So this year’s Play Expo, run by Replay Events, was my first time attending (crazy I know!). I don’t typically play a lot of retro games (I’m only a spring chicken, grew up with the Playstation and original Game Boy), but I’ve been to quite a few other retro gaming festivals which have all been a lot of fun, however I’d heard that this was a firm favourite among retro fans. There was a lot of hype during the run up too, as various different guests, games and exhibitors were announced on the Facebook event listing. It’s fair to say I was hella excited!
Although the traffic meant that I couldn’t get there as early as I would have liked to, I have reviewed my highlights from what I got a chance to see/experience.
Wifi Wars was a lot more fun than it sounded and basically involve about 100 people at a time joining in a retro game on their smartphones. Each round lasted 45 minutes and consisted of about 6 mini retro games which appeared on your phone when you visited the web address on the screen. You then had to pick a team (blue or red) and the two teams competed with each other at different funny, silly games. One of the games was an epic game of Pong, which with 100 people all playing at once was a lot of fun!
Props to the guy who was sat there running the network (all hail King Rob!), which held up pretty damn well! There was the odd occasion in which you got kicked out of the game unfairly (honestly, I wasn’t just crap…), but it was a really fun activity to get involved with and was definitely one of the day”s highlights. I will deffo be hitting them up to come and do a session at Manchester Gamers Unite! 😉 hint hint chaps!
I have never seen such a large selection of arcade machines in one venue, if you dig a Time Crisis sesh then you could have whiled away a whole day in Play Expo. There was a whole section dedicated to pay-per-play pinball machines too, which were constantly in-use throughout the day!
Although I mainly went to play games, I found myself drawn to the merch section more than the gaming bit! I was really impressed with the stuff they had on-sale here, it was much better than market at Comicon months before. They had retro plushies, retro games, consoles, discounted Pop vinyls, board games, cute stalls with handmade cups, badges, hats, they really had it all! I didn’t spend too much thankfully, but it really was a collector’s paradise.
This was only a really small aspect of the expo, but I loved the Pong game which cast the game onto the event venue’s wall. It was really cool, but if someone walked past and their head blocked your view it was easy to drop a point.
At the end of the event, people had the chance to go on-stage and show off their cosplay attire. This was really fun as a lot of people gathered round to watch and everyone was really supportive, cheering people on-stage. It made me realise just how many vault dwellers there were at Play Expo!
Classic board games
I loved the classic board games section (they also had a table top gaming section, which looked awesome if that’s your thang). There was so much 90s nostalgia to lap up in this section, including Wiggly Worms, Buckaroo and my personal favourite from childhood – Screwball Scramble! It was nice to see parents teaching their kids the games they grew up with.
For next time…
Get there early
Next time I’d get there earlier for starters, I assumed I’d get bored within three hours but there was far too much to do for that to be the case and I would recommend giving yourself five/six hours there if you’re thinking of attending. Just be mindful that the traffic around there is bad as it’s right next to the Trafford Centre at Event City.
Better bar/food offering
It would be good if they had a few more bar/food stalls. There was one bar in the building from what I could see, and although I would have loved a cold beer while exploring the venue, the queue was absolutely huge. The food there seemed very ‘greasy burger van’ too. It would be nice to see some good quality pop-up food and coffee bars there next time.
More future tech
As it was really busy, I did struggle to get on some of the consoles at times (which is to be expected), so ended up wandering around quite a lot. It would be amazing if they had more VR next time, as there was quite a big queue for that and I would have loved to had a go on some of the games!
One thing I would say about Play Expo that I thought was quite cool, was that although the theme was retro, there was a modern twist on many aspects of the event. Wifi Wars was a great example of this, as modern technology enhanced the retro gaming experience.