I arrived at an unassuming building in Bloomington, Illinois during a torrential downpour early Saturday morning. As a first time attendee of the Bloomington Video Game Convention, I mostly expected to find retro game vendors trading their wares, a game room full of old arcade cabinets, and a whole lot of NBA Jam.

Constant readers may remember Live Action Games from an interview in 2020, where the proprietor Adrian opened up about the difficulties of running a retro establishment just before all our lives took a turn for the indoors. With the pandemic now in the rear view mirror (we hope), Adrian invited me out to see the sights for myself. LAG occupied a booth right at the entrance to BVGC; there are no pictures in the camera roll where our LAG friends are not besieged by a wall of customers.

(Adrian and Gary from RoXolid Productions joined forces for the day to sell their respective wares.)

While the LAG team got to work making deals and trades, I took to the floor to see the sights.

If your only convention experience is a major event like E3 or PAX, you may be unprepared for the rustic Midwestern Charm, which also sometimes comes with a certain amount of, shall we say, “jank”. An arcade cabinet in the back of the room struggles desperately to run Mortal Kombat 11 — even the character select screen stutters along at 15 frames a second.

Microphone announcements are somehow simultaneously overpowering in volume, yet also sound like the speaker is at the bottom of a well. The main stage and vendor hall are one and the same, leading to a cacophony of sounds over all the retail exchanges occurring.

This is, more or less, what I expected to find. I am neither disappointed, nor surprised. In fact, I might’ve been disappointed if everything was in perfect working order. Is it even a Midwestern convention if there isn’t at least one blown out speaker, or a handful of flickering fluorescent bulbs?

What I did not expect to find, however, were a fair amount of artists and independent game designers intermingled among the many retro vendor stalls. Rather than hunt for elusive or strange games, I instead found myself perusing homemade drink coasters and pixel art magnets, or playing alpha builds of upcoming indie releases.

While the intial plan was to capture the event in broad strokes, I opted instead to collect stories from the local masters of their respective crafts.

Yu Yu Hakusho is a deep personal cut of a media franchise near and dear to my heart. In it, a young punk named Yusuke Uremeshi dies saving a kid from a car accident. This buys Yusuke a chance at revival, provided he acts as a “spirit detective” and tracks down demons who escaped into the world of the living.

Yu Yu Hakusho had its primetime run in 1992. It is not a series on the forefront of most minds these days, and yet, at a particular artist’s booth, I spotted four recognizable silhouettes.

Twili Imp Artist

Trevor: Why don’t we start by just telling people who you are and what you do?

Kelli: My name is Kelli Bertschi, I stay at home and do art all day, pretty much. Art’s always been my life-long passion, now it’s time to do something with it. Kind of a self-taught artist.

T: Now people can’t see it, but you’re currently dressed as Claire Redfield from Resident Evil. Any special kinship for the Resident Evil series?

K: Absolutely love it. In my top three for the horror genre. Another one of my favorites is Silent Hill, but my all time favorite series of video games is the Legend of Zelda.

T: Very good. I also see a lot of anime influences as well. Think I saw some Yu Yu Hakusho around the corner? Is that the era of anime you were most-

K: Yeah, it was definitely the 90s and late 80s that was my favorite era of anime. Sailor Moon was my entry into anime — my dad used to work at Blockbuster and he always brought home tapes, and one day he brought me a Sailor Moon tape. I absolutely fell in love with the art style and I was like “I guess this is what I wanna draw.” I used to sit in front of the TV for hours, until — well, eventually I started drawing.

T: At what point did you feel confident enough to share your art with the world? Was it immediate, or did it take a lot of time?

K: It took a lot of time. When you’re putting yourself out there, you’re putting yourself in the spotlight. Even if it's your own canvas, it’s very intimidating.

T: I can definitely understand that; I’ve felt the same way at times. Last question — where can people find you?

K: Usually I post to Facebook, Instagram, and now TikTok. I’ve really been enjoying Tiktok, because I can actually make videos of behind the scenes, rather than just showing the pictures.

