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The Eurogamer Expo Experience

15 May

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By Samuel Peace

For the last two years I’ve gathered around friends houses for an ‘all nighter’ involving typical party antics, gaming and topping it off by watching E3. For many gamers the Electronic Entertainment Expo (more commonly known as E3) is the pinnacle of the industry’s annual calendar. It’s the crème de la crème and it attracts the world’s greatest game developers, publishers and journalists. It’s both a celebration of what makes video game culture so great and a glimpse into the future of how we’ll play next.

Since starting in 1995 it has played centre stage for the industry’s biggest reveals, whether it’s a new games console or the next chapter in a popular franchise. 2005 saw E3 extend its reach by broadcasting all the big conferences online for the whole world to see. No longer were fans restricted to just reading stories about it, they could now watch the reveals for themselves as it was happening. This streaming revolution was what really turned E3 from a general busy news week into the biggest and most exciting gaming extravaganza known to man. In a similar vein to Christmas, there is always a huge build up to it months before it happens and then before you know it, it’s over within a flash. Though brief, it always gives you some of the best memories as a gamer and it becomes an excuse to have a celebration.

The only thing that could be better than streaming it would be attending the event itself and seeing everything with our own eyes (and even playing some of the games that were just revealed). Unfortunately this dream for most people will stay just that – a dream. The event is invite only therefore only the most prestigious and well known media outlets are allowed to see it all first hand. Fortunately however, developers and publishers are eager to get their games noticed by as many people as possible. Therefore some companies have made their own versions of E3, but have made them open to the public. While none of these tend to have any big reveals like E3, they focus a lot more on allowing gamers to go hands on with unreleased titles. Gamescom (GC) in Germany and the Tokyo Games Show (TGS) in Japan are the biggest of these events and manage to entice upwards of 200,000 people a year.

In 2008 the UK finally got its own proper video games convention called the Eurogamer Expo (EGE). It started off as a rather small venture with only 4,000 attendees, however after five years it has now turned into a massive exhibition for the whole of the UK. Last year it attracted 50,000 people which is a massive increase over the year before (34,500). As soon as I found out about the EGE (back in summer 2011) I snapped up a ticket right away. 2012 was my second expo and it certainly did feel bigger and better than 2011’s one. The question was though; could it deliver the same awe inspiring experience as E3 (minus the reveals)? The answer is a resounding yes. There are many factors which help to contribute to making it the best day out any video game fan can have. So below are my EGE experiences:

Unreleased Games – The main reason I went was to get my hands on all of the hottest upcoming games which were still in development and not available to purchase. A majority of the booths allowed attendees to play these latest experiences, most of which are normally up to six months away from being released. The excitement I felt when rushing to a stand was that of opening a present when I was a kid.

Developer Sessions – The second reason I went was to see some of the famous faces who make the titles I know and love. Last year had the likes of Peter Molyneux (Fable series) and Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear series) both of whom are celebrities in the eyes of industry fans. Although they rarely make any surprise announcements, it is still interesting to find out more about them and their projects. It is great asking them questions and just like with any celebrity you become pretty star-struck if you manage to shake their hand or get a photo with them.

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Meet Like Minded People – Like with my ‘all nighter’, big gaming events are always enjoyed best with like minded people. Attendees at EGE all share the same passion of gaming so this gives everyone a boost of confidence as you already have something in common. Gaming once used to be a very anti-social activity. I grew up playing in my room away from everyone else and I rarely went out. This affected my overall confidence growing up, but with modern internet capabilities and the rise of social gaming, I can now freely discuss and play with many other people. My confidence has skyrocketed in recent years and to my surprise the EGE is not full of people with under developed social skills.

The Atmosphere and Cosplay – The grand building that is Earls Court, has been home to the EGE since 2010. Seeing it for the first time after stepping out of the tube was a surreal experience. Never had I seen posters and billboards that big advertising games. Usually advertisements of that stature are reserved for films and music, so it was a pleasant change. Things were even better inside as there were towering bits of artwork at each booth as developers/publishers vied for my attention. Seeing a massive hall filled with people enjoying what I enjoy was a heart warming sight. All this was improved by Cosplay. Originating in Japan, cosplay has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon and has since gathered popularity in western countries. The idea is to dress up as your favourite character (from any media), which makes it is a great way to find out people’s favourite franchises. Also competitions for big prizes have made this past time become an obsession for some with people putting in months of work to create something truly mind-blowing.

Competitions – A video game is not complete without some form of competitive aspect, so the same can be said for a games show not having competitions. While in the past we’ve had board games, high score tables and pong, the invention of online gaming has taken multiplayer to the next level. It is now possible to face anyone in the world, so naturally competitions have become bigger and more exciting. Games which can support many competing players or have huge followings such as Call of Duty have now become esports (electronic sports) and have transformed into cultures themselves. Big trades shows such as EGE thrive on these massive esport areas and it was excellent being a spectator.

