Last week-end, a couple of friends and I took a day trip to Margate for GEEK2013, a gaming expo with a focus on retro games.
The ‘puzzles, tournaments, consoles and pinball machines, […] retro computer games and current card and computer games’ promised on the website were available for all to try, which made for a truly interactive environment.
I’m not the most seasoned of con-attendees, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
The first hall we came into had the various vendors’ tables, as well as the panels’ area and the food court. The games were very few and we were a bit confused until we walked into the main room, which had games EVERYWHERE. It was a pretty nifty sight, with retro and vintage consoles right next to rows and rows of more recent machines, all basked in blue and purple lighting.
I’m far from an expert but even I could recognise lots of familiar games. We played Pong on a vintage Atari (I got crushed), we tried out for the Mario Kart SNES tournament (I came very, very far behind the qualifying time, but @TheJonFoulds almost made it!), I was introduced to Goldeneye (I died a lot). We also got to try out Space Invaders on tiny consoles so rare/vintage they were chained to the tables. Again, I died a lot.
I like video games, but I must admit I am abysmally bad at most of them, so it was a great triumph when I beat @TheJonFoulds at Tetris 64! Speaking of Tetris, there a giant Gameboy… A GIANT GAMEBOY!! I totally flailed and squeaked with joy when I saw it and after that, I had a hard time resisting the temptation of buying an actual Gameboy just to play hours upon hours of Tetris.
Only at a con!
Towards mid-afternoon, we took a pause from all the gaming when I dragged the guys to watch the Cosplay masquerade. Nothing better than settling down with some yummy cake and warm coffee to see the nerdiest possible type of nerdy thing! I am unapologetically fond of cosplay and I felt pretty good about the fact that I recognised quite a few of the characters, despite not being the most dedicated gamer. First place went to a really nifty King Dedede, with her awesome hammer!
The next speaker presented a talk ambitiously titled ‘The History of Video Games in Ten Minutes’, which did a pretty good job of that. While fun, informative and as brief as promised, the talk did mention that when video games became more accessible for families to play as a whole ‘Now fathers and sons could play together’. Everything up until then and everything afterwards felt inclusive and positive, not only during the talk but also during the con. It was just a touch of bitterness that the speaker did not think twice about adding such gendered expectations in his talk.
As a counter-balance to that unfortunate slip-up, though, we saw a kick-ass young woman smash through her competition to win the Super Mario Kart tournament we’d failed to enter earlier, and by the same token establish a new Female World Record for speed at Super Mario Kart. She was signing copies of the Guinness Book of Records when we left!
The delicious chocolates we bought in town and the amazing pies and ciders we had in the pub later only added to the awesomeness on the day, and the game we played on the train home, Chez Goth, really deserves its own review. All in all, a great day trip despite it being absolutely freezing cold.
Overall verdict: LOVED IT.
To put it bluntly, I feel like I got my money’s worth – I got to actually play with consoles I’d only ever seen on TV before, revisit some of my favourite games, discover the games my friends consider beloved classics, learn a bunch of cool things about the industry, and witness a world record being made! Of course there were also the usual food, geeky wares and games on sale, but I did not feel like the point of the whole day was to make me buy stuff, which is more than I can say for other cons I’ve been to.
Dear GEEK organisers, see you next year and GG!