T: Okay, so if people wanna see your process—

K: Yup!

T: —they can check it out there.

K: Also, on Facebook I’ve got a little community. If people want to join, they can help influence what the theme of my art will be at times.

T: And the handle people can find you at is?

K: Twili Imp Artist.

Any fan of Final Fantasy would be hard-pressed to walk past Landon Ruan’s booth. I turned the corner to find a wall of recognizable characters and environments. Unfortunately for Landon, his booth was quite close to the main stage, which means the speakers above him were absolutely bumpin’. I did my best to sneak in an interview while the DJ played on.

Landon Ruan

T: Let’s start with uh... what’s your name?

L: Name’s Landon.

T: And what’s your artist handle, if people wanted to look for your work on Twitter, Instagram?

L: I have my own website. It’s on my card, right here. [Sounds of Landon producing a card from his desk] I’m also active on Instagram, which is on the card as well.

T: Excellent. I see a lot of Final Fantasy inspired artwork. One of your favorite series?

L: Absolutely. One of my all time favorites, since the very first game, Final Fantasy 1. As you see over here, this whole stack is from Final Fantasy 1 through 4, still working on 5 and 6. Classic series. Also a huge fan of the 90s series, including 7, 8, 9. My goal with Final Fantasy is to do as many characters as I can from the series, and then also do summons, creatures, monsters.

T: Perfect, fantastic. How long have you been illustrating for, would you say?

L: Like when I first started holding a pen?

T: Yeah, let’s go with that!

L: I would say maybe, 7 or 8 years old.

T: [Laughing] very good.

Landon's backgrounds and landscapes are particularly impressive.

L: When I started selling artwork like this, that would be 09.

T: And how long have you been coming to this convention specifically?

L: This is my third year. Not including the Pandemic time.

T: Right. Difficult time for everybody. Thank you very much for your time, I appreciate it. How’s the turnout been so far?

[Music starts blasting around now, drowning out my own voice. The question gets repeated when it dies down]

T: The turnout, how’s it been so far?

L: It’s quite... pretty good! People are starting to gather up, lots of fans of Final Fantasy here.

The first Indie developer I happened upon was tucked away in a corner, just to the left of the entrance. A simple title screen on a TV says “INTO THE DEPTHS.”

After a brief introduction, I was in those depths.

While Into the Depths was certainly rough around the edges, I was impressed at how easy it was to pick up and understand. The game plays not unlike a twin stick shooter version of Gauntlet, a forumla right at home in a retro gaming convention. The speed at which creatures track you in the halls makes it clear running and gunning is key to survival. Within only a few floors, I felt like I’d gotten the hang of it.

At one point, I managed to kite a myriad of foes in a wide circle, slowly whittling them down. It’s also at this point I remember I’m at a convention, and it’s probably not a great idea to tie up the only available station for the next hour for the sake of my gold accumulation strat.

I decided to press further in until I met my demise.

BTL Games

T: Okay, so first off, introduce yourselves for me.

Devin Larson: Hi, I’m Devin Larson, with BTL games.

T: Okay, so I’ve just played the demo for... Into the Depths, it's called?

D: Yup yup!

T: How long would you say its been in development now?

D: Honestly, on or off, I’d say four years now.

T: Okay.

D: Um... more off than on, but I’d say four years.

T: Okay, very good. I noticed the phrase Technomancer in there.

D: Yup, yup.

T: Would you say there’s a big cyberpunk aesthetic present?

D: Absolutely. So yeah, you’re astrally projecting into cyberspace. Lots of fun mechanics there. I wanted to make a roguelike dungeon crawl...

[Pause as Devin thinks, trying to recall an old inspiration.]

D: Man, there was a game on the Xbox Indie market way back, and I cannot remember the name of it.

T: [Laughs]

D: And instead of trying to look for lost media, I was like, “screw it, I’m gonna make it!” But I was also like, “man, I don’t want to make just another dungeon crawl, so let’s put a sci-fi twist on it.”