Careers – While trade shows are used by developers/publishers to primarily showcase their projects and products, sometimes they use it to advertise vacancies at their companies. It makes sense for a games company to promote a gaming job in an area full of gamers. I also saw education establishments trying to persuade attendees to take their game related course along with career advice experts telling people the best ways to get into the industry.

Merchandise – No day out would be complete without a novelty item of some sort. At places like EGE there is usually a cluster of shops all selling exclusive stuff which is hard to find elsewhere. As you would expect it’s not always cheap, but for hardcore game fans it can be difficult to resist. I try not to splash out too much when I’m there, but it is certainly impressive what you can buy.

These were just the main highlights for me, but there were other smaller areas which were no less impressive. While I was there I met up with Chris Ledger – a friend who is also the owner and lead developer of indie game company Derp Studios. I asked him what he liked about EGE and game exhibitions in general, and also how EGE has benefited Derp Studios. He said: “It’s a great day out, especially for someone like me who is both a fan and a developer. The developer conferences were my favourite parts as they were real eye openers. I thoroughly enjoyed Hideo Kojima’s session as I’ve always been a massive fan of the Metal Gear franchise. From a developer perspective, it’s always great to check out what other companies are doing. As we are currently in the mobile market, I found it very useful checking out all of the latest portable games. My ultimate goal is to eventually bring my own game to an event like this, and to see a giant frog banner saying ‘Derp Studios’.

The Eurogamer Expo continues to expand and 2013 seems like it will be its biggest year yet, as the industry witnesses the transition into a new console generation this fall. Hopefully one day EGE can become the new E3.

Disney’s Dream Destination

14 May

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By Samuel Peace

Of all the many wonders in the world today the only place children want to go to is Disneyland. I often dreamt of going when I was younger but my parents couldn’t afford such a luxury. I would boil with envy when my friends told me of their magnificent adventures with Buzz Lightyear, Indiana Jones, Mickey Mouse and more. “I’m going for the third time this summer holidays” one would say, “Oh really?” I’d reply with gritted teeth. As I grew up the child’s fantasy land became less appealing, and the thought of going to a foreign country never crossed my mind. I had many great holidays around England and was quite content with staying on home soil. However, soon after turning 18 I was on a plane heading towards Disneyland Paris.

My grandparents decided to treat me and my family to a holiday in the summer of 2009. Originally we had planned to stay at a deluxe villa in the south of Spain. The very thought of a hot tropical scene with beautiful, naturally tanned Spanish girls got my heart pounding with excitement. Seeing the pictures of the proposed villa just made it even more enticing. Therefore a sudden change of plan in order to limit travel time and to please my younger siblings left a bitter taste in my mouth. For me the Disney plane had flown into the sunset and left me behind many years ago. There was little excitement to be had except for the prospect of visiting Paris. Everything soon changed though as walking through the entrance of the park woke my inner child.

The gloriously decorated buildings, giant floats and mascots made it feel as if you were actually in a Disney cartoon. There was so much going on that I didn’t know where to start. While most theme parks are just giant fun fairs with lots of rides, this place seemed different. The magical aura of the classic childhood fairy tales was present. The park was separated into zones with each one focusing on different notable franchises. It was great to see the attention to detail with each area being designed in certain ways to make it feel like you’re in the world of that film. But while I was impressed by the aesthetics, I was still yet to be convinced by its attractions and other offerings. That was until I went on an adrenaline train they called a rollercoaster for the first time and nearly shat myself with how thrilling it was.

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The first one I tried was based on Indiana Jones and saw us sitting in a mine cart whizzing in and out of caves with plenty of drops and sharp turns to keep you on your toes, so to speak. The rush I got from the ride was fantastic, I had felt as if I had been on a wild adventure. The one down side was the loop the loop part which made me feel disorientated and a bit queasy, but other than that it was great. With my excitement boiling over and my passion revitalised, I couldn’t wait to go on some more rides. Most of my family were not keen on these heart exercises, but my little sister was accustomed to them despite being 6 years younger. Another one we went on was some indoor space shuttle rollercoaster (probably Buzz Lightyear). This was even better than the Indi one as it launched nearly vertically at a phenomenal speed. It felt like someone had stuck a rocket onto it. It then began rushing through a tunnel of darkness with neon lights circling as if you were going through a time warp on Doctor Who. Although these rides lasted all of but a few minutes, the experiences live on forever in my mind.

