Tucked into a corner of the Los Angeles Convention Center was a retro gamer’s paradise.
Arcade cabinets lined the back wall of the booth, flanking row after row of classic game consoles. Literally everything was there, from the Magnavox Odyssey to the TurboGrafx-16 to the Nintendo 64, many of them playable. An old TV cabinet played Space Invaders, right behind a glass display case with some of the rarest video game hardware in the world.
And at the center of it all was Joe Santulli, dressed in a crisp white suit and turquoise shirt, as if he’d stepped out of the 80s. After a three-year absence, Santulli and his fellow collectors have brought the Classic Gaming Expo back to E3, this time with a new purpose: They want to build a museum for video game history.
The Videogame History Museum would be a permanent extension to the Classic Gaming Expo, which in addition to its E3 appearances is held every summer in Las Vegas. The expo is now 12 years old, and yearly networking has allowed Santulli and his peers to collect more than 20,000 items related to gaming’s past, some of them extremely rare. The Atari Cosmos, for instance, is one of only five in existence.
“Over the years, we’ve amassed so much stuff that we started to think, rather than have this once a year, why not have a place that’s a destination?” Santulli said. The group has started a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and hopes to raise enough money to open a facility somewhere in the San Jose area.
So far, it’s been a challenge. “The economy’s bad,” Santulli said. “People don’t want to invest, but I do believe we have something that’s going to work.”
For now, enjoy some photos of the exhibit at E3, an enclave among the flashing lights and booming sounds of the show floor: