Play Expo 2014 is now in its the third year of this event, which is held at EventCity, next to the Trafford Centre (M60 J9 and J10), but it was my first time, with my only previous gaming expo experience being in Wolverhampton at Revival 2013 and Revival 2014.
Play Expo 2014 is a larger event, and I took well in excess of 200 pictures, from arcade titles to retro games and machines, virtual reality, some incredible cosplay costumes, pinball machines, plenty of PS4s and even the DeLorean from Back To The Future!
It’s one of my all-time favourite film series and, yes, you could have a professional picture taken while sat in the car, for a mere fiver. It didn’t go back in time, but you can’t have everything 😉
In each of the different sections to come – each given its own separate page (9! Count ’em!) – I don’t know the names of all the companies and organisations who brought these joys to us, so if I’ve missed you out, feel free to get in touch (dom @ dvdfever.co.uk) and I’ll add a link back to your site and/or Facebook page.
First up, I’ll take a look at the arcade machines. A lot of these I can remember playing from the early 1980s, and you can find the full album of my arcade pictures on Facebook here.
After Burner is Sega’s 1987 combat flight simulator game, and was available in both sit-down and stand-up versions. Naturally, the classic sit-down cabinet is the one everyone wanted to play, as it lurches about all over the place while you try to shoot down enemy planes. Word of advice: although queues were forming from both sides, and people would adhere to knowing whose turn was next, make sure you get in from the right-hand side. I got in from the left, but you have to climb over the gear stick and, since I’m slightly bigger all round than I was 30 years ago, I nearly said goodbye to my innocence in the process, constricting myself to get in. Worth the pain, though, for the immense pleasure which followed.
Donkey Kong (1981, Nintendo) – four screens. Maximum enjoyment. Mario was introduced as “Jumpman”, before later being renamed. Your girlfriend has been kidnapped by the big ape and you have to climb to rescue her. It’s still as engaging as it was back then.
And I always thought the game was originally meant to be “Monkey Kong”, misspelled along the way, but this is apparently a false urban myth. It’s also claimed that game designer Shigeru Miyamoto looked in a Japanese-English dictionary for something that would translate as “stubborn gorilla”, or “Donkey” meant “silly” or “stubborn”.
Hot Rod (1988, Sega). A four-player game, I thought this one came out from earlier in the ’80s, but then there were similar single-player games around back then. I didn’t get to play on this as it was always too busy, but I do remember it from back in the day.
Hang-On (1985, Sega). This showed Sega were ahead of the curve as it was the world’s first full-body-experience video game. Climb aboard (no gearstick to negotiate), zoom down the road and turn with the bike to go round the course and from checkpoint to checkpoint. Having not played it for a while, it took a little getting used to, but I soon did, and just like back in the day, I didn’t get through too many checkpoints.
Out Run (1986, Sega) – another sit-down arcade game, driving instead of flying or riding a bike. Like Hang-On, you had to get from A to B, and through all the checkpoints inbetween. Again, I wasn’t very good at it beyond the first 2 or 3 checkpoints, but the feeling you get as you drive in a cabinet that twists and turns is still as immense as ever. It certainly has some of the most memorable tunes ever from a game and I still sometimes play them in my head, today, while I’m driving.
Pacland (1984, Namco) – Pac-Man is a game that everyone knows, but Pacland feels rather less known, yet still being very entertaining in a left-to-right side-scrolling title which was the first to feature parallax scrolling, as you’ll see some background items scroll at an independent speed. You’re chased by ghosts, some of them come at you – floating, flying or driving, there are power pills and a jump over some water which I’ve never managed to accomplish!