On our travels through the fantasy worlds we encountered a variety of wonderful things, some of which weren’t even Disney. There was a set of Hollywood, a set of London, an American trailer cafe, shops with all sorts of goodies (although they didn’t allow non Disney brands so most shops were the same), the Statue of Liberty and much, much more. There were a few shows on too including a live stunt/action performance and a wild west arena spectacular. Although I’d been to stunt shows before, this one stood out because it was like watching a movie being filmed on a Hollywood set. There were crashes, fighting, shootouts and explosions galore, it was utterly exhilarating. The western show was more of a story and revolved around a person called Buffalo Bill. It had some good live animal acts, but I didn’t find it as engrossing as I’d hoped it would be.

During our visit we stayed at an offsite hotel which had a direct bus link to the park. The staff there were nice (one of the French waiters actually wanted England to beat the Netherlands in a football friendly which was on!). The rooms were basic and did the job, but the food service was excellent. Of course being in France meant I had to have Croissants and Pain Au Chocolates for breakfast, as you’d imagine such delectable food was difficult to endure. The best part was the daily hot chocolate which was divine, needless to say I have not tried one as nice since. We ate out at many places, but the most memorable was a place named Pizza Planet. This restaurant is a replica of the one found in the Toy Story films. It has the same giant logo, the same robot guarding the door, the same three-eyed aliens in space rocket grabbing machines etc. It was an awesome and surreal experience.

We stayed for a week in total, but only went to Paris once. Although it was marvellous and the Eiffel Tower was remarkable, I did not feel the same sense of joy or excitement as I did at Disneyland. Looking back now, it was not only my best holiday by far, but it was also the most fun I had in years, and to my surprise my heart was pounding again, much like with those Spanish girls who are still waiting for me.

A New Journey: College

18 Jan

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As the lone adventurer departed his transportation, he calmly walks a few paces before coming face to face with a street known as New Rd. The irony of this path reflects the beginning of our protagonist’s new journey. He takes his first strides towards land unknown to him with his only aim being: reach City College. His feet are greeted with lightly coloured bricks while the surrounding is filled with gleefully unique restaurants reminiscent of a foreign holiday. The vibrant setting is short lived however, due to the upcoming London-esque style of Jubilee St. This new passage is full of posh buildings made mostly of glass and black tiling. It’s the complete opposite to the experience just moments ago. Not stopping our traveller continues, soon a new route appears – Kensington St. A run down back alley with graffiti splashed over degraded buildings. It was an intimidating sight not suited for a night walker, thankfully though it was day.

Stepping onto the last road the explorer notices a towering sight in the distance; the destination is awaiting his arrival. Sydney Street is the last avenue; the last taste of freedom before the quest truly begins. Crammed full of quirky 20th century boutiques, there are plenty of useful items available for purchase. But already fully prepared, the trekker marches towards the end of this short expedition. Arriving at the entrance he gazes upon the brick structure in front of him. Peering into the opening he takes a deep breath, and enters. What challenges lie within?

-Sam Peace

Medical Marvels – Coronary Heart Bypass

18 Jan

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Modern day health care has evolved at a phenomenal rate over the past hundred years. New technology and a greater knowledge of what can be done with the human body have helped create some major success stories; stories which sound like miracles. These days however, what used to be seen as quite miraculous has now just become a “common practice” or a “standard operation”. One such surgical procedure is the Coronary Heart Bypass (CHB) surgery.

As the name suggests the CHB surgery is focused on the heart and the flow of the blood. Coronary is the name given to the arteries which directly feed into the heart. The term bypass is used in its literal sense which is to ‘avoid’ or to ‘go around’. A build up in the arteries of a fatty substance called Atheroma is the reason a CHB is needed. If left untreated then the build up could eventually lead to full blockages and blood clots, which in turn can often cause fatal heart attacks and strokes. The CHB surgery is an option which will create a diversion for the blood flow enabling it to avoid the blockage altogether, and to reach the heart without any problems.

Ray Peace a 76 year old man from Bognor Regis recently underwent a quadruple CHB. He had a vein which was the length between his groin and his ankle taken out of his leg in order to create the four new routes needed. However, despite having this high risk and complex operation he was walking again two days later. He was then discharged from hospital only seven days after he had the surgery. Six weeks have passed since the operation and he is nearly fully active again. He has daily exercises, takes regular walks, and has checkups once a week. He has also started driving again and he plans to restart his daily swimming routine around Christmas time.

He said “I’m pretty much back to normal now. The experience was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be, and I didn’t feel too much pain afterwards. In fact the only pain I have now is in my leg where they took out the vein. I usually take painkillers before bed, but the past few days I haven’t”. He went on to say: “My last check up is at the end of November, so hopefully I can start swimming again after that. It all depends on my blood pressure and how my chest muscles are.”

Although the CHB procedure is very dangerous, the survival rate in the UK as of 2009 is as high as 98%. Even if it’s not classed as miraculous, it’s still pretty impressive.

-Sam Peace

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