One fine day at Games Britannia

“So, where were you?”

“In a bus that passed through all the filming locations of Four Lions. It was as weird as that time that I answered a Physics exam with a quote by Tom Baker’s Doctor Who about entropy…”

The first videogame I played in my life was Joust. It was in an arcade called Penny Land in a mall in México City. My brothers used to take me there on Saturday nights when the parents were out, so I could be distracted with flashing colours and pixel violence while they did whatever teens in México City did in the 80s.

So when Mr. Joe Field (aka the author of Banjo Chutney) invited me to help out on a bit of board games, I accepted. How come? Well, when money was tight (or the brothers were out), I played board games, usually by myself (México City is not kid friendly).

The appointment was on Saturday 7th of July, at the Magna centre in Rotherham. After the educational part of Games Britannia had passed (here’s a detailed story), the event had a two day marathon of videogaming, with a tiny section for the “unplugged” side of games. That is: board games.

That’s where I pretty much embedded myself from noon until closing time (5 pm). Although there were a couple of games around, the one in display (and being used) was Arkham Horror, a game based on the Cthulhu Mythos, mixing equal parts of Dungeons and Dragons, Risk and Clue. It’s an interesting game, albeit trying to explain the rules to newcomers usually results in two outcomes:

  • They stay around, going along with it, immersing themselves in the experience.
  • They runaway, grab a fire extinguisher and drown the people who know the rules with flame-retardant liquids.

Thankfully, we were lucky and had some very understanding players. The best thing about board games is the interaction with other people; it’s a real social experience. Don’t get me wrong: I love videogames and they can be quite good for social experiences, but online gaming experiences have never felt as fulfilling (and funny) as watching people roll die and move little figurines around.

Mind you, co-op gaming is quite a fun experience (see any 4 player arcade game, it’s always a hoot), but, again, I’m fond of board games because it’s what I grew up with and spent quite a few Saturdays playing Dungeons and Dragons (2.5th edition represent!) with some of my best friends. I never got that sort of experience with online gaming and it’s probably two way different beasts.

A quick exploration jaunt was necessary and appreciate the rest of the exhibition. By jove, it was a veritable cornucopia of every single console / computer / gamesthingy / cachivache (TM Dad) I’ve known/heard of, with a few surprises around too. I loved seeing a functioning Commodore 64, it was like reuniting with an old friend (the one I used fried in Tampico, a lifetime ago).

It was a poignant moment to see young kids playing with computer hardware that possibly was twice (or thrice!) their age. They were having fun with Chucky Egg, avoiding trucks (that’s lorries for ya) with Frogger and catching flies in Intellivision’s strange classic, Frog Bog.

Arcade selection was small, but as I remember, the UK wasn’t that big on Arcade Games, or at least it wasn’t as big as we were in México. Still, it was a great trip back memory lane.

People selling old cartridges were at the end of the exhibition room. Some real gems in there, some other. A mention of E.T. was avoided, but I spied a couple of cartridges I wish I could play. The people of Sumo Digital were around too, and I got to play the 4 Doctor Who adventure videogames (I’m always split between Shadows of the Vashta Nerada and The Cybermen are a bunch of dafties Blood of the Cybermen, as  I love both of them).

A friend called me. I answered and explained where I was. She asked if it was one of those “weird anorak things” I’m into. I sort of agreed. Then another friend called me and asked if this was “an insanely huge LAN party”. I sort of disagreed. Even if not everyone was playing the same game nor the same generation of machines, they all seemed to be having the same kind of fun. And that’s what games are all about*.

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Words: Sam J. Valdés López.

*Mind you, I love games with fun and history.

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