Arts & Culture

Game not over: It’s joysticks forever at annual Retropalooza

You can buy, trade and sell video games and related materials at Retropalooza.
You can buy, trade and sell video games and related materials at Retropalooza.

Pac-Man. Space Invaders. Atari 2600. ColecoVision. Nintendo NES.

If you grew up during the 1970s and ’80s, you probably experienced at least one of these pop-culture icons. This weekend at Retropalooza, now in its fifth year, you can relive the magic of classic video games, gobbling dots, shooting aliens and going on adventure quests.

You can also buy, trade and sell video games and related materials, parade around in costume, compete in tournaments and watch panels where experts discuss video games and their influence on popular culture at the Arlington event. Panels will feature popular YouTubers, including Norman Caruso, better known as “The Gaming Historian.”

One of the more erudite commentators, Caruso creates mini-documentaries on such topics as the Nintendo Power Glove, the invention of the D-pad (a type of video-game controller), “The Video Game Crash of 1983,” the history of Super Smash Bros. and “The Story of Super Mario Bros. 2,” which Caruso cites as one of his most popular episodes.

Caruso joined YouTube in 2006 during his junior year in college, and he has since amassed a substantial fan base, boasting more than 344,000 subscribers to his channel. He was inspired by such shows as “G4 Icons,” and by such personalities as the Angry Video Game Nerd, but he saw a gap in YouTube programming that he was more than happy to fill.

“There just wasn’t a lot of video-game history content online,” he says, “so I decided, ‘Why not make it myself?’ 

Although some people view video games as nothing more than an expensive waste of time, Caruso believes that video-game history, like the history of film, television and sports, is worthy of documentation.

“It gives you a greater understanding,” he says. “That’s important for a hobby you are passionate about. One of my favorite quotes from Michael Crichton is, ‘If you didn’t know history, you don’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.’ 

During the past couple of years, Caruso, who calls EarthBound for the Super Nintendo his favorite video game, was able to quit his day job to make videos full time. While honing his documentarian skills, he worked as a teacher and then in the IT field.

He loves the freedom of his entrepreneurial gig, but says it can be a mixed blessing.

“One of the best parts of my job is you have control of your time,” he says. “One of the worst parts is you have control of your time! It’s great to have the freedom to do anything, but when you aren’t working, there is always a nagging feeling in your head like ‘maybe I should be working.’ It’s a balancing act, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Caruso is flying down from his home in Kansas City, Mo., to be a featured guest at Retropalooza. Despite the hassles of air travel, he believes that attending the show each year is a no-brainer.

“It’s a fun weekend,” he says. “The vendor floor is amazing. Tons of great deals on games! I always find something to take home. It’s also a great place to meet like-minded people. I’ve made a lot of friends at Retropalooza.”

Caruso is just one of many YouTube celebrities appearing at Retropalooza, which hosted by a pair of local YouTubers: Arlington’s Jay and Billy, aka The Game Chasers.

Other popular YouTubers scheduled to appear include:

AlphaOmegaSin, a long-haired, disarmingly candid gamer, metal head and comics fan who approaches the video game industry with unbridled energy and enthusiasm.

Boogie2988, who has more than 4,250,500 subscribers. “You may know me as one of my characters, the raging and lisping Francis, or the southern redneck Jessy,” he says.

Pat “The NES Punk” Contri, a collector, author and historian who hosts shows such as “Flea Market Madness” and “The Completely Unnecessary Podcast.”

Tyler Esposito, grandson of Silver Age comic book artist Mike Esposito. Tyler hosts “My Retro Life,” featuring old home movie footage from his and his dad’s video game collecting days in the 1990s.

Gaijin Goombah, who explains “how video games can better educate the world about not only different cultures, but also perspectives and ways of thinking.”

Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil, a talented gamer and game reviewer.

Mike Matei, who works with one of the more famous and influential gamers on YouTube: the Angry Video Game Nerd.

Okchief420, known for his “GameStop Dumpster Diving” series, where he finds free stuff thrown away by the Grapevine-based video game chain.

Eric “8-bit” Perez, an affable San Antonio resident who injects humor into his videos.

Wood Hawker, who brings an Australian and Canadian perspective to gaming. His documentary-style show is called “The Game Quest.”

Brett Weiss is the author of the “Classic Home Video Games” series (McFarland) and of “The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987” (Schiffer Publishing).


  • Arlington Convention Center, 1200 Ballpark Way, Arlington
  • 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, $20; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, $15; weekend pass: $25. Kids 12 and younger admitted free with an adult admission.
  • Parking is $5.