On September 19, 2015, I made my debut convention booth appearance at the aptly-titled A Video Game Con in northern New Jersey. Although it wasn’t my first time at a con, it was in fact my first time manning my own booth all by myself — which was a major learning experience, to say the least. My plan initially was to have a table setup with my giant functional LEGO NES Controller, and next to it, a table with some of my best electronic LEGO creations. This plan was a success, and thus I spent about 12 hours on the convention floor to showcase my work, and to allow patrons to play a round of Tetris on the big controller.
Early morning calibration after repairing the controller on the night before. Photo by Sarah Needleman.
Simply getting there from Queens, NY was a challenge in itself. Without a car (at the time), I had to rent a small sedan from Enterprise, and with no roommates to assist me, I had to carry each large item into the car — and in doing so, I significantly damaged the NES controller. For you see, I constructed the controller without the intention of taking it places, hence it’s more of a large statue, and difficult to transport. As I attempted to lug it down two flights of stairs from my house, the sides began to crack, and buttons caved in. Once I placed it in the back of the car, the controller began to crumble significantly. Next I ended up getting stuck in traffic in New York for a few hours, before arriving to my destination hotel in Parsippany, NJ on mid-day Friday the 18th. Wasting no time, I promptly began making repairs to the giant controller.
Oh the humanity! The above photos were the wreckage giant LEGO NES controller taken immediately after I pulled it from the back of my car.
Friday the 18th, scrambling to make last-minute repairs. Photo by Chris Cheng.
From around 8:30 PM Friday to 1:30 AM Saturday, I painstakingly rebuilt the whole controller, and set up most of my available LEGO creations. While listening to Motörhead, Kiss, and Black Sabbath, I burned the midnight oil until my fingers hurt from constantly pressing down little pieces of plastic. Essentially, the outer walls of the controller cracked and separated from the green baseplates, which caused a fissure throughout the inner structure, and made the large buttons collapse. Fortunately the electronics were completely intact and didn’t need rewiring. The real challenge in this repair phase was the fact that the outer walls were severely out of alignment with the base, and most of the structure had to be rebuilt. Also, I was running into multiple errors with the alignment of the D-pad button, since the pieces that initially held it in place had been torn out of their studs.
Once repaired, I managed to get back to my hotel, sleep for a few hours, then proceeded back to the convention center around 8 AM Saturday to start the remaining last-minute tasks: setting up my computer, placing all of my merchandise on display, and setting up my banner. While running on an empty stomach, being dehydrated, and lacking sleep, I managed to stand around by my table until later that evening — all in all gladly demonstrating the giant NES controller to any visitors, and pitching electronic LEGO models for sale. I ended selling both of my mosaic LEGO Super Mario block lamps — both the 2013 and 2015 editions. Towards the beginning of the show, I rapidly sold all ten of my blinking Mario power-ups — thus running out of them completely by noon! Since these power-ups were my hottest items, I’ve decided that for subsequent appearances, I’ll build and sell as many as humanly possible!
Photos by Steven Gilder of Soft Focus Productions.
Here’s my good kemosabe Maniac4Bricks playing some Tetris on my giant LEGO NES Controller — very meta!
Around closing time (9-10 PM), I gradually dismantled most of my items, but remained by my booth to greet any more patrons who didn’t see the giant controller yet. Around this time, I traded my mosaic Luigi portrait to Mr. Richie Knucklez, and even got a chance to briefly speak to the king himself, Billy Mitchell. The following photos of me and Billy were taken as the con as about to end, and I was in the process of packing up — hence there was no time for me to let Billy play the controller, and in addition I’m clearly tired and distraught for standing for so long:
Say what you will about the King of Kong, but anyone who knows me personally should know that I’ve always been a fanboy of Mr. Mitchell since the early days of G4TV — in fact, when I first moved to New York City in 2010, I’d even wear the American flag necktie to job interviews!
After I packed up my rental car said my goodbyes to the con’s managers, I hauled back to my hotel room at the Hyatt, ate some of my leftover meatball pizza, and decompressed to my classic rock playlist! Getting back home was rather straightforward, and didn’t take too long. Dropping off the rental car in Roslyn Heights and walking the whole way to Port Washington? Well, that’s a different story.
All in all, although it was a very difficult and stressful experience with the preparation and whatnot, I’d gladly do it again, assuming I have more time to prepare. This was my very first convention booth, and I’ll admit that I procrastinated in the months leading up to the event — which caused me to scramble at the last minute before the show. This con was a great learning experience to determine what steps I’ll need in order to better showcase my work at subsequent shows; in addition, I was able to discover which particular items of mine sell the best, and which ones to exhibit. As mentioned previously, the blinking Mario power-ups were the hottest items that sold out almost instantly — especially the green 1-Up mushrooms!
Who knows: maybe Comic Con or Maker Faire will be next.
-Baron von Brunk