Interview with Midwest Gaming Classic co-founder Dan Loosen by Ryan Gorman @itsRocketSause
I discovered the Midwest Gaming Classic last year, and boy was I taken back by how much this wonderful convention has to offer. If you are a fan of all things gaming related, this convention is for you.
The Midwest Gaming Classic, or MGC, will be taking place this year on Saturday April 12th & Sunday 13th at the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel in Brookfield, WI. What can you expect from this year’s MGC? How about a huge Arcade and Pinball hall. If you have ever wanted to add one of these machines to your gamer cave, or if just want to replay a game from your past you should start here. Are you into collecting retro video games? Well you’re in luck because this year’s vendor hall will be double the size from last year. If gaming without electricity is your thing, there is a dedicated area at the convention for Table Top Gaming. Nintendo will be in attendance this year promoting some of their biggest releases on the Wii U and 3DS. There is also Classic Gaming and Computer museum, tournaments, a Speaker Hall, and live music performed by the bands Beaker, and The Zelda Routine.
For more information about the MGC, I reached out to Dan Loosen(Co-Founder of the MGC). Dan was willing to take some time out his busy schedule leading up to the MGC to answer some questions for thegamercave.com. In our conversation, we talked about the history of the convention, how has the MGC grown over the years, and what can we expect at this year’s MGC.
Ryan: How many years has the MGC been going on?
Dan: We trace the history of the show to 2001 when Gary and I hosted traveling Atari Jaguar Festival here. It was a celebration of the Atari Jaguar console and the community of people that enjoyed playing the games that were surprisingly still coming out for it. We expanded the scope to include other systems that Jaguar fans enjoyed, and had the most successful “Jagfest” to that point. We had such a blast running the convention that in 2002, we decided we were going to continue the tradition, and we hosted the first ever “Midwest Classic”, expanding the concept of the show to include pinball machines and welcoming everyone to come share what they loved about gaming with us!
Ryan: How has the convention grown over the years?
Dan: It’s hard to even explain how much the show has grown. When we started, we were in one smaller room, and drew about 100 people to the show. This year, we’re constructing a large temporary structure to expand the vendor hall into because a hotel where we use over 45,000 square feet of space – including hotel rooms, their lobby, and restaurant – simply isn’t enough to hold it all. We also have had our content expand, for instance we welcomed a new table top section to the show starting about four years ago now, and that area continues to grow each year.
The show is really all about gaming enthusiasts sharing what they love about gaming with others, and Gary and I half-jokingly say that we’re just the enablers of bringing out this amazing content, but it’s true
Ryan: What were your goals when you started the convention?
Dan: Speaking just for myself, my goal was to just have fun, entertain people and meet people who we had started to know from online. If we started this for any other reason, I think we would have given up long ago, but the friendships formed with the show are amazing. I have met and continue to meet each year dozens of people that I end up hanging out with outside of the show because of the show, and I know that I’m not the only one. Gary once said that we’re really a “social trade show” and in many ways I agree – a lot of people who know each other online use the MGC to get together and meet those people who they talk to regularly online in real life at the show. It’s an honor to be able to provide something like that.
Ryan: How are you meeting your goals for the MGC?
Dan: Every year, our goal really remains the same, which is to put on a safe and fun show for those in attendance. Beyond that, I don’t really consider much else as a big goal – of course, we’d like to not lose money and stuff like that, but if the show is fun to do for those in attendance and those that are putting it on, I’m happy.
Ryan: What are some of your favorite attractions to the convention?
Dan: It’s hard for me to say. I love the arcade room being set up and giving people a taste of what it was like back when large arcades existed. Star Worlds Arcade is actually an arcade in Illinois that sets up an entire room with a different theme every year, and I love that room too. But seeing all the playable consoles is a blast for me too, and it is neat to see the reaction of people to the old games, or older people to the new ones. Ultimately, pretty much everything at the show is something that I think is really awesome, and I wish that I had more time to experience it all!
Ryan: What are some of the new attractions to the convention this year?
Dan: We’ve got some things in the works that I don’t feel like we can yet reveal, but one thing we can definitely reveal is just that we have more space. We’re constructing a temporary structure that will be more than 13,000 square feet for vendors and table top gaming space, and this allows us to put the arcade in a larger space, and the gaming museum in a larger space, and shuffle some stuff around to just basically bring in more of everything. And that to me is amazing. We’re still going to have the hallways filled too!
Ryan: Have you ever attended any other gaming conventions? If so, how do you think the MGC compares to the others?
Dan: We’ve managed to go to a few. I don’t like to compare the MGC to other conventions because every convention is unique, but I think the one thing that is really unique about our show is just how the content is spread out. I’ve heard people describe it as a “family friendly gaming frat party throughout a hotel” and I agree. There is something like 20 different rooms full of different displays, some very big, some pretty small, but all in their own way awesome. By having so many rooms, it makes each room feel like it is its own special event within our event, and it sort of makes it like you’re discovering awesome stuff all along the way. Most other conventions I’ve been too have all been in one or two rooms.
Also, we’re totally fan-driven. It’s fans that set up the rooms, fans that are running the displays, and so on. While we have some industry involvement, the majority of the show is fans bringing in and setting up their displays on their own of what they like. A lot of conventions are about the large companies trying to sell you on their next title, ours is more about celebrating what is there.
Ryan: I attended the MGC last year, and had an amazing time. The place was packed and it seemed like the convention used every room in the hotel. I remember seeing a story reported by the local news affiliate shortly after the convention ended. In that story it was reported that you were looking into expanding. Has there been any progress on an expansion?
Dan: The temporary structure that we’re putting up is a temporary solution to this problem.
Ryan: What got you into gaming?
Dan: I don’t know if it was any one thing. My dad had a 2600 and I loved going to rummage sales and “collecting” games for it before that was a thing. My first big purchase as a kid was my own NES. I really enjoyed playing games with other people, and so that helped. Also, my grandpa would take care of me on days when I didn’t have school but my parents worked, and often he had bowling league so he would take me along, and he would always give me $20 to play in the arcade with, which was a fortune to someone in the late 80s. I just fell in love with it and what was behind it. Gary and I actually became really good friends when we started staying after school nightly in 6th grade to program games on the school’s Apple ][ GS computers. I’ve always had an appreciation for it, and I still do.
The MGC continues to bigger every year. Last year’s MGC brought in an estimated 7000 attendees, and $500,000 to the city of Brookfield’s economy. With returning favorites like the Vendor and Arcade Hall, plus the new attractions like the Cosplay Competition, and Art Exhibit, the Midwest Gaming Convention should have something for any fan of gaming. For more information on the 2014 Midwest Gaming Classic, visit MidestGamingClassis.com, or follow the convention on Facebook and twitter. The guys from theGamerCave will be in attendance and we hope to see you there.