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.