And, finally, The Legend of Zelda‘s Link looks on at a bank of arcade games…
Retro gaming is also one of the highlights with this sort of event, and it’s one of the few places you’ll get a chance to see the computers and consoles of yesteryear. The Atari 2600 was an incredible success, so in 1982 they brought out the Atari 5200, in view of the competition from the Intellivision and Colecovision. However, it couldn’t compete and, after its November 1982 release, it was discontinued in May 1984. The subequent Atari 7800 didn’t fare much better – it was released in 1986 in the US, 1987 in Europe, and was discontinued in 1992. Overall, it didn’t make any real impact in the UK, and the 2600 is the one everyone still wants.
Also check out the full set of photos here.
The game being played here is Robotron 2084.
And then we have the classic Atari 2600, brought to Play Expo 2014 from Video Game Carnival. This is the original ‘Woody’ style, and is playing Carnival. This was my first video games console and looks as gorgeous today as it did when it was first released.
And here’s something a bit different. Yes, the screen’s a bit obscured (and I forget which game I was playing), but you might notice is that the joystick is HUGE!!! It’s not easy to manoeuvre the stick AND press the button, but it still works perfectly well and is quite a feat of engineering.
The MicroVAX 3100 is not a computer I’m familiar with, and I don’t know the name of the game onscreen – even though it attracted a great deal of interest, but this 1990 machine with 72Mb RAM, a 1.5Gb disc drive and running the OpenBSD operating system reminds me of when I had a Tandy TRS-80 Model III in the early ’80s, playing many a green screen game, whether arcade or adventure.
The SAM Coupé was a home computer released in 1989, and discontinued in 1992, and was similar under the bonnet to the ZX Spectrum, looking like a logical successor. This one here is playing a more colourful version of Manic Miner and while the machine didn’t go the distance, you can still buy them today. Just before I came here, I saw one going on Ebay for the crazy price of almost £800, but at least one of the traders was selling them for the much more affordable and realistic price of £200. If I had the money, I so would 🙂
The Philips CD-i player, released in 1992 in Europe, was also a short-lived machine – in the public consciousness at least. It played Video CDs, which were touted as the successor to a VHS machine, only you couldn’t record on them. And while the later DVDs use the MPEG2 format, Video CDs used MPEG1. Imagine early Freeview (when it was run by OnDigital), in a thunderstorm. The picture was blocky as hell. Even a slightly hazy VHS tape was better.
As such, as we emerged from the days of renting a VHS machine on a monthly basis, I can still remember the man at the local shop telling me, “Anyone looking to buy a VHS machine, should seriously consider buying a Video CD player”. I know it was his job to sell them, but I had to hasten myself out of the shop in order to control the giggles!
Dragon’s Lair – another milestone in gaming history. While the first laserdisc video game was Sega’s Astron Belt, released in 1983, playing the background scenes to a foreground of a computer-generated shoot-em-up, later that year saw this cartoon adventure featuring Dirk The Daring, having to rescue Princess Daphne from evil dragon Singe, who has locked her up in wizard Mordroc’s castle.
With animation from ex-Disney animator Don Bluth, you play each scene with only one way to succeed – either in one button press (using the sword) or directional movement of the joystick, or a mixture of both. Get it right and you’re on to the next scene, all of which are shown in rather random order but there are a fixed number until you reach the dragon’s lair itself. Given that there were some fairly duff home computer versions in the ’80s, and that now you can even play it on your smartphone, nothing compared to the arcade original, even though this minimised machine clearly wasn’t housing a laserdisc player, as those did have sizeable delays between the scenes – as well as during them when it was about to play the outcome of your move.
And finally, for this section, a PC Engine SuperGrafx, released in Japan in 1989, and was an upgraded version of the PC Engine, a machine which was released in the UK as the TurboGrafx-16 in 1990 – so we didn’t even get the original until after Japan got the sequel! I really need to move over there!
There’s still a great deal of love for the PC Engine and it’s successor, all around the world and at retro events like this, and I was playing Battle Ace, a 1989 game from Hudsonsoft. It’s a traditional shoot-em-up with the screen scrolling upwards as enemies come towards you. Yes, it may not sound original but this was my first time playing the game (and on the console), and it’s a hell of a lot of fun!
