Into the wild

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?)






7 responses to “Into the wild”

  1. Michael avatar

    Hmm, is there life for arcades… From what I hear, arcades aren’t dead on the mainland anyway. Right?

    I know I spent an awful lot of time in this tiny one way, wayyyyy back – in this place that had a bowling alley and a fantastic little burger joint – playing stuff like Time Crisis and Operation Wolf. It was kind of sad when it packed up.

  2. Laura avatar

    I love arcades! Especially the Lightgun games. The only thing I don’t enjoy about them are the kids that stand behind you bugging for a turn, like they’re gonna last more than 30 seconds the lightweights 😛

  3. Dave avatar

    I think arcade machines in burger joints and bowling alleys are an awesome idea.

    But I think its the actual standalone arcades that are fading. We dont have one in Edinburgh, but the seafront used to be a haven for arcades. Sega World at the trocadcero is the only big one i know about.

    Dont be mean Laura 😛

  4. Michael avatar

    Nah, they just happened to be in the same building – it was a complex that had those things, a cinema and a nightclub. Although there is an arcade here that opened quite recently; I haven’t checked it out though. Plus I think there’s still a bunch in Bundoran, Portrush, other seaside-y places.

  5. Skill avatar

    The arcade scene is really gone here Michael.
    Growing up, Portstewart (4 miles from Portrush) had two real arcades, and I spent half my life in them. One closed completely, the other is all one-armed bandits.
    Portrush isn’t much better. The two huge arcades they had, Sportsworld and Barry’s, are closed most of the year (really only open summer months), plus they give less and less space over to arcade games as time moves on. So its mostly dodgems, pool tables or whatever.
    Was through Bundoran around Easter time too. Saw much the same thing. Places had closed, HUGE numbers of poker and gambling machines, plus the likes of table hockey for the tourists. 🙁

    Time was, there must have been 200 Street Fighter II machines within 5 miles of where I type. How many SFIV machines will there be this time next year?
    Portstewart likely won’t have any. Portrush? It won’t be many. Maybe 4 or 5 if we’re lucky. Maybe.

  6. Michael avatar

    Ah no way… Barry’s is edging out arcade games?! I think that’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard…

  7. Skill avatar

    V sad. It shall live on in our memories.

    I take solace in the fact that we’re enjoying a golden age of console gaming (consoled by console gaming?). But will online SFIV ever feel like the heady days of SFII? Waiting in line for your turn, knowing that while you looked harmless enough, you were going to stay on all afternoon with just one 10p piece, cos you were a gaming God.

    We can only hope.

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