T: And what engine are you developing in?

D: I’m actually using GameMaker for this. I got it for really cheap, and I fell in love with it. I was like, “well, this is really intuitive and fast to build.”

T: Very good. So the convention itself, how long have you been coming out here for—

D: Oh, I — that’s a good question. I don’t think I was at the first one. When was the first one?

T: I uh, wish I could tell you, but this is my first time also.

D: Oh, really? It was before COVID times, and that really throws a wrench in it. Makes me wonder, “how many times have I really been here?” I’ve been here three times now, so however many years ago that was.

T: I understand. Feels like we all lost two years.

D: It really does.

T: If only my age didn’t go up two years also. So what—

[Slight pause as two new arrivals at the convention begin their own run of Into the Depths]

T: So, which platforms were you aiming to launch on?

D: PC and Linux. We are on itch.io—

[The new players have questions for Devin as their run starts to get ugly]

T: You know what, why don’t we pause for a minute so you guys can keep tabs on this run?

[Interview resumes]

T: So where can people follow development of Into the Depths?

D: Itch.io is my main focus right now. I post on my personal instagram, that is Dvnzook, I also do art and... honestly, anything digital. That’s the kind of artist I am. There’s also a BTL Facebook page. Twitter I’m really bad at. I wish I was better at Twitter.

T: As a frequent Twitter user, I’m going to say that’s probably for the best, so don’t feel too bad about it.

D: Fully get that. I fully recommend itch.io, I always post devlogs there. I really want to start a YouTube, because like, video devlogs have always been very interesting to me. That’s where we’re at.

T: Last question, and this one’s just for me. Why are the finger skateboards here? I gotta know.

D: Yeah yeah, so like I said, I do weird art, and these are ones I made!

T: No kidding.

D: This one here is a glitch art technique. I 3D modeled little eyeball icons, then distorted the video so it does the crazy glitching effect. This one was a print I did based on Y2K.

T: Oh!

D: Like I said, I do anything digital.

T: Oh, amazing. [Pause] Oh my god, it’s a pun. It’s a pun! It’s a Tech DECK.

D: Yeah. Yeah, yeah!

T: Oh my god! Oh my god. Well, I better take a picture of that or people won’t understand a word of what just happened here.

D: Absolutely.

T: Thank you!

Many vendor spots were occupied by indie game sellers and vendors. These places were often so packed for the day, I felt uncomfortable pulling anyone away for an interview. When I spotted a Combo Breaker shirt at this particular booth however, I had a hunch I wanted to follow.

Retro Velocity

T: So first off, who am I here with?

Brandon: I’m Brandon, I run Retro Velocity. You can find that on Twitter and Instagram at RetroVelocityIL.

T: Where are you guys located?

B: Near the Decal, Aurora area.

T: Okay.

B: I run an online shop mainly, and I mostly advertise through Twitter and Instagram.

T: And how often have you guys been out here, multiple years now?

B: Yes, we’ve been here since it first started in 2018.

T: Oh wow.

B: To this one specifically. We do multiple a year.

T: So the only one you’ve missed is the one that was COVID related.

B: Yes.

T: Well done. So I also noticed the Combo Breaker shirt, have you been out there to see it in person?

B: Yeah, I’ve been doing that as well, more as a competitor rather than a spectator.

T: No kidding! What games are you competing in?

B: Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Guilty Gear: Strive, and Skullgirls are what I’m competing in this time around.

T: Hell yeah.

B: I’ve also done Accent Core +R and Melty Blood.

T: Nice! So you’ve got a lot to compete in out there.

B: Yeah.

T: So I gotta know, how far have you gone?

B: [Pause] how far have I gone?

T: Yeah. [After another delay] Top 64.

B: Nah.

T: Top 128.

B: Nah. I haven’t even gotten outta pools.

T: [Laughs]

B: This year’s the year though!

