Less than two weeks ago, the very first London Gaming Convention kicked off in the Rocket Complex on Holloway Road. Set to feature plenty of action and a dedicated section for retro gamers, was this an event worth noting for the future?
Events about video games tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is a place for companies to show off their new products to other show offs from other big companies and for everyone to get a hearty slap on the back.
The other type is for big companies to show off their new products to salivating customers that would sell their own grandmother to get five minutes playing the latest FPS or MORPG before anyone else. Luckily the London Game Con (LGC) fell into neither of these categories so it looked like I was in for a bit of a treat.
The venue was split into two levels, the ground hosted an intimate stage, bar and access to food stands with areas for the retro games and exhibitors dotted about. Upstairs a larger, main stage tournament machinery, more exhibitors and a good dollop of merchandisers to spend your cash on. The balance was just right with something for everyone even remotely interested in gaming. Events and guests throughout the day added a very nice distraction from the pixels as attendees were entertained with music, comedy, panel Q&A and even the odd quiz, the line up was well balanced and very well received, bravo to the organisers.
Hand Baked Chips
There were a few surprises too. I met up with Tom from Hand Baked Arcade, a company who will install a retro arcade for virually any event you might be planning. They had a nice range of machines on display, from a table top multi game arcade machine to a Saturn, fully multitapped up and running 10 player Bomberman (I had to have a go, oh my job is a hard task master sometimes...). But the main thing that caught my eye was a 2600 Junior that had been modified and hooked up to a guitar amplifier and producing some simply amazing chip tunes. Tom explained that this machine was available on his web shop and he did all the mods himself. What this is is a way to unlock the sound chip in the Atari and be able to control the sounds produced. It really is a very interesting and quite compelling device to have, even a musically challenged person like me got to grips with it straight away and began producing some really great chiptunes. It requires a cartridge called Synthcart but this is cheap and easily available. Full details are on his website (that needs to be seen!) I will include links too at the end. Tom is a great guy, very enthusiastic and happy to answer questions and give a few tips. He also plays some mean Bomberman!
Lets get Retro
The retro section is what interested me the most, a long strip was available and many consoles were lined up raring to go. The staple systems from Sega and Nintendo had familiar cartridges plugged into them and they of course attracted a lot of attention, but it was nice to see some unusual stuff too. A lonley Atari Jaguar, its hideous controllers weighing down the table, sat playing Tempest to itself over and over again and was passed by as amazingly, people headed for the Amstrad GX4000 that was playing Pang, not so amazing when you realise that at 4,096 colours the GX4000 (better than the Mega Drive) with hardware scrolling and sprites was up there with the big boys. Pity they only sold about three of them, but if you do come across one, and its cheap, give it a look. I was quite taken back by the age and the length of time players were enjoying these games.
At the risk of sounding corny (and ancient), it did me good to see a whole new generation of players getting stuck in to Streets of Rage and GoldenEye, really taking the time to play and get something out of it. Normally I see players at these events act like butterflies, flitting from one console to the next if they lost a life, but these guys really seemed to get into it, hitting the player 2 button if someone was waiting, the spirit of gaming is not dead, although I did witness some screen peeking in GoldenEye, tut tut...
Upstairs the tournaments were in full swing, and a more familiar 'convention' atmosphere was in effect. There were some very interesting exhibitors, but what caught my eye was an offering of a game featuring the guys from Yogscast. Now for those of you who don't know, Yogscast are a bit of a Youtube sensation, they review games in their own tongue in cheek style and now a multiplatform game featuring the guys is being rolled out. The game itself has a great 8 bit feel. Its a platformer/puzzler with more than one or two nods to various games from the past. It reminded me of Scott Pilgrim a little, full of humour and references only gamers will get. Its not finished but even in this form it plays well and I am told that not only will it be available on your PC, a version for smart phones is already under way. The engine that its built on is due for a release too, so you can turn your creative hands to the crazy world of gaming and maybe come up with the next hit.
All in all a great show, friendly people on both sides, a good compare and some excellent guests. Highlights for me included listening to artists from OC Remix play live and the wonderful chiptunes that came from Hand Baked Arcade's 2600. This is definitely an event to keep an eye on as I think it will grow and get bigger as the years go by. Id like to thank my photographer for the day, Dave Price for giving up his time to bring you some great pictures, a link to the gallery will follow.
Picture Gallery. Please use 'otaku' as username and password
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