London may be blessed with Rezzed every April – my favourite expo in the calendar – but the retro gaming scene doesn’t get a huge amount of love down here. For those from the south and into arcades, pinball machines and 8-bit video games, they’ve previously had to make do with visiting one of the several PLAY Expos taking place further north; or stare longingly at their computer screens, wishing that one day they’d get the opportunity to attend at a more convenient location.
Well fear no more, nostalgia fans, for the organisers decided to bring their event to the capital for the first time this year. This took place on 11-12 August 2018 at Printworks in the Docklands area and I attended with the other-half and stepson in tow. The venue was built in 1989 and operated until 2013, with newspapers such as Evening Standard and Metro rolling off its presses. Its unique industrial space now a space for events such as the PLAY Expo and location for films.
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) August 11, 2018
If you’re into retro gaming and based around London, this may be the show for you. In the first room we were greeted with over 120 classic arcade cabs and pinball machines (the stepson made a run for Pac-Man). Next was the gaming zone, featuring consoles and computers covering the past 40 years (so I introduced Ethan to Torchlight) and upcoming indie projects (where he beat us once again at Bullion). Then finally we had the shopping hall housing many of the traders from the London Gaming Market (so Ethan was able to pick up yet another Fallout print).
We had fun for the first 60-minutes or so but after that, there wasn’t much else to do. Many of the arcade cabs were either suffering from sticky joysticks or not working at all and had been switched off; it was difficult to get onto games in the retro section because attendees played for extended periods due to the nature of the titles available; there were maybe only eight projects on display in the indie zone and we’d already played half of them at other events; and we’d been to the London Gaming market only recently.
Sadly we left just a few hours later (which is why there aren’t many photographs in the gallery below) feeling slightly disappointed. The website promised ‘the ultimate gaming celebration’ but this this wasn’t what we experienced; a number of empty spaces, limited available seats and broken machines left the atmosphere flat. Perhaps it was because we’ve been spoiled with events such as Rezzed and EGX, and the PLAY Expo just couldn’t live up to their experience or budget.
Next up in our calendar is Insomnia63 at the end of August, which will hopefully be more to our taste – and at least we won’t have to put up with DanTDM this time! If you’re going to be there, let us know in the comments below so we can keep an eye out for you.
PLAY Expo London 2018 photo gallery
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.