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This might have been networked computers or people that took turns at a computer console. It may have been something like Wolfenstien, Frogger, Pacman, or Missile Command played on a PDP-11, home, or personal computer.

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Source

This excludes dedicated pinball, game consoles, or arcade cabinets.

When and where was the first home computer game convention held?

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    To make this question realy generic, it might be usefull to drop the 'home' designator from the title/question - not at least as the explicit cited PDP-11 is anything but a home computer. Also it seams as if it is rather targeted at what today may be called LAN-Party, esports or similar event, as it calls for people playign games, not as much as a classic convention with exhibitions and speeches, right? Otherwise already the West Coast Computer Fair may qualify. – Raffzahn Jun 22 '18 at 12:33
  • I feel like in Europe at least it's likely to have been a copy party; I can find evidence of those going back to at least 1987. They were arranged in advance, people turned up with their own hardware and usually played the games between (illegally) copying them. (EDIT: e.g. pouet.net/party.php?which=588 for an early copy party that also produced some demos and therefore gets a Pouet entry). – Tommy Jun 22 '18 at 13:35
  • I met with some friends in 1993 to play xtanks on some of our SGI machines (and I guess lots of other people did as well, if they had a chance) - does this count as a "convention"? Similarly, we used to play "network parties" on our Sinclair QLs with "Fleet Tactical Command" , one of the few networked games on this machine youtube.com/watch?v=tVLYnfPALCw – tofro Jun 22 '18 at 14:00
  • I don't have any evidence, but my suspicion is that one of the earliest organising forces for gamers to meet up in this kind of environment would be those gamers who first met each other while playing early multiplayer online games, i.e. MUDs. The first MUD was produced in 1978, and the idea spread quickly, so some time in the very late 70s or very early 80s seems likely for the first time an organised MUD-meetup took place. – Jules Jun 23 '18 at 21:49
  • Separate question: would a competition count? If so then here's Atari's 1980 Space Invaders championship: i.imgur.com/… – Tommy Jun 23 '18 at 22:20
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Evidence about early informal meet-ups of game developers and gamers is probably lost to history, but there is plenty of documentation about the first major conventions that are still held annually.

Game developers were an "organized force" in the industry long before the consumers. In 1988, the Game Developers' Conference (GDC) was first held. It was organized by developer Chris Crawford, and there were 28 folks in attendance. This annual developers' conference grew rapidly. It is held in San Francisco and considered one of the preeminent annual events of its kind. It also expanded into China in 2006.

On the consumer side, computer video games began by being featured alongside other products at the major events like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. With the growth spurt in the industry in the early 1990's, organizers were able to break away to form their own convention around only gaming - which by that time included games for the burgeoning consoles and PC platforms. E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) was first held in 1995. It takes place annually in Los Angeles and remains today as one of the most important of a large number of annual gaming conventions held around the world.

It wasn't much later, in 1996, that QuakeCon held its first event. This is another annual event that still takes place in Dallas, TX, and is of the gaming tournament variety - id Software's Quake being the main franchise for its tournaments.

To directly address your question, I don't know of any surviving evidence of a significant, early, computer-only gaming convention. By the time the consumer side of it was well-organized enough to hold events separate from the rest of the electronics industry, mainstream gaming had already moved on from home computers to consoles.

  • Brian, I got a feeling the question is rather about gamers meeting to play then game developers showing their products. Not to mention, that gaming focus moved at least twice between consoles and computers and back. – Raffzahn Jun 22 '18 at 12:35
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    Yeah. I honed in on the word "convention" as an indication of a large, formal, probably recurring gathering. Many things small and informal certainly occurred - I just wouldn't call those undocumented one-off events "conventions". – Brian H Jun 22 '18 at 12:53
  • Yes. Sure. Then again, when asking for first, any one off event may count - as soon as it outgrows a bunch of friends playing a round of rech for the stars in a garage. So I would incluse one of, but also set the level at being a formal (rented hall etc. maybe with admission) and planned (anounced ahead of time) gathering with a focus on game play (instead of computer or game sale) where all/most visitors came for playing, not just watching. ... Tough question. – Raffzahn Jun 22 '18 at 13:24

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