’t go back in time to the magical moment you entered your
first video arcade, RePlay FX will likely surpass
that memory when you step into its
alluring array of coin-op and pinball in a pixel-blasting
spread of hundreds of games conjured from past decades and set to
free play. Not only Asteroids, Tempest, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and
Space Invaders, but countless obscurities and oddities, not to
mention pinball machines with cool, mercurial, or downright arcane or
diabolical designs that would not be out of place tatted on an arm or
sprayed on the side of a cheesy van, but are nonetheless cutting edge
after all this time. While you might still be mesmerized if the games
were under stark light, the event designers set a perfect ambiance
with its shadowy arcade cave lit by a colorful lightshow.

Not
only the soul of RePlay FX, but its aura, this host of video games
will keep you coming back year after year.

That
said, let me take you through a sample first day.

Upon
arriving at the David H Lawrence convention center, and having
traversed a tunnel draped with RePlay FX’s vinyl banner, you ascend
the escalator to registration–which has a steady dozen or so in line
on Saturday, a small line on Friday or Sunday, and no line on
Thursday (for now, still the best day for skipping crowds and
lines)–buy a shirt if you’re so inclined, glance at the fussball
tables, huge plastic checker set, and tabletop gaming, then plunge
into Hall A, skipping past all these wooden and plastic analog
entertainments in your rush for full-on Pac-Man Fever and the fistful
of pixels you came for, and after
homicidal driving in Crazy Taxi, you
hop into pizza-crunching,
sidescrolling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles;
blast Asteroids into
bits; dodge waves of Dalek pinballs authentically voiced by Nicholas
Briggs; embrace the accelerating tedium of Space Invaders for one
level only; find that game you always got extra mileage on as a kid,
and let a line dawdle behind you; then remember
why you ever loved
Centipede when your eight year old can’t walk past one without
playing it.

Conclusion

RePlay
FX did such an incredible job cramming Hall A with buzzers, blinkers,
bumpers, tempests, pac-men, defenders, and asteroids that I had a
hard time remembering that this was not the largest con at the David
H Lawrence convention center this year. That honor would go to Tekko,
who takes over several halls, not only on the second floor but the
third floor. Despite that, RePlay FX felt like the bigger con this
year, using nearly every inch of Hall A, until it became like a
dragon’s lair, hoarded with glints, gleams, and sinister noises, a
destination worthy of an epic quest for a four day cache of digital
loot.

In terms of vision, RePlay FX is just as big and grandiose as the PAXes and those other gaming cons you’ve heard of and dreamed of going to–and if, in terms of size, it hasn’t yet achieved it, well, RePlay is only in its fifth year.

Cross-posted on Board of Life. RePlay FX provided free press passes to this event.



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