This year was Ben’s first time at the EGX event – in fact, it was his first time at an expo at all. Here he explains what he made of it and what he hopes to see change next time.
As it was my first time at EGX I went in with my mind open. At least that’s what I told myself to do but having seen coverage of previous events I had a decent idea of what to expect, certainly in layout if not clientele. Anyone dreaming of a utopia of mixed sexes, floating from stand to stand in balance and harmony would be naïve because if EGX is anything to go by, console and PC gaming remains a predominantly male pastime. The age range was between mid-teens and late twenties, and women were such a noticeable minority that I barely recall seeing any there.
Regretfully, I feel obliged to report that the sweaty, smelly and unkempt gamer stereotype is still alive and well. Even at 09:00 in the morning and in an outdoor queue, the body odour was overpowering at times. Folks, if you’re reading this, a quick shower, brush of teeth and clean clothes will work wonders. Trust me.
I recognised a few faces I admire from the internet but my courage failed me at key moments so Laura Dale, Matt Lees and Mike Bithell – I’m sorry. My chance came and I bottled it. Yours, a shamefully star-struck thirty-five-year-old.
I wanted to talk to the people who made the games, to understand what made them tick and the motivations to dedicating your life to a single project.
It would have been quite easy to spend half a day there people-watching, just to see various behaviours but ultimately we go to these events for different reasons. For me it was a whistle-stop tour of developers. I wanted to talk to the people who made the games, to understand what made them tick and the motivations to dedicating your life to a single project. It wasn’t long before the meet-greet-chat-interview-play-interview rhythm kicked in and by the end of the first day, I’d for my patter set for the second.
The event was arranged simply with those with the biggest and loudest budgets given the ground floor, and the 18+ games and indie developers the first. It was a fairly logical set-up and did mean that the real gems were often tucked away in the crowded Rezzed zone. I hope that the switch to the NEC in Birmingham next year allows for a more expanded area for the smaller studios to show their wares because their simply wasn’t enough floor-space to fit all the people in.
Looking back, I wasn’t expecting anywhere near the amount of attendees or queuing required. Volume was a real issue too and even with headphones on it was near impossible to listen to some of the video games over the louder exhibits. I’m not quite sure how this problem could be solved but there was definitely a much quieter feel in the press area, which was no doubt due to the partitioning and smaller population. If there’s a way this could be applied to other parts of the show, I’m sure it would be welcomed by all.
The big budget Xbox, PlayStation, Ubisoft and other areas want to be loud and heard above the rest. It suits their brand and generates attention, I get that. Some balance between big PR shout-fests and developers keen to chat and talk about their projects would have been nice though and simply separating the floors didn’t work.
Square Enix in particular recognised this and held a function in a nearby pub in which they showed off a few upcoming video games and a special presentation on Life is Strange. The slower, quieter pace of this was a welcome contrast from the all-action Earl’s Court and suited the vibe of the title they wanted to demo.
Much as my overall impression of EGX was a pop-up video game theme park, I came away having thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Yes, I would have like access to the brains behind the big-budget titles but I found a niche community in the Rezzed area that was welcoming, friendly and nothing but complimentary of each other. It’s made me want to meet more of them and more importantly, play their releases which – after all – is what EGX is all about.