Villordsutch reports from PLAY Expo at EventCity in Manchester…
PLAY Expo, at EventCity in Manchester this year has to be possibly one of the best events Replay Events have produced to date. From a visitors perspective this event is going to be a very difficult couple of days to top. Everything was catered for whatever your gaming habits happened to be, really everything seemed to be covered.The doors open to PLAYExpo
With the doors opening at 10am for ticket holders, you could by tickets up to the night before, I arrived just after 8:30 and was pointed at the free car parking space, I then trotted off to the Trafford Centre – just two minutes away – for a McDonalds breakfast before returning to EventCity.Llamasoft were in attendance with Oculus Rift at hand.
Walking into the venue it hit me instantly that this year Replay Events were making this bigger! Gone were a lot of last years film & TV extras, expect for one Mad Max looking car, and the spaces were occupied more with gaming appropriate stuff, and I’m not just talking PC and Console, here – board games and Card Games where even catered for. Heck when it comes to board games I’m not just talking D&D either; in one area of the massive arena we arrived at a Retro Section with Perfection and Mr. Pop set up; parents where showing their children Hungry Hippos and Downfall!Is Link jumping ship?
I’ve been to Comic Conventions before and a lot of them are more markets trying to sell you items, then tucked at the back are actual artists and writers from the comic book world hoping to grab your attention whilst you’re get swept up in the tightly packed throng of vendors. PLAY Expo do have traders, however they ply their trade in the middle of the arena, you walk in and you’re greeted with Guest Stars, which this year included David Prowse, you also see the GamerDisco stage which hosted numerous interactive events, including a brilliant PAC-MAN game where the contestants were wired up controllers and an energy-charged Gang Beasts tournament.Gang Beasts – Extremely Popular in Booth and On-Stage!
Then you have a huge Dark Souls 3 display with rows of machines excellently staffed so the huge queue can get a chance at playing. This stand was amazingly busy, not surprisingly as this was the first time the British public had the chance to get their hands on a playable demo of the game.Dark Souls 3
SkySaga was on display with the Community Team and the Oliver Twins at hand [Look out for a forthcoming interview with Philip Oliver at Flickering Myth Soon] to talk about the game. With barrels of posters, stickers and Alpha release codes, not to mention the game itself wired up around their hub, the community bods were busy explaining the in’s and out’s of what the players can expect to see within the world of SkySaga.
Then we have the something shines within PLAY Expo which is their support for the Indie Gaming World, I got straight into chatting to OddWorld people and discussed their use of Unity and bringing the game to modern machines. I also got a fanboy chance to talk to the people from Llamasoft, for which as a small boy (many decades ago) held me in wonder at their releases, you should check them out at their website to see what they’re currently up to. Amongst the numerous other Indie games I managed to tie down both Pixel Bomb and we talked about Beyond Flesh and Blood – check the game out here. Also Gang Beasts again you can check out their game here; Keep your eyes open at Flickering Myth for both of their interviews soon.Beyond Flesh and Blood – Set in and around the streets on Manchester.
Running alongside of the these rows you have the LAN’ed up areas of UT’99, HALO, Doom, and also the Fighting Competitions going through the various heat stages. What’s brilliant about these LAN’ed games is the fun fighting spirit that’s shown, gone are the venom-filled keyboard warriors, instead you have laughing, you have the occasional, “Nice shot!” shouted out and you get people congratulating each other at the end of a solid round.
We then enter the realm of the traders, with Funstocks being a big trader at the event you see this stall extremely busy, more so as they have the hoverboard on show, upsettingly we the general public can’t use the demo version due to it being an insurance nightmare, not Funstocks words you understand, they were much more diplomatic to my eager Viking-like face.Funstocks busy and bringing a Hoverboard!
As said earlier everything to do with gaming is covered including Role-playing board games, one of the major sellers here were Grim Tree Games, who had everything on show, and just behind them where even more board games being played so you could get to see what you future purchase looked like.Grim Tree Games had catered for those of a cardboard disposition.
We also had Genki Gear who are in the process of celebrating ten years of making some of the most outstanding t-shirts you could possibly lays your hands on. Their celebrations included a new £10 range, and for that reason they got one of my grubby notes mashed into their palms.Genki Gear – Celebrating 10 Years in the Business.
There are numerous stalls selling Retro games, devices, toys, along with cosplay gear, Vinyl Pop Figures and oodles of t-shirt stalls. The most bizarre stalls however are the weapons sellers, they are immensely popular and I was looking at a few myself, though they were out of my price range (by a considerable amount) when a chap from Birmingham stopped me and said, “If I buy any of this here and get pulled over in my street, back home, I’ll be arrested! Even if I tell them it’s Riddick’s bloody knives!”.He would have joined the Empire but something happened to his knee.
I also met, around the corner, somebody whose art I’ve admired for decades. If you’ve ever seen a 1980’s computer game, watched Knightmare on CITV then you know this man’s work. David Rowe was stood in front of me and he was selling some of his art. It still looks fantastic, each one held so many memories, his work made a game you had just bought so much better than it really was. If you never managed to get to PLAY Expo he passed me his card and you can find his website at www.davidrowe.netDavid Rowe – The artist of my childhood.
At the back of the huge hall you arrive at the retro-computers, consoles and pinball machines; this place is packed! You are queuing up behind people to get a game of Donkey Kong or Smash T.V. here. Numerous technically bodies are on hand to quickly repair these antiquated machines as they are punished due to masses of people descending upon them. If you look over to the right from here you’ll see the Card Gaming collective and the Cosplay stage both are teaming with people, if you weren’t there at the right time you haven’t got a chair or a space.
PLAY Expo not only gives everybody who games their desire, it provides food around the arena, though not cheap I have to admit there is seating and breakout areas and nobody will stop you opening your rucksack and dragging out your sandwich which you’ve made at home. Not only this Replay Events are more than aware that people with disabilities are gamers too and they have made sure that the walk ways between each row have ample room for wheelchairs users and non-wheelchair users to get by without bottlenecking.There was even a Education Zone, with basic programming.
It’ll be a year again until PLAY Expo arrives back in Manchester, but I cannot wait to see on how they even attempt to make it even better than what they delivered to us this year. From the doors opening until we had to leave, Replay Events made sure we the gamers got our moneys worth.
Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.