As of the time of publication, Combo Breaker is underway in Chicago. Here’s to hoping Brandon finally made it out of pools. And Brandon, if you’re reading this, don’t worry — I too have been crushed in the competitive scene. Keep it up out there.

For the next artist, this amusing doodle drew my attention.

Taryn Klockenga had a booth near the center of the convention center, and every time I walked by something new caught my eye. In a rather strange coincidence, another reporter for a local paper showed up asking for questions and pictures at the same time I did.


T: So first off, who am I here with?

Taryn: Taryn Klockenga.

T: And how often have you come out to this convention specifically?

Taryn: This is my first time.

T: Mine too! How often have you been to other conventions? Have you shown off your work elsewhere?

Taryn: I did Perioacon yearly, but this is the first year I’ver really been branching out, so a lot of it is brand new.

T: And where can people find you, online, or anywhere where you post your work?

Taryn: Yup, on TikTok and Instagram. Tauntingwabbit.

T: Tauntingwabbit.

Taryn: Tauntingwabbit.

T: Tell us about the handle, how’d it come about?

Taryn: Back in the day, back in AOL—

T: [Laughs]

Taryn: —I didn’t want anything everyone else had. I happened to have monty python and was like, “hey! There ya go.” Tauntingwabbit.

T: Forged in the fires of AOL Instant Messenger, yes?

Taryn: Yes, exactly.

T: Very good. As far as your influences go, I notice a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a fair amount of Star Wars inspired work as well. Are those the media franchises you’re most drawn to?

Taryn: It’s just kind of what I’m doing at the time. Just standing here, I have an idea for a Diablo piece. You know, Star Wars is always there but its weird, I don’t do a lot of artwork on Star Wars, because I worry I don’t do it justice.

T: Wow. Okay, sure. One other question I had was I wanted to know about the process — going from idea, to artwork, to finished piece?

Taryn: It’s a lot of sketchwork, and then... a lot of doubt, and then—

T: [Laughs]

Taryn: —and then you start workin’ on it, and you’re like, “okay, this is gonna be good.” I like a lot of colors, so I try to make it bright and whatnot, and then hope for the best in the end. There’s that middle dip, where you’re full of doubt, and then it’s like, “oh wait, this is looking really good! I guess I’ll keep going.”

T: Last question, how’s the turnout been so far?

Taryn: It’s been great! Everyone’s been super friendly. I love talking geek with everyone.

T: Excellent, thank you for your time.

I'd heard of Wesleyan University before, but before the Bloomington Video Game Convention, I had no idea they had their own Esports team. I took a moment to speak to the Esports Director, Cora Kennedy, who was present to represent the program.

Illinois Wesleyan Esports Team

T: Don’t wanna keep anyone too locked down today, so I’ll do my best to keep it quick. First off, who am I here with?

Cora Kennedy: Hi, my name is Cora Kennedy, I’m the director of Epsorts for the University of Illinois Wesleyan.

T: Alright! And so is this an official Esports team for the university?

C: Yes. We are a varsity team, we went varsity in 2018. We have a full program with 50 students, and about three-to-five staff.

T: Are there any specific games that are a focus of the program, in terms of what students compete in?

C: So we compete in League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Fortnight, Smash, and Valorant. However, our big focus has turned into Rocket League and Overwatch, because those are our best teams.

T: Okay. Go where the talent is I suppose, that makes sense. How has the team been performing so far, would you-

C: Well, there’s no season for us necessarily. For example, our Rocket League team played four concurrent seasons at once and—

[At this point, the NBA JAM tournament gets underway. Our voices are quickly overpowered by the auditorium microphone.]

C: Do we wanna wait for—

T: Yeah, let’s pause.

[A few minutes later, when I foolishly thought it was safe.]

T: Okay, we’re back! So, other question I had was—

[A new announcement on the loudspeaker begins]

T: [Laughs] Every time. So, how long has the program been running?

C: The program was started in 2017 as a club. It was taken Varsity in 2018, and it was building more until 2020.