Cosplay was a major part of this event, with the organisers even devoting a catwalk masquerade to those who had dressed up as their favourite characters from videogames and TV, ranging from The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter and Powerpuff Girls through to modern cult drama Game of Thrones.
I took a few pictures of various people who had dressed up in their fantastic outfits, but there were still occasional moments when I shyed away from asking to take a picture, as it’s not human nature to just stop someone in the street and ask to take a photo of them, and you see some people walking from A to B, and with a sense of purpose, and you feel bad for stopping them. Or, sometimes, people look
like their busy making their own way around the games.
As Morrissey once sang, “Shyness is nice, but shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to…”
I understand that the organisers of the Cosplay Masquerade, Genesis Gaming, have recorded it, but it’s not yet available online. I’ve emailed them, so as soon as it is, then I’ll link it here. Below are the pictures I have taken, although I have to confess that I don’t know who all of the characters are. If you do, please let me know and I’ll update this.
Also, I didn’t realise before Play Expo 2014 is that there are some people out there who participate in the bullying of cosplayers. Bullies involved in this, or in any aspect of life, are sad individuals who are trying to make up for their tiny genitals. One company who are running an anti-bullying campaign is I Cosplay. Like their Facebook page.
The following pictures can also be seen on my Facebook album.
While we await the full cosplay masquerade to be put online, here’s the Cosplayers of the 2014 Play Expo dancing onstage to Psy’s Gangnam Style while awaiting results of the competition:
Virtual Reality is something that’s coming on in leaps and bounds, and having tried the Virtuality 1000CS Virtual Reality Pod originally at Revival 2013, playing it’s most popular game, Dactyl Nightmare, I now had the chance to play the two-player version.
The unit was brought to Play Expo 2014 courtesy of Retro Computer Museum
There’s a three-dimensional arena in front of you, allowing you to walk up and down stairs while the other player also walks about. They’re trying to kill you just as you need to kill them. This is achieved by launching grenades in their direction. Lift the sight up and ‘lob’ them towards him. After you’ve shot eight grenades, a pterodactyl will appear and lift you up, then drop you in another part of the map. The creature won’t kill you, he’s just annoying, meaning that once you land you’ll need to get your bearings again and find where your opponent is again. It is possible to avoid being picked up… except that you need to kill the pterodactyl before he gets to you. Which I found impossible. However, this time it only happened once.
There’s a three-minute limit to the game and the 3D images appear inside your helmet, and the world turns as you turn. I was conscious of the fact that I was wearing a belt full of electronics that was linked to the circular platform and I didn’t want to twist the wires, but it’s fairly intuitive and whether or not you’ve played it before, it’s an unmissable experience.
Starters Orders 6 is just one example of showing how far virtual reality has come on. Using the Oculus Rift VR technology – which delivers a separate image to each eye as shown below, which I first saw at Revival 2014, which is an open-ending horse racing management and jockey game for PC and Mac.
The full game allows you to train and ride your own string of race horses, in the Derby, Grand National and many other races around the world, as well as playing against legendary horses from past and present. Since there’s often a queue for this game, and it would take you all day to fully get into the game, it’s understandable that you’d just be having one ride, and when climbing about the iJoy Ride excercise device, it was one hell of a ride!
Get on the saddle, and go with it as it rocks back and forth. Put the helmet on, along with the headphones, and after a few seconds to get used to the images, off you go, tilting the unit in order to take the corners while also wanting to look all around you. I never get car sick or anything like that, but had to ask the one of the guys to slow the rocking down a bit.
Overall, it was an awesome experience, and you can find out more info about the game, as well as download the free demo at their website, StartersOrders.com. Also check out the Facebook page check out the footage below:
Last but not least, CDF Ghostship does for the first-person-shooter market what Starters Orders 6 does for horse racing. This time round, you play it while standing up. Put on the Oculus Rift VR glasses, then the headphones, then strap yourself in and feel the Gs!
