TORG Gaming Expo enters its eighth year
Mike Colletti's ever-growing convention for gamers returns Saturday, Sept. 25, at Superkick in Lewis Center
Eight years ago, Mike Colletti could never have imagined a full-blown 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, that small circle of enthusiasts evolved into something that transcends vintage Neo Geo consoles and Ms. Pacman cabinets.
“What we are doing this year, to set ourselves apart from just a place to buy and sell games, is to really make this an experience,” Colletti said of the TORG Gaming Expo, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 25, at Superkick Columbus in Lewis Center. “In addition to the game exchange, we’ve invited comic collectors, anime enthusiasts, cosplay, toy vendors, 3D model creators and custom artists.”
Indeed, the umbrella of nerd culture has grown exponentially each year of the TORG, and Colletti, along with partner Rachel Oscherwitz, have followed suit. Superkick will be their third venue change since the beginning of the convention, and with more than 150 vendors covering 32,000 square feet, TORG just keeps growing. But according to Colletti, this is not primarily a money-making venture. Instead, his quest is to create a family-friendly event that retains the feeling of a close-knit community.
Gaming remains at the heart of TORG. Beyond the requisite nostalgia for vintage arcade games and consoles, there are continuous tournaments throughout the day. All tournaments are free to enter with admission, and a few, including a Dr. Mario championship and a Mike Tyson's Punch-Out Challenge, include cash for the winners. Friendly competition is also a thread with the TORG mascot, a character created by Colletti. At the expo, the costumed mascot roams the grounds and takes on any competitors who will have him.
Much like the adventure of virtual gaming, the expo incorporates some in-person game play in the Kids Zone. There are scavenger hunts, live trivia, secret treasure chests and rock-paper-scissors competitions that add to the experience of younger participants. With kids or without, die-hard or casual gaming fan, Colletti is constantly adding elements to the convention so that anyone can find something of interest.
Star Wars fanatics take note: The 501st Legion, a Lucasfilm-sanctioned charity organization, will be on hand with a Jaku hut recreation, as well as costumed Storm Troopers who will go on bounty hunts to find attendees in the crowd and award them with Star Wars-themed prizes.
Colletti said the door prizes (worth more than $4,000) are one of the biggest draws of the expo. The price of admission ensures a chance to win modded Game Boys, PlayStation 5 systems, a Japanese-imported mahjong set and other sundries. In addition, attendees are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters, as TORG will feature a cosplay competition.
Given the number of subcultures that have been folded into the TORG, it’s likely to have the feeling of a more traditional comic-con, rather than just a place to spend money on that elusive copy of 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, remarking on the expo’s two-year absence. “It’s a very rewarding feeling to see the interactions within the community and the friendships that form because of this common bond.”
The TORG Gaming Expo takes place Saturday, Sept. 25, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit torgevents.com.