Calum Petrie reports from PLAY Expo Glasgow 2017…
This past weekend was the fantastic and extremely enjoyable PLAY Expo at Braehead Arena, taking place on the 17th and 18th of June. Home to a mass of great gaming classics, the consoles and computers that hosted the historical gaming collection was something that would bring a warming sensation to any gamer’s hearts. There were everything from the icons of the retro era of consoles to the modern PS4 and Xbox One on show; this allowed players to absorb the sheer jump in game design, graphics and console power advancement in a matter of minutes. There were never any long queues to play anything, so usually if you waited for a game then you would more than likely be on it within a matter of minutes.
Possibly the largest section of floor space was the merchandise section. This Bazaar was an incredible mix of classic games, comics, action figures, jewellery and even classic consoles to buy all on the show floor. From limited edition Pokemon N64s to crochet dolls, the collectors and sellers were out in force with something for everyone. The temptation to spend money was a great one; even just browsing the classic games allowed players to fall into a nostalgic trance while looking through the great number of stalls.
There was plenty to keep the veteran gamers and their new apprentices entertained, even if you were attending both days of the event. If you have a soft spot for the old Atari classics or a modern addiction there was certainly something there to get your hands on. VR games were present and playable on the upper floor of the event, which was wheelchair friendly, and allowed first timers to get their head around the immersive experience of VR. Included within the upstairs section of the arena was an impressive collection of table top games, which allowed groups to sit down and relax while you took in a new experience and possibly found yourself a new hobby.
One of the great highlights for me was the LAN Gaming section where there were LAN games running constantly for people to sit down and compete in mini battles. This personally took me back to the glory days as I was playing Jedi Knight 3 in a PC and thrown back into death-matches with my friends.
Alongside the LAN Gaming was the Minecraft zone; this was surprisingly filled with more adults than the younger generations. The experience of some players was impressive to see in the flesh as you could witness structures being thrown up in minutes, whilst also watching someone discovering the joy of the game for the first time.
There was an impressive turnout for the tournaments which were being held throughout the weekend, I witnessed the sign up for Super Smash Bros. on the GameCube and was excited to see the enthusiasm of the fans. There has obviously been a market for this kind of gaming event in the Glasgow area and not a lot of accessibility to actually put something like this on for the local gaming community.
The tournaments were run by Versus Scotland and there was a clear timetable on the Play Expo website featuring a list of the tournaments and times, which allowed people to tailor their experience ahead of time. With titles ranging from Smash Bros. to Injustice 2 it was easy to see there would be plenty of opportunity to flex the gaming prowess and put your button bashing where your mouth is.
The Cosplay surrounding the event was fantastic to see, with Cosplay artists at the show and set up with booth space and Q&A sessions with the models themselves. The sub-culture of Cosplay may seem strange to someone from the outside looking in and yet it has become an increasingly enjoyable part of any gaming or comic book event. The more people taking part allows for more freedom of expression when dressing up as your favourite characters. Cosplay artists spend an insane amount of time crafting outfits purely for other people enjoyment and to bring a smile to the faces of those who then ask to have their picture taken with the characters.
A major part of the event that you could not miss was the massive pinball section, with over 30 pinball machines free to play. The simple job of reconnecting with the historical machines and their retro themes were amazing. When wandering through the annexes of the pinball tables you would be very lucky to come across a free table straight away, and there was definitely a portion of the audience who would have walked away with a heartfelt appreciation to the compilation of tables available.
In wrapping up the experience, there was definitely a family friendly air to the event, allowing a safe space for gamers to be relaxed in an environment where they will not be judged. The event took people from all walks of life and allowed them the experience to play a couch co-op game or be opposing fighters on a beat ’em up title. The experience brought players together and allowed you to explore everything on show at your own time and pace.
If PLAY Expo is your first experience of a gaming event then I personally would say you are picking a good starting point. The event was very reasonably priced for what was on show, yet people turning up later in the afternoon should have getting in at a reduced price as some of the tournaments were finished and queues for VR might have stopped them ever getting a chance to play. Though if that is my only complaint of the event as a whole, then I would say in summary that PLAY Expo was an enjoyable and more compact experience compared to the larger UK gaming events, though not any less special.
Calum Petrie – You can follow me on Twitter – @Cetrie