Get Together

Next weekend I’m off to Manchester, for two reasons. I’m going to spend most of the weekend in a pub, although I will take some time out on the Sunday to go around an exhibition at the Urbis centre. You are probably wondering what this has to do with gaming. The answer is that the pub is hosting gaming event “Console Combat” – http://www.consolecombat.co.uk – and the exhibition is called “Videogame Nation” – http://www.videogamenation.co.uk

I’ve been to quite a few gaming events over the last couple of years, most of them connected with retro gaming. And yes, holding an event in a pub/hotel is a lot more fun than a dingy village hall or cavernous exhibition centre. (Although it did give me great pleasure at the Micro Mart Computer Fair at the NEC back in 2003 to see vintage machines still running and an Xbox demonstration pod regularly failing). This social sort of gaming is a real blast, leading to surreal moments such as sitting opposite programming legend Archer Maclean for a curry.

The Lass O’ Gowrie has been holding regular retro nights, letting players get hands on with a great collection of old games. And I’ve been a regular at the Retrovision events in Oxford, getting the chance to meet Jeff Minter and play on a huge range of machines from the Atari 2600 to the latest PS3 games. Best of all, several of these events have done their bit for charity – 2005’s Retro Ball raised money for the Everyman cancer charity, and this year’s Byte Back gave over £2000 to the RSPCA and a local hospice. There are still tickets available for Console Combat, so if you can get to Manchester for the 25th and 26th of July I will see you there.

As for the exhibition, it’s a look at how Britain has been at the forefront of videogame development. Organised by David Crookes and sponsored by Retro Gamer / Imagine Publishing, there are games to play, displays of game artwork and behind the scenes information, a look at the history and culture of videogames and a series of live events where famous members of the industry talk about the past.

And that is important. Videogames are now an important medium, and its history needs to be preserved. It does still seem odd to me that the toys and games I played with as a child are now sitting in museums, but we need to tell the story of how the industry went from simple white bats on a black screen to photo-realistic 3D first-person shooters. The exhibition will also be a social experience – watching others play is fun, and challenging a stranger to a game is a lot better in the flesh than online.

The Videogame Nation exhibition is running until the 20th of September, with special events being held on Sundays. For more details, check out:

http://www.urbis.org.uk/page.asp?id=3296

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