I attended R3PLAY today and had a great time. As well as all the pure fun that was to be had playing the games on a seriously impressive range of systems, it was the overall buzz of the show that really resonated. How? Well:
Brilliant atmosphere – rare systems like the Japan-only NeoGeo and NEC PC-FX – machines that I read about in cool games magazines as a teenager, the Atari Mega ST, the cult vector-graphic Vectrex and various Sega/CBM/Sinclair/Acorn machines were all there. These beauties were not just on display, but ready to play by anybody who sat down in front of them. If you put your drink down on the table near the machines as you played, no-one told you off for your “dangerous” behavior. Some systems had loads of spare carts available for you to choose from, just spread across the table. As you changed cartridges and played your game, never once was there a sense of being watched: that sense of “looking out for bad behaviour” that you so often get in this country. The organisers and equipment owners assumed that you weren’t some monster there to steal stuff or knock drinks over the expensive/vintage equipment.
Open-minded scene – something obvious from attending the show is that the retro scene isn’t consumed with arguments about about new vs. old. To use an analogy, I used to drive an MG (a modern one) and it was clear that some folks in the owners club didn’t accept these cars as true MG’s. This isn’t the case in the retrogaming scene – the hall was full of PS3’s and Xbox 360’s as well as retro. There was the chance to sample some of the latest games, including the Wii GoldenEye that’s not even released yet.
Jeff – later in the afternoon I entered a room and barely noticed the Llamasoft sign outside. Looking around, it soon became obvious that each of the varied systems was running Revenge of the Mutant Camels or similar. Then I became aware of a guy stood in the corner – it was THE Jeff Minter! I chuckled as I heard a guy talking to him say “yeah so I sent you a friend request on Facebook yesterday, if you wouldn’t mind accepting it?”. The guy has groupies!!!!
Pinball is still huge – in a wide side corridor there was a fairly large collection of pinball tables. Before arriving at the venue I was looking forward to getting onto these beauties and satisfying an unrequited pinball addiction, but it seemed that the almost total removal of pinball tables from pubs and other venues across the country had others feeling the same way – the tables were jammed up almost all day. When I did get chance to to have a quick game it was on a basic table with very tired flippers – getting power behind a shot was impossible.
History – the show was definitely not without depth – the British Computer Museum from Bletchley Park were in attendance and had some very interesting exhibits. The partially dismantled Digital PDP system they had was amazing. The mainboard had hundrens of pins and a massively complex loom of hand-crafted wires running across it; it just goes to show how difficult it was in the 1960’s and 70’s to build any kind of computer.
Games played today included Crazy Taxi, Streetfigher IV, Speedball 2, Afterburner Climax, Wii GoldenEye, F-Zero, Vectrex Scramble, Outrun, Outrun 2. Of the two player games we played my parter in crime Chris B managed to thrash me at everything except for my surprising turn of form at IK+ on the Amiga. Green belt rules!