Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Play Old School Games and Discover New Classics
They don't make them like they used to.
It's a common phrase that can be said of so many things: electrical appliances, furniture, tools, and in this case, video games. We have come a long way since Pong, the very first video game, which was released in 1972. Far from a two dimensional table tennis match made up of some lines and a moving dot, now worlds are a vivid and immersive three dimensional experience. Clearly an improvement, right? Well…from a technological point of view most definitely, but on the other hand, if modern games are so superior, then why do so many gamers go back to the old classics?
There is no question that part of the reason is nostalgia; we all go back to gaming era during which we were kids. If that was the 70s, then Atari was king, while those growing up in the 80s are probably most fond of the S/NES. For me it means the 90s and the PlayStation One. Enter the twenty-first century and a gaming revolution took place. New generations of consoles seemed to come out one after another so fast it was hard to keep up. It still is. If you are not willing or able to pay out every time a new console is released then you get left behind, and gradually there are fewer and fewer new games for you to play because they are no longer being made for your console. I think that is the second reason why older games are still so popular. They are more affordable. When I was buying games, I would spend an average of £20. A £30 game was an extravagance. Today it is normal for a new game to cost around £50. How many adults, let alone kids have that kind of money to throw around?
Last but not least, the third reason older games are still loved is simply because they were great. They didn't need fancy graphics, high-spec accessories, or new downloadable updates every five minutes. You weren't worried if the images were a bit pixelated; that was part of their charm. A joystick or controller with a few buttons was more than enough for all the functions required. Storylines had no need to be expanded; once you'd finished the game, you started all over again, because they were so re-playable. That's not to say that modern games aren't great; I'm sure they are (as long as they don't get screwed up by a bugged update). But if like me, your heart belongs in the decades past, then the London Gaming Market could be just up your street.
You can play board games with other people.
The London Gaming Market isn't aimed just at retro gamers. Traditionalists who prefer a non-digital, tactile experience are going to love this place too. Divided into two rooms, the first is completely dedicated to parlour and board games. Three tables are set out in the centre where people can play a variety of games for free. This is a great way to socialise and meet new people who share similar interests. It is also great for those who might like playing games, but usually don't have an available opponent to play with.
When we think of board games it is the classics that always come to mind first: Scrabble, Monopoly, Cluedo, Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Chess, Draughts. These are wonderful and timeless, but they were invented a long time ago. Surely there are more recent games out there? Of course there are, but who plays them? Who knows where to find them? Who even knows what they are called? Board games are notoriously hard to get right, which is why new inventors will have great difficulty getting them into big stores. The best chance they have is to sell independently and directly to the public at events like this.
Alex and Danny are the creators of Sopio.
If you are on the lookout for something new and interesting, you will definitely find it at the London Gaming Market. The first stall I saw when I walked in was run by Alex Day and Danny Hooper who have invented a card game called Sopio. The aim of the game is to earn one thousand points. During your turn you draw five cards from the deck, then play one on a player of your choice (including yourself). You then turn the card over and it will either give points, minus points, or involve some other action. Sopio can be played in all kinds of ways because it includes different decks and booster packs. Infrequent players can stick with just the starter deck, but regular players can buy additional decks based on their style (speed, strategy, calm, chaos, etc).
Another fun game I discovered is for those who like using their imagination. Story Cubes contains a set of dice with pictograms on them. You have to roll the dice and then try and make up a story based on the pictures that come up.
Many of the classic games, such as Catan, are also available, but many of them have a theme twisted into it. Updating games with brands is a common thing these days, for example, one stall had Star Trek Catan, while others had games based around Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.
The second room is devoted to video games. Just like in the board game room, there are a couple of areas where you can play games for free. There are several types of consoles to choose from and a variety of game genres to suit everyone. The one problem I found was that everything was too bunched up together, so it was very difficult to squeeze past someone into a seat, and then even more difficult to get out again. It would have been better had each TV/console been further apart from each other.
There were lots of different dealers selling consoles, accessories (controller pads, memory cards, etc), and games. I decided to shop around first to see who had the best deals, but to be honest, everyone was pricing their products at very similar prices. In the end it comes down to which dealer you prefer. From what I saw, I liked Game Over Gaming best because of the quality. Most of their games were still sealed in their original packaging, unopened and unplayed. One of the risks you often take when buying second hand games is whether they will work – especially if there are scratches on the surface. Cracked cases and missing manuals can also be annoying. Game Over Gaming has high standards for the quality of the products it sells. Everything is checked, tested, and if needed receives refurbishment and restoration.
Retrospective 22's customised consoles.
For those days when retro just isn't retro enough, Retrospective 22 are waiting on standby to help you out. Is your Gamecube looking dull or too similar to your mate's? Why not get it jazzed up a bit? Retrospective 22 customises game consoles with cool looking artwork. You'll find Pikachu, Batman, tribal, pink, you name it.
Aside from the actual games and accessories, the London Gaming Market also has lots of related merchandise, such as apparel, plush toys, and artwork.
The very first event took place last year in November 2015, but will be returning every four months to the Royal National Hotel in Russell Square. Anyone under 14 gets in for free when accompanied by a paying adult. Standard entry starts from 12pm and only costs £2. You can get early entry at 11am for £5, but in all honesty, I do not think it is worth it. It is unlikely that anything you desperately want is going to sell out within that time.
The next dates for the diary are 3rd April, 3rd July, and 6th November 2016.