There we were, hanging out in basements, listening to Weezer and eating snack foods covered in orange powder. If you were a little younger, maybe it was the Spice Girls and watching Titanic. But the great social equalizer of the late 1990s was Mario Kart 64. Whether you had your own console or your gaming was restricted to friends’ houses, the game with the colourful go-karts and the bouncy music was a staple of the ’90s adolescent experience.
For its latest fundraiser, Pink Triangle Services, Ottawa’s queer community centre, has set out to recreate a little bit of that ’90s magic. The centre offers a variety of support programs and meeting groups, and funds raised at the first annual Vintage Video Game Tournament will help with its operational costs.
“It’s something really nerdy and fun,” says Veronica Michelle, events coordinator at PTS. “Mario Kart 64 is really timeless, and I’ve never met anyone who goes, ‘Oh, I don’t like that game.’ Everyone’s played it, nobody hates it, so we thought it would be a really ubiquitous game that people would get very excited about.”
Sixteen teams will compete in the tournament, with prizes awarded based on most funds raised, best team and solo cosplay, and to the tournament winner. A minimum pledge of $100 is needed for each team to be entered in the tournament, and participants are encouraged to seek sponsorship from friends and family members.
While each team can designate four players as “team drivers,” there is no limit to the number of people who can be on a team, and solo players are also welcome. But unlike those times hanging out in friends’ basements, there’s more to do while you wait for your turn at the controller than just feeding Cheezies to the dog. “We have tabletop gaming provided by Monopolatte that you can rent out and just play some board games with your friends while you’re waiting for your next turn,” Michelle says.
Teams and individuals are also encouraged to come in costume as their favourite characters. “We figured, why not add another element where people could get a prize? . . . We want people to get really excited and involved and come dressed up,” Michelle says. Prizes will be in basket form, containing items from a variety of local businesses. The idea is that each team member will have something to take away. “Unlike most of our fundraisers, the prizes will be all-ages appropriate, so there’s no dildos.” Local artists and designers will also have the opportunity to rent tables at the event to peddle their wares.
“Show up in costume, have some snacks, hang out with your friends, play some board games, compete in the tournament,” Michelle says. “Even if you don’t win, you’re going to have a lot of fun.”