T: How long have you guys been coming out here specifically?

C: This is the first time. Because my marketing director Wesley emailed me about two weeks ago like, “hey, this is a thing that’s happening!” I was like, “That’s new. Okay, Let’s go!”

T: So it was about two weeks from finding out you were going to be here, to being here?

C: Yes, I mean... we’ve done things on shorter notice, because in Esports there’s a lot of, “hey, that’s a cool thing, lets go do it!” So we do a lot of creating things out of thin air. I’ve created tournaments out of thin air, we’ve run tournaments with one week notice, it’s just what we do.

T: Wow, excellent. So how’s the turnout been so far?

C: So our biggest thing we’re for actually, is advertising our summer camp for students. I’ve already had about four or five families interested, and that on its own already pays for the venue spot.

T: What can people expect from your summer program?

C: Our summer program is meant for students ages 11 to 13, roughly middle school age. The whole goal is gaming and Esports, but also teaching leadership skills, and showing that Esports isn’t just sitting in a dark room and playing games. And so we get students active in doing teamwork building activities, lots of camp stuff really, and then gaming in our sate-of-the-art facility just for gaming on the Wesleyan Campus.

T: Alright, thanks for your time!

A big thank you to Cora for powering through NBA Jam commentary for this one — and a thank you to my recorder for not losing this one among the ruckus.

In terms of humorous gags, nothing made me laugh out loud quite like Zac Atkinson's work. His booth was an endless barrage of artistic jokes, blending multiple art styles and media properties together.

Zac Atkinson

T: I’m here with-

Zac: Zac Atkinson.

T: How many times have you been out to this convention?

Z: This is my first time at this one.

T: Hey, mine too. How long have you been illustrating, drawing?

Z: Oh, of course since I was a little kid. After high school, I started working for a studio that was coloring comic books. It was called Color Separations at the time. That was in Mt. Zion, and I’m originally from Shelbyville, Illinois. So like, since about 18 I’ve been working professionally.

T: Wow, okay. What uh, are there any covers you’ve done that are very recognizable that people would know?

Z: Most of what I’ve done that would be recognizable is coloring, so I’ve done a lot of comics and comic book covers. So I used to do covers for Young Justice, these last couple years I’ve done Marvel Age Spider-Man, Transformers, Bruce Lee, Farscape, and a couple other things. Closest thing that’s really gone viral is my parody illustrations. Inside Arkham went a little viral, and my Peanuts cast as a slasher movie.

T: I was going to say, a lot of your work seems to be a fusion of media franchises and a gag, pun, or twist of sorts.

Z: Oh yeah. If there’s a joke, I have to do it.

T: On a particular note, I love the beer coasters. The Han Solo and Lando one are spot on for what they are.

Z: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Zac had a whole line of drink-label-inspired artworks available as coasters.

T: If people want to follow your work or find you, where can they do it?

Z: My website is Zacsart. You can find me at Zac Atkinson on Instagram and Twitter.

T: Thank you for your time.

At the next booth, a gauntlet is thrown before my feet.

The Battlefield: Pokémon Stadium's minigame collection.

Rules: Best two out of three wins the crown.

We started with "Dig! Dig! Dig!" Four sandshrews dig like mad to find water. This mostly entails wildly pounding the L and R buttons.

I lost, but I at least felt competitive.

Next is "Sushi-Go-Round." A bunch of Likitungs scarf up sushi at a Sushi Kaiten resturant. The winner is the one who racks up the most expensive bill.

This is where disaster strikes.

It is the most shameful outcome for both of us. The score is now 1 Renzie, 1 yellow CPU, 0 me.

The final match is "Clefairy Says." A Clefairy teacher draws directions to follow on a board.

I'm out by the third set of instructions. A computer wins this one also, but because Renzie stayed alive longer, she is the victor. But, I'm not sent home empty-handed. I am given a monkey badge to commemorate the slaughter. I'm told his name is Monkey Joe.

I've got one year to prepare for the rematch.

