Play Expo 2016 - Manchester's finest


The Stone Roses needn’t have played a note at Spike Island, the people were there... the job was already done.’ Noel Gallagher A fitting quote involving two of Manchester’s finest that I feel is quite relevant to this weekends PLAY Expo in Manchester.

Article by Andy Foster

I’ve always been quite fascinated by the power of people in a space with a shared interest or goal. Gigs, festivals, demonstrations, marches they all have an electricity in the air and however guilty I am of my hippy tendencies; I felt this at my first ever PLAY event. The job was already done by Replay Events by getting the people in the room.

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The rest of the great stalls and gaming history interaction was just the bonus! For those who didn’t go or who are uninitiated with Replay’s Gaming Events, this is one of the biggest gaming events in the country with a huge emphasis on the history of gaming from the intricacies and beauty of the early pinball machines, right up to the brand new Battlezone PS4 Virtual Reality technology.

People from all around the country join up to celebrate the constantly evolving escapism that is gaming. Held in the huge warehouse that is ‘Event City’ it gives the event a grandiose with huge sound echo’s and the smell of hotdog stands filling the air. Whoever’s idea it was to play 80’s cheesy guitar hits around the huge array of arcades deserves a medal.

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The place dripped in atmosphere with cosplayers, podcasters and gaming legends open to conversation; to people just talking about a shared interest for the first time. I’m sure for many people these events are the chance to finally meet up together after sharing a digital battlefield, football pitch or online Doom right through to the podcasters actually shaking the real world!

The main chunk of whats on offer is the retro side of things with reams of terminals documenting the journey of gaming history. Binatone’s share a space with Atari 2600, Sega Saturn, (Japanese version included of course!) Super Nintendo and PC Engine. Everything you can think of is there to sample at your will with even the LCD games Muncher, Tomy Tronics, and the classic Astro Wars making an appearance in their dedicated handheld stand. PC gaming was also well represented with a huge array of networked PC’s to play and to immerse yourself in.

For me personally I got that pang of excitement from the arcade machine section of the event that proved popular with so many of the punters. Its the childlike wonder of seeing Zaxxon for the first time or playing Sega’s Powerdrift cabinet that I’m sure wouldn’t pass the 2016 health & safety test! Or who could forget the breathtaking Out Run and Afterburner cabs. That was 9 year old me in that Ferrari Testarossa tearing up the road with the perfectly 80s tune ‘Splash Wave’ blaring out behind me.

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I don’t think I even got to the third stage but it didn’t matter I was happy! Where else could you play an early 90’s sit down Virtual Reality cab, to then having your mind re-wired by Jeff Minters psychedelic masterpiece ‘Polybius’. This was a highlight for me as it truly makes you feel ported into its trippy, frantic, and mind enhancing charms. Another excellent try-out was Hewson Consultants retro inspired shooter Hyper Sentinel.

A game that gave me all the chills of the first time I played my C64 version of Uridium. The stalls also represented a wide selection of gaming goodies and memorabilia even crossing over into Comic-Con style offerings. Even the security at the event had a laugh with people instead of permanently trying to install order in an already ordered event (it happens!).

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There were talks by the Tomb Raider creators with the original Lara Croft making an appearance and even a section for tabletop gaming. Playing Sociable Soccer VR with the legend that is Jon Hare taking the micky out of you is quite a thing and even if these events are promotional tools we are happy to be coaxed into their world. I was pleasantly surprised by the vibe in the room across the two days and also the large female presence.

 Gaming often gets stereotyped badly unfortunately containing some element of truth that hasn’t been shaken entirely, but Its pleasing to know the girls seem to feel no divide any more and were out in force geeking their way onto machines across the building.

Personally I would like to thank Games You Loved for inviting me to be an honorary member for the weekend. It was a pleasure to meet new friends and experience the event to the full. Maybe I will catch you at the next gaming pilgrimage!

Article by Andy Foster 

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