Many people have been working from home this year due to COVID-19. I’ve been stuck at my kitchen table with my laptop and conference calls for around 250 days and haven’t been to London for work or pleasure for almost eight months now.
I can’t deny that I’m enjoying not having to get up so early for the commute or forking out far too much money on train tickets; and it’s nice not having to deal with the fumes from all the traffic or cramming myself onto an overcrowded tube. But I do find myself occasionally missing the city and that’s not something I ever thought would happen. There’s something special about it when you’re able to catch it at the right time, those earliest hours in the morning when it feels as though you have the whole place to yourself.
Friend-of-the-blog Phil decided to stream Watch Dogs: Legion on his Twitch channel last month so he could give everyone watching a virtual tour of London. He visited many of the locations where we’ve hung out in real life and it was fun remembering the stupid stuff we’ve done together to in the past. Here are some of his favourite shots from the title (because we all love taking pretty pictures in video games), along with our memories of what we got up to in each location.
Barbican: more than meets the AI
In September last year, we had the pleasure of going to the AI: More Than Human exhibition at the Barbican. A roped-off section towards the end of it contained a robot called ‘Alter 3’ with the body of a bare machine and a genderless mask for a face, which ‘learned and matured through interplay with the surrounding world’. It was one of the weirdest things we’d ever seen: there was something very unsettling about it, and the expressions it pulled made it almost seem as if Alter 3 had become self-aware.
Caledonian Road: the place where we made a new friend
The Meltdown gaming bar on this road was where we first met friend-of-the-blog Ben back in late 2013. We’d met through our respective sites and after chatting for a while, found out that he worked in a nearby area – so what better excuse to meet up for a drink? We hit it off like a house on fire as soon as he’d stepped through the doors and, over several pints and conversations about video games, it became obvious this was going to be a beautiful friendship. Seven years later and he’s still putting up with us.
Embankment: the marathon walk turned sour by Haribo
Phil and I thought it would be a great idea to take part in the Shine Night Walk for Cancer Research with another work colleague in 2011, a marathon event completed through London overnight. We found ourselves taking a break during the early hours in the morning by the Embankment, watching the river and eating Haribo – which turned out to be one of the worst decisions we ever made. The sugar hit our bodies, so we all felt nauseous for the rest of the walk and were glad when we finally dragged ourselves over the finish-line at around 07:00.
Southbank: the Winter Market where the market was missing
It’s tradition to finish working at lunch-time on the final day of the year at our workplace so we decided to use the free afternoon to visit the Winter Market at the Southbank before saying goodbye before Christmas in 2019. The only problem was that this time around, the ‘market’ part was kind of missing: we found about ten stalls and a bunch of hipsters sipping on mulled cider at pop-up bars. We decided to skip the event and instead took a slow walk up the river, which was much nicer.
Kings Cross: the worst escape room ever
I wasn’t happy when I heard we’d be doing an escape room here as a work team-building exercise but breathed a sigh of relief when I found out Phil and I had been put in the same group. That was the highlight though and thank god he was there to make it funny, because the experience itself was pretty bad. Everything was run down, the plug-socket among the shower-room mosaic tiles in the section which was meant to be a ‘sewer’ totally ruined the effect and the staff were lazy. At least Phil’s puns brightened the day.
Westminster: reliving our youth in the arcades
Right next to the London Eye is Namco Funscape and it’s here that we spent an afternoon for yet another team-building event in the summer of last year. Thankfully, it was nowhere near as bad as the escape room above! Phil and I hung out in the arcade, trying to win enough tokens so enable a colleague to win a prize, before sneaking out early and taking a walk along the Thames in the sun. It probably wouldn’t be a place I’d go back to but it was nice reliving the nostalgia of the London Trocadero for a while.
All over: treasure-hunting with Quietschisto
When Quietschisto from RNG told us he’d be visiting London last year, it seemed like the perfect excuse to combine an adventure with sightseeing. A HiddenCity treasure-hunt lead us across the city and had us solving challenges and interacting with people we met along the way. At one point, we had to climb the steps shown at the location opposite and we felt like we were going somewhere we weren’t allowed to enter – but at the top, we had a lovely view of London with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background.
Have you ever played a game set in a location you’ve visited in real life and if so, did it bring back memories for you? Hopefully we’ll see the end of the COVID-19 lockdown soon so I can meet up with Phil in person again – and fingers-crossed that happens by February so he can join us for our GameBlast21 marathon stream.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.