Bristol Gaming Market (Sept 2019)

Hey, it has been a while, again! I’ve been job hunting, ultimately I was very successful this time around, accepting one role and turning down three others. I’ve never been in that position in my life, it was pretty surreal. It didn’t leave much time for video games, or blogging about them either.

Here we are then, five weeks after starting my new role, settled in for the most part. I’m on my way to Bristol Gaming Market, on this dreary and wet Sunday morning, after seeing a post on Geek Sleep Rinse Repeat last week.

I’ve never been to one of these markets, but I’ve read Kim’s tales of the London Gaming Market on Later Levels and fancied the idea for a while. I don’t think I’ll have the funds to make it to EGX this year either, despite that being an ambition for 2019, having enjoyed it for the first time in 2017. Now the offspring has grown a little and we’re close to the in-laws, I thought it would be possible, but it isn’t at the NEC in Birmingham this year.

London is a little too far for me to “pop along” and a bit pricey to spend the night, but Bristol, well that’s on my doorstep, so it would be rude not to. Also, the event is right next to Temple Meads train station and a measly £5 to get in, so there’s really no excuse.

I have no idea what to expect, but I’m hoping for the chance to see some old hardware, games, tat you can’t find anywhere else, something a little special to make me part with my cash, or maybe just a fun couple of hours being nosy.

The attendees

Who knew video games were this popular? I fit right in; 30 something white male with a backpack, like most of the IT conventions I frequent. We’re everywhere and dominate this venue as far as the eye can see. Sure, we’re all different shapes and sizes, but we’re mostly of the same generation, here for one thing. Video games.

Some of us take this so seriously, we are fervently checking our spreadsheets on our phones, as we tussle at tables, crammed with the memories of our youth, desperate to find that missing piece. I am not (yet) one of those people, so I look on in amusement, but also admiration at their being so organised. Goals.

Ladies and small children of all ages are present though, albeit in much lower numbers. I was happy to see a young lad picking up a really “old” thing called a GameBoy, asking “What is this?!” Also, the enthusiastic lady who found a PlayStation 1 (I think) game she was hoping would be there. She did a little dance, saying “I’m so happy right now!”

Despite entering the venue an hour before the general public, it’s almost impossible to get near anything, only a few minutes after the doors open, although there’s plenty of space in the venue overall. I couldn’t help but think the exhibitors should have been given more room, with some of them having stuff crammed into every inch available, on the floor etc. After a short while and a full lap around, things settle and gaps begin to form, so I go around again and again, four times in total.

The games and some other stuff (nostalgia hits you like a tonne of bricks)

Casually browsing the Master System games on offer at one stall, I find a game called The Ninja. Wait, could this be the game I’m thinking of from my youth? The one I spent (probably) hours and hours watching my uncle trying to finish, because it was to difficult for me? The cover immediately brings it all back, I part with £3, despite not owning a Master System any longer. That’s something I can fix later, I need this on my shelf right now. Other purchases for the Master System were Sonic & Sonic 2. I remember my mother purchasing Sonic 2 for the princely sum of £29.99, back in 1992 that was a lot of money to spend on a video game.

I also managed to find Black for the original Xbox, a game I’ve heard about many times and never been able to track down, admittedly never trying all that hard. I’ve already acquired a crystal Xbox from my brother-in-law, who moved abroad and didn’t want to keep any of the stuff in his old room at the in-laws. I think it’s just missing a cable, hopefully it will work once I can sort that out.

Another blast from the past was a Casio keyboard, we definitely owned one of these when I was much younger, I recognised it immediately!

There were old magazines, game guides (Quake III Arena!) and some incredible artwork, t-shirts, laser etched slate coasters… I just didn’t have the chance to look at everything on offer.

The hardware

There was more hardware than I expected on show, much of it in clear plastic wrapping, absent the original box and instructions, but there were some complete pieces around too. It was like going back in time, seeing those old boxes!

Much of what I saw was modded in some way, which surprised me, with “region free” and other benefits on offer. This is not something I’d considered before, but I guess Sony doesn’t care any more if you’re using a modded PS1? Nintendo definitely doesn’t care if you’re importing US NES cartridges to play on a modded NES, I’m sure.

