Days Out: Why take your family to a video game expo?
After four days on the ground at EGX, the AskAboutGames team is back, and we’ve just about recovered from all the excitement, enthusiastic talking and jostling through the crowds to see the future of video gaming.
And what a show. For those that don’t know it, EGX is one of the biggest video game events in Europe, and takes place each year in Birmingham, in the UK. What makes it rather distinct is that it brings together not just older gamers, but also the games industry, students, and families. There were new blockbuster releases on show, unusual and inspiring indie games to try, live eSports competitions underway, board games to test, cosplay contests to enter, Minecraft meet-ups, talks from game industry experts, and even a host of retro consoles, arcade machines and pinball tables.
Behind EGX’s closed doors, meanwhile, press interviewed game makers, studios pitched for cash to investors, and meetings were held to help guide the future of the industry. And our friends over at game industry trade body Ukie had a special stage where those who make a living from games shared tips on how to get a dream career making them.
In other words, it was a celebration of game culture in every form. We could tell you plenty about the games at EGX, but you can find plenty of great articles about that already, such as this guide to the best of the show over at The Guardian.
So instead, we’re just going to tell you why you should visit a game expo like EGX with your family.
Of course, you get to play lots of games, and many before they are released to the wider public. That’s great, absolutely – though you’ll need to tackle queues that rival those that form at a theme park ride on a bank holiday if you want to play the biggest future hits. There’s equally a chance to explore unusual gems in the indie areas. There you’ll rarely queue, and the person that shows you the game may well be the human that made it.
And these expos offer a chance to get your hands on the cutting edge of technology, from VR headsets and high end gaming PCs to more unusual offerings, like elaborate gaming chairs and strange experimental controllers.
The real reason to visit as a family, though, is to learn about and share games together. It lets parents try the games their kids may be pestering them for, and see how they feel about the content. Equally, if your youngsters want to make a living making games, you can not only go to careers sessions so as to take home insights you can talk about in the future, but also visit the booths of universities that offer video game courses, and see what children might need to focus on at a school and college level if they are to study games.
You can also show your kids that you might know a thing or two about games that they don’t, perhaps earning some credibility by tackling a classic arcade cabinet together, or even showing them what pinball is all about.
Most of all, though, these events are a chance for families to get excited about games together, and learn together. That’s something that you can take home with you and share throughout the year. And that kind of experience and knowledge might make things a little easier for parents trying to encourage offspring to resist the allure of 18-rated games, or play for sensible periods of time.
EGX won’t be on for another year, but there are dozens more events. EGX Rezzed, for example, focuses more on indie games, while December’s WeGeek Gaming Utopia offers a much smaller, less overwhelming gathering where there are more eccentric extra elements, from light sabre classes to Assassins’ Creed parkour lessons, as well as gaming tournaments and a rather alternative video game orchestra.
And then, of course, there’s the London Games Festival; a huge event taking place across London made up of numerous distinct gatherings, meet-ups, performances and exhibitions. Or there are permanent exhibitions like the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham – where the GameCity festival will return in 2018 – which offers much more than a normal arcade.
If you did make it to EGX over the weekend, perhaps we bumped into you. If not, get to another event with your family soon, and you’ll come back a little wiser, a little more qualified to share games with your children, and perhaps a little more exhausted. But trust us; it’s worth it.