Portland, Oregon, is famous for many things, like its thriving music scene, cult-favorite doughnut shops, and the notoriously drizzly weather. Oh, and The Smallest Park in the World. But one little-known fact is that Portland is also an excellent city for gaming. It’s not only home to several indie game developers and streamers, but it’s also renowned for some top-rated barcades and game stores. In the spirit of keeping things weird, let’s explore some of the reasons Portland is great for gaming.
1. Portland Retro Gaming Expo
To start things off, here’s a throwback. Throwback video games, that is. The Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) celebrates all things classic video and arcade games. Since 2006, the annual convention has focused on educating attendees about the impact of video games on our culture and inspiring the game creators of the future. Some notable past events include a video game swap meet, a Tetris tournament, and an exhibit celebrating the 30 years of the Nintendo Game Boy. After a two-year hiatus (thanks to the pandemic), PRGE hopes to be back in 2022.
2. Portland esports teams
Many professional sports teams are branching out into the esports space, and PDX is no exception. Both the Portland Timbers and the Portland Trailblazers have gaming teams. And they aren’t bad, either.
Edgar “RCTID_Thiago” Guerrero competes for the eMLS as the Portland Timbers and is currently ranked in the top 15 in North America on the global series rankings. Last year, he made it to the 2020 eMLS League Series Two semifinals, hosted in Portland.
In the NBA 2K League, the Portland Blazer5 is made up of six team members that logged some impressive stats in 2021. Bash, a guard, was one of the top five scorers in the league, putting away 30.1 points. Another player, Goofy 757, is an NBA 2K League Champion. And BreadwinnerLA made the league’s All-Defensive team. Besides all that talent, The Portland Blazer5 team also runs esports competitions, like the Blazer5 Gaming Open Series. They may have lost to the Utah Jazz Gaming team in 2021, but the Blazer5 will try to bounce back next season.
3. Playdate and Panic
Portland is also home to software and game developer Panic, the genius behind games like Untitled Goose Game and Firewatch. They’ve also gotten into game system development recently, releasing a new handheld gaming system called Playdate. It’s a little reminiscent of the Nintendo Game Boy of yore, but Playdate takes a whole new approach. The system is so tiny, it can fit in your pocket. The device also packs a unique little crank controller that flips out from the side. It comes with 24 free games to play, and Panic also plans to create a software development toolkit so users can design their own games. Did we mention it comes equipped with WiFi?
Panic isn’t the only indie game developer in Portland. Rose City Games, Moonlight Kids, and ClutchPlay all operate out of PDX.
All those indie game developers need support, and that’s where the Portland Indie Game Squad comes in. PIGSquad is a nonprofit that supports game development and indie game enthusiasts. One cool event PIGSquad participates in is the Global Game Jam (GGJ). In 48 hours, participants get the chance to develop a game with friends and acquaintances. They also offer smaller local jams in the summertime. Check out their Twitch stream to see some of the games in action.
5. The Portland gaming community
Considering the 50+ gaming Meetup groups in Portland, it’s clear that there is a strong community for gamers. There’s also a dedicated subreddit for Portland gamers and Discord servers for those interested in Animal Crossing, Pokémon GO, D&D, and much more.
Portland is also home to some great community builders and streamers. You might even catch them at the Portland Streamer MeetUp, the PRGE, or PIGSquad events. One of the co-organizers of the meetup is horror enthusiast @DanieltheDemon. Catch him streaming Icarus, Propknight, and other spooky video games.
He has also streamed with Girls Play (@GP_TV). This team of gamer gals has some notable achievements, including streaming for almost 400 hours straight. They also regularly host fundraisers and raise money for nonprofits.
Finally, check out @Sherpa, an official Warframe content creator. He also streams Anthem and Destiny 2 and plays Magic: The Gathering.
If the Portland Retro Gaming Expo wasn’t enough, there’s also Retro Game Bar—a local family-owned barcade with over 1,000 throwback video games. You can play games on consoles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s and enjoy video game-themed food. Retro Game Bar also features fun gaming events.
For an authentic throwback arcade experience, don’t miss Ground Kontrol, a barcade with over 100 classic video games and pinball machines. Beyond the retro games, Ground Kontrol runs high score competitions, game tournaments, Rock Band karaoke, and free play days.
Finally, you can reserve a bay at The VR Cafe for VR gaming in Portland and explore a library of over 50 virtual reality games. Players can find everything from kid-friendly games to first person shooters to multiplayer games. And when it’s time to return to reality, you can ground yourself with a hot cup of joe.
7. Gaming stores galore
Located in southeast Portland, Epic Gaming is a game store that specializes in trading card games. Card fanatics can buy, sell, and trade to create killer decks for Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering. Epic Gaming offers an esports gaming scene, partnering with PDX FGC to host fighting game tournaments. To get involved in their community, check out their Twitch stream to see videos of past events, like Super Smash Bros. melees.
Video Game Wizards has been a mainstay in Portland since 1991. This tiny shop is packed with games and consoles, including everything from a retro Atari to the new OLED Nintendo Switch. Their business model is buy-sell-trade, and the shop also offers system repairs.
With a focus on retro games, indie game development, and community as a whole, it’s clear that Portland is a great city for gaming. Are you from Portland? We’d love to hear about your favorite gaming spot. Drop us a note below in the comments! For more on gaming, check out these articles:
- Level up: How to make money gaming with a side hustle
- Voice control in gaming
- Extended reality: AR, VR, and MR
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