With my defeat solidified, I turned my attention to the coffee paintings on display.

Kagan Masters

T: So who am I here with?

Kagan Masters: I’m Kagan Masters, and I paint with coffee!

T: You do! I’ve noticed.

K: I do a lot of coffee paintings, I also do watercolors too and sometimes digital. More traditional formats.

T: Okay, and who’s this here challenging people to N64 games?

K: This is Renzie, she’s the N64 master in our house.

T: Very good. Does she challenge the whole household to—

K: Oh yeah, yeah. Though she’s not as good as her little brother, her little brother can really kill it.

T: Ooh, okay. Can you tell us a little about the differences between painting with coffee versus watercolors?

K: What I do is I take instant coffee and mix it really thick, with just a little bit of water. Then you can use it just like watercolor — exact same color, exact same texture, it just looks like coffee and smells like coffee. It has a really nice neutral aesthetic.

T: And when did you start illustrating and painting?

K: Probably more around 2014 is when I really started doing a lot of art. I have a studio at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, so that’s where my stuff always is. You can always find originals there.

T: Are there any classes there, or is it just a space for you?

K: It’s just my workspace. Anyone can come up during normal business hours at the Contemporary Art Center, look around, view the gallery. I’m a little more nerdy than traditional gallery work, but it’s fun!

T: Last question, when did you first start incorporating coffee?

K: 2014.

T: Wait, the same time?

K: I started painting with coffee before I started doing watercolors.

T: How did that come about?

K: You spill coffee on paper and just go with it, you know?

T: [Laughs]. I love it. Thanks for your time.

For the final interview, I came across a rather small booth against the far wall of the Convention Center.

Once upon a time, maybe I would've found this premise unusual, but you know what? Just last year alone I dated weapons in Boyfriend Dungeon. And prior to that, I've dated pigeons, dads, and a skeleton. Why shouldn't bats have their turn?

Bat Cafe

T: So first off, who am I here with?

Tracy: Hi, my name is Tracy, I’m the director, character designer, and head writer of Bat Cafe. It’s an indie dating simulator based around educational facts about bats. It’s all true! It’s all about learning.

T: How big would you say your team is?

Tracy: Technically three of us. My fiancé made the music, and I have a colleague overseas named Angus Beer who did the programming. We worked on it remotely through google drive during the pandemic. We would provide the assets online, and he programmed everything in Gamemaker.

T: So pretty much most of the production team is here right now.

Tracy: Pretty much. I was going to make a cardboard cutout of him, but I ran out of time because I was making everything else! I have a picture of him, but I wasn’t able to make the stand I wanted to to prop him in for pictures.

T: So did production of the game start during Covid, then?

Tracy: The initial concept happened in 2018, but we didn’t really do anything with it up until about August of 2021. So, we had been working on it for about three months, and the rough version launched with four dateable characters in November of 2021. But recently, after I found out about this convention, we kicked it into high gear and we added two additional characters and a new campaign. All of this was done remotely, we communicated through discord and twitter and that kind of thing.

T: Wow, very good. So is this the first time Bat Cafe is here at this convention then?

Tracy: Yeah, yeah. I saw a targeted ad for it on facebook of all places and reached out to Ryan to ask if he had any slots available. He was like, “you are in luck, we had one person drop out a month ago.” I was like, “sweet, I’d love to book it!” Then I told my colleague, “we have to work on the game now.

T: [Laughs]

Tracy: And we did it! We pulled it off, no problem. So we have a PC download version that just launched today, with those two new characters and the new campaign.

T: One question people will definitely want to know — why bats? How did it come to be about bats in the first place?

Tracy: We thought about doing — Angus has been a developer for a while, most of his background is in action adventure, shoot ‘em ups, and metroidvanias. We had been friends on Twitter for a while, and he was like, “I really like your art, would you like to try making a game? If you could, what would you want to make?” and I said, “dating simulator.”

T: Well, of course.

Tracy: There’s something about the inherent ridiculousness of something like Hatoful Boyfriend. It’s very funny to me, the idea of giving these pigeons distinct characteristics. Bats made sense to me because of all the different species. They have different dietary habits, different migratory patterns, so a lot of those characteristics inform their personalities. I’ll show you on the poster.

[Tracy presents the cast of bats, as promised.]

Tracy: This buff bodybuilder is called a pallid bat, they’re known for killing scorpions and drinking their venom.

T: Oh, shit.

Tracy: So, he’s a daredevil. [Tracy taps the bat to the left of the pallid bodybuilder.] This one here is a fruit bat named Iris, she’s got an adopted daughter. She’s a former opera star and, as a fruit bat, an immigrant from Guam. We’ve also got Benjamin the mailman, and that’s because this particular species, the California leaf-nose bat, they have a very limited range of where they migrate, so it made sense to have him be a mailman since he goes to the same places. So, a lot of those characteristics went into the character designs.

T: Wow.

Tracy: We address that in the art book too. That’s included if you pay 10$ on itch.io, and that includes the soundtrack as well.

T: I was going to ask where people can find and download this.

Tracy: Absolutely! They can go on Angus Beer — Angus like the burger — itch.io.

T: Thank you. Now I have to know, is the mailman dateable?

Tracy. Yes. He’s really into gardening, and he brings you cake later in the game. In the second campaign, you’re trying to help a vampire bat who works at a Chuck E. Cheese knockoff called Randy Roaches Pizzatronic Hoedown.

T: Oh my goodness.

Tracy: She’s asking for your help in planning this fundraiser, and she’s getting a promotion at the arcade to become the owner and manager. But, she needs to raise money to do it so she’s asking you, Willow, for help. You enlist his help with handing out invitations.

T: Excellent.

Tracy: And he dresses up as Seymour Krelborn from Little Shop of Horrors.

T: [Laughing] Oh my goodness.

Tracy: I was in a very big movie phase during most of this writing.

T: Amazing. Thank you for your time!

A Brief Rundown of Other Events

I am not going to top Bat Cafe, but there’s a few other happenings I would be remiss to omit.

  • One recognizable (and arguably infamous) face briefly appeared:

Billy Mitchell here showed up to present an award to Galloping Ghost Arcade for their work in game preservation.

  • Perhaps the most prominent figure present the entire day was Tim Kitzrow, A.K.A. Mr. Boomshakalaka himself.

It was hard to miss Tim; he spent a fair amount of the day narrating NBA Jam matches on the main stage.

Tim was far too busy to stop for an interview, but his presence was a constant delight. When the NBA Jam tournament above went to a sixth overtime, Tim kept up the commentating. A master at work.

  • Also present were Paul E. Niemeyer and Daniel Pesina, both of original Mortal Kombat fame. Paul was the original artist, responsible for the iconic logo and character portraits. Daniel Pesina, meanwhile is most recognizable in the original games as Johnny Cage, but was also a choreography director.

A convention like the Bloomington Illinois Video Game Convention is never going to compare to a major event like PAX or E3. At first, this may sound like a knock; after all, you’re not going to play the demo for an upcoming Nintendo release, or bump into your favorite Twitch variety streamer.

But the truth is, a place like BVGC offers an experience PAX and E3 could never give you. At those major conventions, you’re just another face in the crowd. Here, you’re among the cast. For an entire day, you all know each other, seeing the same faces over and over again. People take time to get to know each other. Every sale comes with a conversation.

Should you fly out from the coastline to Bloomington for BVGC? Probably not, unless you really want Tim Kitzrow to record a voicemail message for you. But, if you're within a few hours, it is absolutely worth your time.

On a broader level, however, there's much to be gained from seeking out the gatherings in your own backyard, rather than only seeking out the next major international trade show.

If I'd stayed home, just think how much less I would now know about bats. Pallid bats are metal af.

The Bloomington Video Game Convention started in 2018 and has grown ever since. It is managed and operated by Ryan Tauscher.