CDF stands for Colonial Defence Force, and check out the teaser trailer below. The videos below show a regular trailer and also an early version of how it looks from the headset point of view. I was able to play it for two minutes – unfortunately the long queues meant longer games, understandably, weren’t possible – and it was mind-blowing. As a first-person-shooter it’s great fun, you can look all around you, and at one point I think I broke gravity! I started floating about which gave me a hell of a spaced-out feeling. I’d rather that hadn’t happened while I only had a limited amount of time to play it, but then I shouldn’t have had an accident in the airlock (at least I think that’s what I did).
Check out the Facebook page and also their website. Below is the trailer and Oculus Rift VR version.
There was all manner of other things to see at Play Expo 2014. A full set of pics can be seen here, and they include:
Again, you could have your picture taken professionally for a fiver.
Modern gaming was displayed with numerous Playstation 4 machines. There’s a full set of my pics here, and a selection below:
Pinball machines are also a wonderful addition to any gaming event, and before Play Expo 2014 and the Revival events, I hadn’t played a pinball in years. Out of the 100+ pinballs available here, here’s a short selection, but also check out the full set of photos here:
Looking for something a bit different? Try these:
And, all good things must come to an end. After a wonderful day, it was time to go home, but I will sign off with some observations that I think could improve things for Play Expo 2015.
1. Queuing to get in:
On the Saturday, the event opened at 11am, and as I hadn’t pre-paid, I figured I would have a bit of a wait to get in, and I understood that. I also got the impression from one of the girls moving people into queues that all the pre-paid people would go in first. The pre-paid queue seemed considerably longer than pay-on-the-door, but the head of both queues were allowed to go in at the same time. As such, having queued from around 10.40, I got in around 11.10-11.15, whereas a number of those who had pre-paid had yet to enter.
At Revival, all the pre-paid customers got in an hour early, which would’ve made sense for Play Expo 2014. I got to Revival about 10.10 rather than the 9.30 start, but as there was no pre-paid queue at that time, I could just walk straight in. Meanwhile, the pay-on-the-door customers were understandably still waiting to enter.
2. No internet:
Having the internet completely disappear on me is something I’ve had experience of as a former Vodafone customer. However, it seemed that whichever provider you use, there was no internet capability whatsoever. I thought it was a Three problem – my current provider, and I saw others playing with their phones, but I heard of others unable to use the internet. I didn’t realise it affected the actual games, too, like League of Legends. I thought those would’ve had a dedicated network connection.
3. Gaming championships
There was no central point for gaming championships – they were all done in various places and, seemingly, on an ad-hoc basis. It would’ve been better to have them in one place. In terms of gaming event experience, I only have Revival, with which to compare, but championships worked better there, due to there only being one place to play them, and RetroLords made a great job of it.
4. Celeb pictures
I was wishing I’d had a picture taken with Red Dwarf‘s Chris Barrie at Play Expo. However, I got a bit confused as I saw the price list (£15 seemed rather steep) and thought that was for any picture taken with him, but I later found out that was specific to the professional shoot done round the back of where the guests were signing things. I think it needs to be made clear – before you approach your celebrity of choice – how much for a professional picture, how much for a signature, and how much (if applicable) for one taken with your own camera. I would find it embarrassing if I went up to someone, asked for a picture taken with my camera, and then suddenly they said “That’ll be five pounds, please”.
5. Smoking area?
I was also surprised to see electronic cigarettes in use inside the arena. As it was my first time in Eventcity, I didn’t know if it was allowed. I don’t smoke anyway, but usually these things follow the same policy as regular cigarettes. No-one seemed to be pointing the occasional users I saw in the direction of the outside world.
And some pictures to finish off the day of the arena after everything was switched off, plus a couple of outside shots. Game Over, goodnight and see you in 2015, when I’ll have to do both days. And while I was driving home, I was missing it already. I wanted to hide under the tables and play games all night and into the next day!
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.