This weekend Replay Events, one of the UK’s premier gaming and event entertainment companies and the driving force behind PLAY Expo Blackpool AND Manchester (both events that team Nerdly have attended in the past), added another Northern event to their roster: PLAY Expo Leeds, an all-day gaming celebration taking place which took place at Leeds United Football Club’s Centenary Pavillion on Sunday April 16th.
Of course the PLAY Expo events are all about playing games: be it pinball, arcade games or consoles, be they retro or modern. There are plenty of items to buy too – gamers can stock up on retro games, consoles and all sorts of collectables. Many from local vendors (a great way to get your name out there in the community for sure). But the focus of PLAY Expo’s is most definitely on games.
This latest event in Leeds is easily one of the smallest PLAY Expo’s we’ve been too, however the size of the event did not detract from proceedings in any way. In fact, the smaller scale event meant that this PLAY Expo actually managed to have a much more intimate feel than others. On top of that, being the first event in the area meant a smaller attending crowd, which in turn allowed for a lot more freedom to get to the arcade machines and consoles you wanted too – the wait time at larger events can actually be a hinderance to your enjoyment; but not here.
Like other PLAY Expo events, the wide variety of things to do and play meant that the entrance fee was well worth it. Split into a number of sections attendees could try their hand at LAN gaming, Minecraft (which had its own section at the event), arcade games like Zaxxon, Outrun and – in a first for me at least – the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade! Plus, as usual, there were plenty of pinball machines, including Family Guy, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Johnny Mnemonic and Game of Thrones.
For console gamers there was plenty on offer too: with numerous Xbox One’s and PS4′s to play on – replete with some of the latest releases (we tried our hand at the just-released Yooka-Laylee); and retro consoles and computers galore, from classics like the Atari 2660 and Commodore 64, right through to the PS3, on which plenty of attendees were enjoying Rock Band! But the collection of consoles and computers didn’t just include the big-names. On show, AND able to play, were the likes of the late 70s/early 80s Grandstand home Pong machines, the Amstrad GX4000, an Atari Jaguar, even a PC-FX (so rare to see one outside of Japan).
The big hit for me – and a true blast from the past – turned out to be a “console” I drooled over for years as a teenager and eventually bought with my second paycheck (the first paycheck went on an Atari Jaguar from Telegames back in 1999), the Philips CDi. I was a huge fan of Video CDs back in the day, collecting them around the time of The release of the first Matrix movie, often importing legit VCDs from Hong Kong – which meant that the CDi was a perfect console-come-home-entertainment-centre for me. At PLAY Expo Leeds was a Philips CDi 400 series machine, running a game I’d almost forgot about: The Apprentice. It’s safe to say I spent going on an hour playing through the game – which againg goes back to the smaller crowds. On the lesser-known machines you could take your time playing games without fear of anyone scrambling to have a go as well.
PLAY Expo Leeds also had a dedicated VR Zone; multiple gaming tournaments during the day: on games like Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart and PES; and an Indie Game Zone, featuring a number in developers showing their wares – a few of which we’ll cover in a separate post.
With a great location, easy to get to just off the motorway; freshly-cooked food and sandwiches (at OK-ish prices, especially for an event like this); and a bar for the older gamers; this first PLAY Expo Leeds can be considered a huge success, roll on the next one!