It’s been a week since I was at the Leeds music festival and a few things I encountered there left a lasting impression on me. First of all, I am still absolutely knackered and worryingly, I didn’t have this problem last time I was there five years ago (note to self: I’m NOT getting old!). Second, I’m almost finished washing all my manky clothes. That it’s taken this long is absolutely ridiculous. Lastly, I was surprised at how much of a presence gaming had at this year’s event compared to when I was last there in 2003.

Rockstar was everywhere. You couldn’t avoid walls of posters for Grand Theft Auto IV, some five months after it was initially released. They were all there: Niko, Packie, Roman and my personal favourite Brucie (“YEAH BABY YEAH!”) gurning at us from posters as far as the eye could see. Even in-between bands we were treated to the game’s trailer that wowed us all the way back in April.

Rockstar’s next heavyweight release, Midnight Club: Los Angeles was similarly plastered all over the makeshift walls and cordons of the campsite and I fell for it, I thought ‘wow, that looks like it might be cool’. God forbid I could have one weekend where games aren’t staring me right in the face and my Blackberry isn’t ringing off the hook with emails and texts (probably about gaming) but no, this is the life I’ve chosen, I just have to deal with it…

Anyway…Slotted neatly between the Duracell and Relentless energy drink tents were two awesome installations for Motorstorm: Pacific Rift and Rock Band. They were both a bit quiet on the first day but by Saturday afternoon they were teeming as revellers of all ages scrambled to get the next shot. The interest generated at these showings will be well worth the cost of hiring space at the festival alone.

Those clever buggers in the marketing teams of Sony and EA made good on this decision and it got me thinking about how gaming has become parts of other ways of life. Train stations in Japan, for example, have download points where travellers can get the newest demos and expansion packsfor their Nintendo DS. It also reminded me of more social gaming  in the UK (no, not the Nintendo Wii…long before that kids) and a lecture I attended at this year’s Edinburgh Interactive Festival, focused on the revival of the arcades.

Again in Japan, it’s common for crowds to gather round and watch while a patron performs insanely well at Streetfighter IV or old classics such as 1942 and Pac-Man. I’m a big fan of arcades and believe that there is still plenty of scope for bringing them back in the UK big time and if the frenzy to play Rock Band at Leeds isn’t proof that this kind of gaming has some life left in it, I don’t know what is. I think companies just need to find new ways of making the arcades interesting again now that gaming isn’t linked to the tired ‘geeky’ stereotype. From what I saw at EIF, this could happen…but that’s a story for another post…

Three cheers for sweaty joysticks, the deafening roar of digital sound effects and a pocket full of 10ps.

(Oh and what do you guys think about arcades? Is there life for them yet?)