A Bay Ridge native is bringing joy to local hardcore gamers, comic fans and more, thanks to the Brooklyn Geek Fest, a first-time event in the neighborhood coming early next month.
Ralph Pugliese, owner of popular retro gaming store Gotham City Games, 503 84th Street, has participated in many conventions around the northeastern area. After recently celebrating the store’s two-year anniversary, Pugliese decided to host one of his own.
“This is the first Geek Fest not only in Bay Ridge, but in Brooklyn,” the owner said, who graduated from St. Anselm and Xaverian High School. “We [participate in] a lot of conventions including New York City and a lot of other smaller conventions where we sell stuff and hang out so we wanted to do one in Bay Ridge because there are zero of these conventions in Brooklyn.”
Pugliese and company wanted to give the borough a shot at an event that is held frequently in other areas.
“I guess the closest video game convention here would be Long Island and New Jersey, which is over an hour away and it kept people away from this area from doing it,” he told this paper. “For three years I was constantly traveling to these locations to do these things and then I was like, ‘Why don’t we have one here?”
The challenge of bringing an event of this kind to the area, Pugliese said, was finding a suitable location.
“In Brooklyn, there aren’t a whole lot of areas to host the event,” he said. “It was a little bit hard to find the place but we got the Best Western and we are basically able to rent out a banquet hall and it will be a great space for the convention. The proximity in Bay Ridge is great and right by 86th Street. It’s only a block away from my store.”
The event, he said, will be a video game and comic book fan’s haven.
The lower level of the venue will feature the 12 to 15 vendors from all over Brooklyn, selling blast-from-the-past toys, games, comics and collectibles. Over on the first floor, attendees will be welcomed by a large free-play area that will feature a mix of both retro and modern games for just about every system. There will also be an abundance of personalized or superhero art, as well as a number of giveaways and raffles.
“We’ll try to give away an NES Mini,” Pugliese said. “There will be a lot of opportunities to win cool prizes. The biggest thing we are doing is the tournaments and prizes where you’re going to win gifts certificates, video games and hardware.”
The tournaments are expected to be a huge hit.
Among them, Pugliese said, will be “Mario Kart 64” and “Goldeneye” tournaments for Nintendo 64, and a “Super Smash Brothers” tournament for GameCube and Wii U, among others.
Attendees are also encouraged to dress up for the event. “There’s going to be a cosplay contest,” he said. “We will find our favorites and pick a winner based on how the crowd votes for them.”
They will also have older systems, like the original NES, Game Boy, and the “Super Mario” games available for purchase, all of which are considered to be among the store’s best sellers.
Pugliese began his own business by buying a lot of retro games from unlikely places.
“I would go to a lot of yard sales and find video games from people that were looking to get rid of them for whatever they needed money for and I would just store them,” he explained. “[I saved for a] three-year period to get the amount to open up my store two years ago.”
Geek Fest is timely, Pugliese said, as retro gaming has made a huge comeback.
“The reason why I originally thought it became popular is kids like me,” he said. “When we got jobs, we’d rebuy the games that we either sold or parents did at garage sales and we [were] able to buy the stuff back again.”
Though, Pugliese added, kids today are also starting to love them.
“I think younger generations are learning that too,” he said. “They’re growing up with newer systems like the PS4, but then they’re realizing there’s systems like Nintendo from when my father or older brother was younger, and they want to play those.”
Brooklyn Geek Fest will be held on Saturday, April 1 from 9 a.m. to 9p.m. at the Best Western Gregory Hotel, 8315 Fourth Avenue. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the event. The ticket gives entry to all the tournaments, giveaways and live gameplay. To purchase, or for more information, visit www.gothamcitygaming.com.