My Highlights of Play Expo Manchester – Retro Retrospective
Play Expo returns to Manchester for its seventh year and fills Manchester Central with the sounds of pinball machines, 8bit scores and the rolling of dice. Organised by video game events specialists Replay Events the expo is one of the biggest in the North West, which made me wonder…Why the hell hadn’t I been there before?
I’m not a great gamer, that’s my confession. However, I still love video games, this is my conundrum. So to visit an event purely dedicated to video games seemed like it could be a real hit or miss scenario. I’ve been to comic conventions, tattoo conventions and horror conventions, but never a gaming convention. I was treading new ground. So here’s my thoughts on Play Expo and some of the highlights from the event.
Play Expo really does cater to everyone. No matter what platform or experience you want they had a game for it. There were close to 1000 consoles overall including computers, arcade games, handheld games, pinball machines and PC’s all with a vast array of modern and retro games to choose from. Whether you wanted open world, side scrollers or first person shooters there was something for all fans.
I managed to get a turn on a few different games including the Adam’s Family pinball, Asteroid Arcade and Duck Hunt, I realised that I am terrible at all of them, but it was enjoyable to watch other play. The atmosphere around a lot of the consoles was great with people encouraging one another and also not being game hogs….mostly. There was even a competition zone set up by Replay Retro that involved unusual controllers for games, such as Sonic the Hedgehog played on a motion sensor pad.
As well as the world of pixels and graphics there was also a section for table top gaming. The amazing Fan Boy Three had multiple table top games set up and an amazing team to walk you through the rules. Alongside them were Asmodee UK who had a lot of brilliant new and indie board games ready to play. The staff were all amazing and helpful and it was great to get to see some new games out of the box.
The Dark Room
Best hour I have spent in the dark with strangers. That’s my review.
Okay, maybe a little bit more information is needed. The Dark Room is the world’s only live-action video game. It debuted in 2012 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has become an online, and in-person, phenomenon since then. The Dark Room is a text-based adventure game with a twist, the audience interact with the host and there are no expectations to win.
The show, and video game, were created by John Robertson who is hilarious, unhinged and possibly the sweetest man all at the same time. His razor sharp rapid fire improve wit brings the show to life, along with his glow up costume. It was such a unique experience that I don’t think I can explain well enough to do it justice. What I will leave you with is a call to action. Go an experience this amazing show! Become a Darren! Leave with a bag of beans and screaming at the top of your lungs “YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN A DARK ROOM”. You will not regret it.
Among the treasure troves of retro consoles, cartridges and controllers were some amazing little finds. We came out with a few Mega Drive and Master System games (Sega seemed to be our theme) including Alien 3 which I am very excited to give a go.
Of course we also got a few geeky decorative pieces including an amazing Starman plush, for our Donkey Kong themed bookshelf, from Tavington Crafts who had a cute array of retro gaming themed plush toys. We also got some colourful Pokémon coasters, in original Red, Green, Yellow and Blue of course! Our final purchase, in honour of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, we treated ourselves to the action figures of our titular heroes. They come with an interchangeable hand for smoking time and what can only be described as a severe stoner face change of head.
Play Expo have multiple locations including Glasgow and London so it’s worth checking out their schedule and seeing if you catch one near you.
Have a look at my video highlight reel for and let me know what you think.