I had my doubts before heading to EGX last Thursday.
After my data analysis of the line-up earlier this month, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the show. Over two-thirds of the games listed on the website as of 05 September 2022 were already released with an average age of just under four years old, and there wasn’t much I thought I’d be interested in.
Other than catching up with friends, the main reason I attend expos like EGX is to find out about upcoming titles. This has been the way most games have ended up being added to my wishlist since I started attending them in 2013. I come across them at shows, there’s something about them which catches my attention, I enjoy playing the demo and then want to keep an eye on their progress.
What doesn’t do it for me is an exhibition hall where most of the stands are showing off titles I’ve already completed, have been able to download on Steam for several years but haven’t wanted to, or played back in the day as a kid during the 1990s. There are retro events for this type of experience if that’s what you’re looking for and I don’t count EGX among them. This was why I hadn’t really enjoyed the last event in October 2021 and didn’t stay for long.
It was therefore with some trepidation that I arrived at the ExCeL in London last Thursday and joined the queue. Would there be enough here to keep myself, Pete and friend-of-the-blog Phil entertained for more than half a day this time around, and would I actually find anything I wanted to add to my wishlist? Read on to hear about my personal experience of the show, including my highlights and whether we’re likely to return to EGX in the future.
Something which struck me as soon as I entered the hall was how much busier it was compared to last October. While it was nowhere near as packed as I’ve seen EGX in the past, it was good to see more people walking around and enjoying the games. Additional stands had been set up to cater for more titles and so most of the empty spaces which had been so obvious last time had now been filled. The result was an atmosphere which was pleasantly buzzy but not too overwhelming.
After being there on Thursday as an attendee, I returned on Friday to help on the SpecialEffect stand. I was a little nervous about this as it had been a long time since I’d volunteered in person due to the COVID-19 lockdowns but it’s amazing how quickly you slip back into the role. It was lovely seeing people’s reactions when they realised they could play Minecraft with their eyes using the EyeMine software, and also getting to meet Charles from Comfortably Adventurous – even though we didn’t realise it!
Another highlight for me was having the opportunity to meet Tom Keane from Godolphin Games, after playing Unknown Number last week and really enjoying its drama and humour. We spent a lovely half-hour or so talking about how the title was developed and certain sections, before moving on to Return to Monkey Island and IMMORTALITY. Tom is a fellow adventure fan and I could easily have spent longer chatting! I wasn’t there on Saturday for the Inventing a new game genre panel sadly, but I’m hoping a video is published soon.
Perhaps the best thing about EGX this year was that it gave people a chance to connect to the real world again. The October 2021 event gave the impression that many still weren’t ready to return to in-person expos after spending so long in lockdowns, but last week showed me that this has changed. You could feel attendees’ quiet enthusiasm at being there in a crowd with others who shared the same love for video games. Hopefully this grows at the events coming up in 2023.
Putting on an expo takes a lot of planning, and I can appreciate how much work goes into EGX. But I’m always surprised at how disorganised it feels in certain areas and how unwilling the organisers seem to be to communicate. After standing in the queue on Thursday morning, early access attendees were allowed into the hall 30 minutes late meaning they lost half of the additional time they’d paid for. There were no announcements about the delays and no apologies, so the queue outside became frustrated.
Although there were more stands this year, some of their spots contained unpowered monitors or were totally empty. Several of the titles included in the line-up didn’t appear to be at the show while others had a spot and weren’t listed on the website (such as Unknown Number). The PC LAN area, tabletop and retro gaming areas at the back of the hall took up around a third of the space and were mostly empty on Thursday afternoon but did appear to be busier when I walked by on Friday.
Despite there being more games on display, there were fewer I wanted to play. The only two that would have caught my attention would have been Unknown Number and Verne: The Shape of Fantasy, and I’d already tried the demos for these at earlier digital expos. The big stands from PlayStation, Xbox and Twitch were missing once again although Nintendo made an appearance with Splatoon 3. SEGA’s stand for Sonic Frontiers also seemed to be quite popular throughout the two days I was there.
There were certainly improvements over the 2021 event and the atmosphere was more enjoyable. But for me, EGX 2022 still felt lacklustre. We stayed for around five hours on Thursday before heading home so at least we got an extra hour out of it this time, but I think we could have easily got by with purchasing an afternoon ticket rather than a full day. There wasn’t enough to do to fill a £75 four-day super pass unless you were happy to spend your weekend in the retro gaming zone.
Friend-of-the-blog Phil sent me a link to a tweet by someone who’d said that EGX was their first convention, and they were having the time of the life. It would be hard to deny that I’m jealous. Going to the show for over ten years has given me experience when it comes to knowing what to expect and what I like, but the downside is that it’s also made me a little jaded and nostalgic for years gone by. Things are different now after the pandemic and EGX is evolving.
Pete has said he’s not particularly interested in going again and would rather focus on events like WASD and AdventureX. I can understand where he’s coming from but can’t see myself not going to EGX – even if it’s just to find out how the event is changing. Regardless of how the past couple of experiences have been, it’s still the biggest show in the UK besides the Insomnia Gaming Festival (which isn’t really my cup of tea). Perhaps I’ll be there again next year but just for the afternoon, or only for volunteering.
Were you at EGX last week? If so, what’s your opinion and did you find any new games to add to your wishlist? And are your knees hurting you as much as mine are after standing up for two days?