Some of the modded consoles on offer, with new LCD backlights, shells, region unlocking etc.

I saw a modded “fat” PS2 with a 2TB SATA hard drive! I feel very much like I need to do my homework before I go about purchasing an old console. There is much to learn.

There was also a stall with dozens of “re-shelled” GameBoy Advanced handhelds, a system I know nothing about, but they looked amazing. They were branded as refurbished but honestly looked new, thanks to the new plastic shells.

I’d clearly forgotten how massive some of these old consoles were, and the controllers, the Sega Mega Drive controllers in particular, were they always that huge!?

All the feels

In the end, I had to leave before spending any more money I don’t have, it seems I’ve started an obsession collecting old consoles and games, what little I remember of that time, but also what I missed out on back then. This may prove expensive in the long run. More on that another day, but for now, I’m on the train home with a few cherished pieces that probably seem silly to others and a growing wishlist in my head. I’m already looking for the next excuse to find another one of these events.

EGX 2017: Impressions From A First Timer

I’ve been meaning to go to EGX for a few years now, I finally made it this year for two days, Friday and Saturday, something of a work outing in the end, with four of us from the day job going along.

Thinking about it, this was my first experience of a gaming event in the physical world, not just my first EGX. What a sheltered life I’ve lived! It was a positive experience on both days, but with nothing to compare it to, the bar doesn’t have to be that high to start with…

I didn’t play much, I was happy to just meander around and soak up the atmosphere. I was a little surprised at the popularity (and presence) of stuff which is already available to buy, such as Destiny 2, which featured prominently.

Here’s what I did play though…

  • Forza 7 (on the Xbox One X in 4K, with a controller, very smooth)
  • Project Cars 2 (on a very small TV/monitor with a controller, also enjoyable, I was very bad at this)
  • Gran Tourismo Sport (in the Tron like steering wheel setup, then again with a controller; close tie with Forza 7, the first GT game I’ve ever played)
  • ARMS (on the Switch, great fun, almost made me want to buy a Switch!)
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (So bad at this, the demo ended due to a time limit)
  • Absolver (surprisingly satisfying melee combat, I’m intrigued)

There were a few big titles I didn’t play myself, as the queues were insane and I didn’t have the patience to wait, but my companions had the dedication; their comments in brackets.

  • Sea of Thieves (“Concerned about what there will be to do in the full release, lives and dies by the team, but it was fun.”)
  • Far Cry 5 (“Feels like every other Far Cry, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but…”)
  • Destiny 2 (“It’s more Destiny, I loved the first one.”)

Some stuff played by others in my group…

And some of the stuff I watched… I spent a lot of time watching people play, which I find myself doing more in general these days.

  • Star Wars Battlefront II (the PlayStation Access team live streamed this for a while, highly entertaining)
  • Monster Hunter: World (queues for this seemed big, never heard of it myself, it looked interesting)
  • Destiny 2 (didn’t feel compelled to play on console, still waiting for the PC release, fun to watch though)
  • Cuphead (guys I watched said “Damn, this is difficult!” and it certainly looked it)

The tickets for EGX are pretty cheap, the venue is huge. This is definitely something I will do again, probably the full four days, because I only scratched the surface.

It felt very much like everyone was just hanging out really, I particularly enjoyed chilling out reading a gaming magazine, sat on a beanbag with Destiny 2 in the background. I may have accidentally appeared in the background of an interview with a Bungie Community Manager!? I was only there for the free jelly beans!

We left a little earlier than I’d have liked on Saturday, so the Cosplay competition was sadly missed –  there was some great cosplay to be seen. I also didn’t get to see the Outside Xbox live show, or spend any time at all playing the many titles available in the retro area, which all looked fantastic. It was great to see how popular this was, particularly with the younger generation, who probably didn’t see any of the hardware when it originally released. The CRT televisions were nice to see too! My knowledge of Indie games is woeful, I wish I’d made time to visit that area.

If you’ve ever thought about going to EGX, but you’re put off by social anxiety, the location or something else, I can tell you the NEC is very easy to get to, you’ll also be in the company of (mostly) like minded people. I highly recommend it.

Here’s the obligatory image gallery, which is a bit ropey, as I bought a new phone the day before!

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