PLAY Expo Glasgow 2016

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Do you want to build an Expo?

For a long time, if the Scots wanted to go to any of the big game expositions, we had to travel down south to London or, at best, Manchester or Birmingham. PLAY Expo has been one of these events, having run in Blackpool and subsequently Manchester for 6 years already. Well this weekend they brought the show north, as in properly north, to PLAY Expo Glasgow, and we popped along to check it out.

It doesn’t have to be in England!

I spoke to Dave Cleo of Dark Cleo Productions who, in conjunction with Replay Events, organise the PLAY Expo events. He told me that they had been planning on bringing PLAY Expo north of the border for some time after noticing just how many people were travelling down to events in Manchester from Scotland’s central belt. And it turns out to have been a great move. I visited the Expo early on the Sunday morning and it was already busy, and had been so throughout the day before. By the close of Sunday, over 4,000 people had been through the doors of Braehead Arena.

Local Show, Local Talent

PLAY Expo ArcadeSo what was on the show floor? Replay Events had managed to team up with a good wealth of local developers and businesses to fill out the floor. Paisley Pinball were on hand to help out with over 40 pinball machines, all set as free to play. There were also a whole host of Arcade cabinets that were free to play, with everything from After Burner and Battlezone, to Pac Man and Tron available to play.

In the Merchandising section was a selection of local shops and establishments such as city centre gaming cafe Geek Retreat. Replay also teamed up with We Throw Switches to curate an Indy corner. Amongst others, Glasgow based Capsule Three and Dundee based Ruffian Games were on hand to demonstrate the games they are currently working on.

Along with this, there was also a large section of the floor dedicated to Retro Gaming, with a host of Mega-Drives, NES, original Playstations and other consoles available to play on. There was also a Minecraft section, in at which no point did I see a spare seat available at, proving very popular with the younger audience.

PLAY Expo Glasgow VRBy far the most popular thing on the show floor were the VR Headsets. Even arriving an hour after opening I was told that the HTC Vive had been booked out for the entire day, with not many spaces left for the Oculus. And indeed, the first thing I noticed when entering was the queues at both these stations. The HTC Vive was set up playing some of the standard demo content we’ve all either heard about or been fortunate enough to try, but for many this was their first opportunity to get hands on with a VR Headset. Perhaps it would have been slightly disappointing then that the two Oculus stations were set up with DK2s rather than CV1s, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves with the demos that were on hand.

There were also two stages, one either side of the show floor. One was hosting the various gaming competitions throughout the day, from Street Fighter to Mario Kart, and the other set up for Cosplay competitions and presentations. Naturally there was a good selection of attendees dressed for the part, including a very impressive Bayoneta.

The Arena

PLAY Expo StagePLAY Expo Glasgow was held at Braehead Arena. For those of you unfamiliar with the venue, it is an Ice Rink in the middle of Braehead Shopping Centre that for most of the year plays host to the Elite Ice Hockey League team the Braehead Clan. During the off season, the ice gets melted and the arena is used for various events, from concerts to WWE wrestling. However, the majority of these events are spectator events, not participation events like PLAY Expo. The main floor of PLAY Expo worked fine, if perhaps a little cramped around the console tables, but the Arcade cabinets and Pinball machines had plenty of space for you to move around, and the stages either side of the floor could be viewed from the tiered seating of the arena.

However, there was more to PLAY Expo than just what was on the show floor. Through the far side of the arena (through to where the players dressing rooms are normally) was a LAN area. Here a bunch of PCs were set up to play Doom and Counter Strike.

PLAY Expo Board gamesIn the upper tier of the arena there is a bar area. This was where Dark Cleo Productions had, in collaboration with Esdevium Games, set up a board gaming area. When I visited here on Sunday morning it was fairly quiet. It seemed as if it was a bit out of the way, not really getting the exposure of the show floor and thus not pulling people in unless they specifically went looking for it. A shame really when there were some great games available to play, such as Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Codenames and Catan. I spoke to a couple of the demonstrators that were helping out, and they did say that it had been busy all day Saturday, so I may have just caught it at a quiet point. Dave Cleo also mentioned that they would be looking to partner with even more companies to bring a larger board gaming presence next year.

A good day out for all

PLAY Expo GlasgowThe first PLAY Expo Glasgow seems to have been a great success. As I said at the beginning, 4,000 people through the doors over the two days, with a greatly diverse audience covering video-gamers, board-gamers, Cosplayers and families. One of the best parts of the show floor was the console tables that had a good mix of retro and current gaming platforms, so parents were able to show their children the games of their youth, and then join the children in playing some more modern titles.

PLAY Expo Indy cornerThere was a really strong showing from the Indy developers, in particular with Ruffian Games’ Fragmental, and Capsule Three’s first title, Observatorium. We’ll be covering those games in greater detail at a later date.

Replay Events have taken a lot of learning out of their first PLAY Expo north of the border, and are fully committed to bringing the event back to Glasgow again next year. If you didn’t make it along this past weekend, I’d strongly encourage you to check it out next year. Or, if you can’t wait, PLAY Expo is in Margate on the 23rd and 24th of July, and then in Manchester on the 8th and 9th of October.

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