The Eurogamer Expo Experience

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By Samuel Peace

For the last two years I’ve gathered around friends houses for an ‘all nighter’ involving typical party antics, gaming and topping it off by watching E3. For many gamers the Electronic Entertainment Expo (more commonly known as E3) is the pinnacle of the industry’s annual calendar. It’s the crème de la crème and it attracts the world’s greatest game developers, publishers and journalists. It’s both a celebration of what makes video game culture so great and a glimpse into the future of how we’ll play next.

Since starting in 1995 it has played centre stage for the industry’s biggest reveals, whether it’s a new games console or the next chapter in a popular franchise. 2005 saw E3 extend its reach by broadcasting all the big conferences online for the whole world to see. No longer were fans restricted to just reading stories about it, they could now watch the reveals for themselves as it was happening. This streaming revolution was what really turned E3 from a general busy news week into the biggest and most exciting gaming extravaganza known to man. In a similar vein to Christmas, there is always a huge build up to it months before it happens and then before you know it, it’s over within a flash. Though brief, it always gives you some of the best memories as a gamer and it becomes an excuse to have a celebration.

The only thing that could be better than streaming it would be attending the event itself and seeing everything with our own eyes (and even playing some of the games that were just revealed). Unfortunately this dream for most people will stay just that – a dream. The event is invite only therefore only the most prestigious and well known media outlets are allowed to see it all first hand. Fortunately however, developers and publishers are eager to get their games noticed by as many people as possible. Therefore some companies have made their own versions of E3, but have made them open to the public. While none of these tend to have any big reveals like E3, they focus a lot more on allowing gamers to go hands on with unreleased titles. Gamescom (GC) in Germany and the Tokyo Games Show (TGS) in Japan are the biggest of these events and manage to entice upwards of 200,000 people a year.

In 2008 the UK finally got its own proper video games convention called the Eurogamer Expo (EGE). It started off as a rather small venture with only 4,000 attendees, however after five years it has now turned into a massive exhibition for the whole of the UK. Last year it attracted 50,000 people which is a massive increase over the year before (34,500). As soon as I found out about the EGE (back in summer 2011) I snapped up a ticket right away. 2012 was my second expo and it certainly did feel bigger and better than 2011’s one. The question was though; could it deliver the same awe inspiring experience as E3 (minus the reveals)? The answer is a resounding yes. There are many factors which help to contribute to making it the best day out any video game fan can have. So below are my EGE experiences:

Unreleased Games – The main reason I went was to get my hands on all of the hottest upcoming games which were still in development and not available to purchase. A majority of the booths allowed attendees to play these latest experiences, most of which are normally up to six months away from being released. The excitement I felt when rushing to a stand was that of opening a present when I was a kid.

Developer Sessions – The second reason I went was to see some of the famous faces who make the titles I know and love. Last year had the likes of Peter Molyneux (Fable series) and Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear series) both of whom are celebrities in the eyes of industry fans. Although they rarely make any surprise announcements, it is still interesting to find out more about them and their projects. It is great asking them questions and just like with any celebrity you become pretty star-struck if you manage to shake their hand or get a photo with them.

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Meet Like Minded People – Like with my ‘all nighter’, big gaming events are always enjoyed best with like minded people. Attendees at EGE all share the same passion of gaming so this gives everyone a boost of confidence as you already have something in common. Gaming once used to be a very anti-social activity. I grew up playing in my room away from everyone else and I rarely went out. This affected my overall confidence growing up, but with modern internet capabilities and the rise of social gaming, I can now freely discuss and play with many other people. My confidence has skyrocketed in recent years and to my surprise the EGE is not full of people with under developed social skills.

The Atmosphere and Cosplay – The grand building that is Earls Court, has been home to the EGE since 2010. Seeing it for the first time after stepping out of the tube was a surreal experience. Never had I seen posters and billboards that big advertising games. Usually advertisements of that stature are reserved for films and music, so it was a pleasant change. Things were even better inside as there were towering bits of artwork at each booth as developers/publishers vied for my attention. Seeing a massive hall filled with people enjoying what I enjoy was a heart warming sight. All this was improved by Cosplay. Originating in Japan, cosplay has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon and has since gathered popularity in western countries. The idea is to dress up as your favourite character (from any media), which makes it is a great way to find out people’s favourite franchises. Also competitions for big prizes have made this past time become an obsession for some with people putting in months of work to create something truly mind-blowing.

Competitions – A video game is not complete without some form of competitive aspect, so the same can be said for a games show not having competitions. While in the past we’ve had board games, high score tables and pong, the invention of online gaming has taken multiplayer to the next level. It is now possible to face anyone in the world, so naturally competitions have become bigger and more exciting. Games which can support many competing players or have huge followings such as Call of Duty have now become esports (electronic sports) and have transformed into cultures themselves. Big trades shows such as EGE thrive on these massive esport areas and it was excellent being a spectator.

Careers – While trade shows are used by developers/publishers to primarily showcase their projects and products, sometimes they use it to advertise vacancies at their companies. It makes sense for a games company to promote a gaming job in an area full of gamers. I also saw education establishments trying to persuade attendees to take their game related course along with career advice experts telling people the best ways to get into the industry.

Merchandise – No day out would be complete without a novelty item of some sort. At places like EGE there is usually a cluster of shops all selling exclusive stuff which is hard to find elsewhere. As you would expect it’s not always cheap, but for hardcore game fans it can be difficult to resist. I try not to splash out too much when I’m there, but it is certainly impressive what you can buy.

These were just the main highlights for me, but there were other smaller areas which were no less impressive. While I was there I met up with Chris Ledger – a friend who is also the owner and lead developer of indie game company Derp Studios. I asked him what he liked about EGE and game exhibitions in general, and also how EGE has benefited Derp Studios. He said: “It’s a great day out, especially for someone like me who is both a fan and a developer. The developer conferences were my favourite parts as they were real eye openers. I thoroughly enjoyed Hideo Kojima’s session as I’ve always been a massive fan of the Metal Gear franchise. From a developer perspective, it’s always great to check out what other companies are doing. As we are currently in the mobile market, I found it very useful checking out all of the latest portable games. My ultimate goal is to eventually bring my own game to an event like this, and to see a giant frog banner saying ‘Derp Studios’.

The Eurogamer Expo continues to expand and 2013 seems like it will be its biggest year yet, as the industry witnesses the transition into a new console generation this fall. Hopefully one day EGE can become the new E3.

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