On Our Way to MGC 2023

Only a day away! As I wrote in a previous article, Lincoln and I are heading out mid-west to attend Midwest Gaming Classic 2023.

What is MGC?

Midwest Gaming Classic is a premier classic gaming conference held every year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to the snow and freezing temperatures, attendees get to experience the awe of a plethora of classic game systems, tabletop games, pinball, and arcade machines. For some of the *ahem* more experienced “Gen Xers” like myself, we relish with bouts of giddy as we relive the systems and games we grew up with… or didn’t! And for those that haven’t been fortunate enough to experience classic 8 and 16-bit platforms, they get to see why my generation is the greatest in the technological age.

In addition to the many opportunities to nerd out, MGC also brings with it a series of social activities and a cast of colorful characters that all share the love of classic gaming. Some of these characters are well-known within the retro community, and so MGC presents an opportunity to rub elbows with these A-listers.

Friday’s gameBadge3 Workshops

Badgeris: my NES Tetris Clone for gameBadge3

I’m writing this as dusk sets upon us on this mild Thursday evening in Baltimore. Lincoln and I are at the airport, waiting in the boarding area for our 2-hour flight to Milwaukee, just in time for tomorrow’s activity. When we land, we’ll be headed straight to the hotel to get a few hours of rest for the next morning’s activities… because tomorrow morning, we’ll be lending a hand in Ben Heckendorn’s gameBadge3 workshop. We’ll help people build their systems correctly, assist them with soldering, programming, and hopefully not break their gameBadges. I’ve been working with the gameBadge3 for a couple of months now, and there’s no doubt that this is the best and most powerful gameBadge yet. The folks in this workshop are really going to enjoy building and playing their badges!

In preparation for the workshop, I have several items that I’m toting along with me. First up is a bunch of screen brackets and pins that I designed and printed for the workshop participants. These brackets will allow folks to flush-mount their gameBadge3 screens to the PCB, keeping it low-profile. I printed 50 brackets and 200 pins, so there would be a few extras… all on my Prusa MK3S+ with urban grey PETG filament. Nice!

I’ve also brought with me a variety of tools. I’ve covered the basics like plenty of tweezers of various types and sizes, some extra soldering irons, and a couple of multimeters. I also brought some some eye loupes for examining solder joints, as we’ll be working with tiny surface mount components.

50 (or so) sets of screen brackets and pins for the gameBadge3 workshop

What Else We’ll be Doing

After the workshop is over, Lincoln and I will have 2 full days to explore and play. It’s not all goofing off (though there will certainly be a lot of that) – we have a mission to get a couple of things accomplished while we’re there. First off, we want to play as many different types of pinball machines as possible. You see, I’m in the market for a pinball machine for my basement, and I’m not quite sure what I want yet. So, I’d like to come away from MGC with at least some idea of what I’d like. I don’t plan on purchasing one while I’m there, but if any vendor wants to strike a deal instead of having to load that pinball machine back up on their truck on Sunday, I’m all ears!

Then, of course, there’s the goofing off. We’re planning on spending as much time as we can in the main arcade room floor and playing as many arcade games as we can. I’d like to play through at least a few cabinets (on free play, of course!), but in addition to that, I’d like to spend some time playing on some of the classic systems. One of the things I regret from last year is not taking the time to play with the Magnavox Odyssey or some of the clones that were available. And one of our favorite things from last year that we’ll be sure to repeat is the classic FPS LAN setup!

Lincoln playing a class FPS at last year’s MGC

Playing games isn’t the only form of entertainment we’ll be taking in, however. There are also many gaming tournaments this year, which we’ll be sure to spectate. Some of interesting competitions we hope to catch are the blindfolded Pac-Man (Atari 2600) tournament, the MidWest Tetris Championship, and the Midwest Pinball Championship.

My Wish List

The last bit of serious business at MGC will be focused on expanding my collection. This is a lesson that I learned from last year, when I entered the vendor floor and was frozen by overwhelm. There was so much that I wanted to purchase, but I wasn’t prepared to bring a bunch of stuff home with me. I also didn’t really know what exactly I needed, at that time. Not this year, though! I’ve put some time into thinking about this in advance, and put together a list of systems, games, and accessories that I’d like to purchase if I find them … and the max price that I’d be willing to pay.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I prefer to add systems to my collection that are broken and I have to repair, so I’ll be preferring those systems that are in need of a doctor. If the right item from my list comes my way, though, and for the right price, I probably would not turn it away. I’ll also be looking for some harder-to-find titles for my collections. In particular, I’m keen to get my Virtual Boy collection completed, so I’ll be looking for some of those games that tend to get major price-hikes on eBay.

There are also a few game libraries that I’ve just recently started collecting. So in addition to grabbing some of the harder-to-find titles, I’ll be scraping the bottom of the bargain bins to grab the easier and cheaper titles that I don’t have. One of these is original Game Boy titles. You can buy them eBay and other used-item marketplaces, but the authenticity of some of the titles is questionnable.


After reading this, you might think that I have unrealistically high expectations about MGC this year. Well, they are high, but I don’t think they’re unrealistic… at least not if last year’s experience holds true again for this year. But regardless of whether the workshop is a success, we find the perfect pinball machine, or come home with anything cool – the most important thing is that Lincoln and I will be spending some time together exploring a world that we both love. Father and son, shoulder-to-shoulder, mashing buttons and beating up bad guys… I’d call that experience a success.

I’m planning on doing a follow-up article to talk more about our experience this year, so keep an eye peeled for that one next week. And of course, if you’re going to be at MGC, say hi if you see me and Lincoln… especially if you’re going to be Ben’s workshop on Friday!

One comment

  1. […] As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Lincoln and I took off on a father/son adventure and attended Midwest Gaming Classic 2023 in Milwaukee. We’ve been home for about 2 weeks now, and I’ve been reminiscing about the great time we had. Here are some highlights from our trip. […]

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