Deep within the walls of Kent’s largest entertainment venue – Margate Winter Gardens – it’s impossible to be aware of the bleak weather beating against the coastline outside. You can easily get lost amongst the familiar gaming tunes and vibrant monitors of several generations of video game history; a sensory overload of nostalgia. This isn’t just another world. This is many worlds, under one roof.
Play Expo Margate ran from 20th – 22nd February 2020 at Winter Gardens, Margate.
On a grey February weekend, I visited Play Expo in Margate, my first ever experience of a video game event. I had prepared myself for my wallet to potentially take a hammering from the wealth of games for sale, but I hadn’t expected to witness such a cavernous range of computers and consoles, all loaded with games and ready to play.
image: I travelled into the far, far future, and saw this Vectrex.
There were some familiar faces to tuck into as well. I had a quick fly around with Jetpac on the ZX Spectrum, blasted aliens in Xenon 2 on an Amiga 1200 and battled against the odds in Gauntlet on the NES.
The Play Expo also featured dedicated areas for arcade cabinets and pinball machines, a Fortnite room, and multiplayer Halo and Halo 2 on Xbox and Xbox 360 respectively. Tournaments ran throughout the day, pitting the public against each other in games including Puyo Puyo Tetris and Mario Kart 64.
Image: Tempest on the Jaguar
On another floor, row upon row of video game hardware, software and related merchandise were available from various sellers.
Image: Back in the 90s, I had my head lost in the Amiga when the SNES was on the scene, and so I’m now discovering great SNES games for the first time. Like R-Type.
Over the two days of my visit, it was great to see so many other gaming fans enjoying their hobby. The Friday was a little quieter, but the building was packed on the Saturday, including the appearance of some superb cosplay outfits.
Image: Andy Foster enjoying his favourite racer.
And so I come away from my first Play Expo with a feeling that my knowledge and experience of retrogaming has been upgraded, and my own personal games collection has swelled a little.
Caption: Rare footage of me turning away from a video game screen while playing
Follow Ben Bulbeck on Twitter here: @pixelated_ben
Image: There were a few pinball machines to get flipping with.
Image: The market area was filled with thousands of games. Just like online shopping, prices varied between reasonable and eye-watering.
Image: These were my purchases at the end of the first day