I've done a few of these retro gaming events now, though I think Play Expo Blackpool was the first time I really 'got it'... and I barely had the opportunity to play any games (just one quick two-player go on Asteroids - narrowly beating my friend Mark).
So, my review of the event itself wouldn't be very interesting - though I was deeply envious of everyone who got to spend time in the sprawling gaming area. I had to rush home early, so there wasn't the time to play even on the Sunday, or attend any of the other panels. I would've loved to have been at the Spectrum Next and YouTuber chats.
However, I can talk about the atmosphere - which, for the most part, felt warm, communal, and welcoming. I hope I get the chance to go again as a punter.
Ostensibly, I was there to be interviewed by The Retro Hour podcast boys, but either side of that I was running from one meeting to another all day, giving interviews, and trying to piece together the component parts of the Digitiser web series Kickstarter (among other things). I really enjoyed the panel, and tried to find new ways to tell stories I know I've told before.
They do take it out of me though. My default mode is trying to be invisible and not draw attention to myself. I'm always happier when somebody takes the spotlight from me, but when I do panels, I kind of unconsciously switch into performance mode, and become a slightly more heightened version of myself. It can be a bit exhausting, but thank Gawd for adrenaline...!
In the evening we had a bit of a meet-up - preceded by a quick last-minute change of venue, which I hope didn't inconvenience too many people - and I remain blown away by how nice everyone was. I did my best to talk to you all and be coherent, despite my brain and body crumbling in on itself. Sorry if my eyes were rolling back in their sockets at any point.
During the evening there was a big party held by the organisers for guests and exhibitors in the gaming area, with free pizza and a DJ, but I was happier to hang out at our little gathering.
As I've said before, the community which has sprung up around Digi since I came back with Digitiser2000 and - last year - Found Footage - is a gift. Long may it last, and it's my sincere hope that it doesn't get torn asunder by any Mean Girls-esque nonsense, as seems to happen with online communities all too often...
In the evening I also got to meet the legends that are DJ Slopes from Slope's Game Room and Kim Justice (we done selfies - Kim's pic above), which I very much enjoyed. They - along with Nostalgia Nerd and Ashens (who both arrived just as I was heading to bed, shaken from witnessing the room that had been booked for them) - are figureheads of the modern retro gaming scene. I sometimes feel like a sort of elder statesman; the afternoon heritage act at Glastonbury.
I particularly appreciated it when Slopes told me how much he'd loved Found Footage (feedback for which, as expected, was split evenly across the weekend between people who'd enjoyed it and those who found it almost impossible to watch).
I kept wondering whether I should go and say hello to The Oliver Twins and Jim Bagley, but I bottled it. They always look too much like grown-ups.
It's a weird feeling being me at these events. I mean, I sort of have come to accept that Digitiser was important to a lot of people, and fondly remembered, but I understand it less than I do people wanting selfies with YouTubers. They're much more visible, much more personalities, than I've ever been, hiding behind my writing.
I get why The Oliver Twins or Jim Bagley would be a draw. I mean, they made things you played or played on. I was just a bloke who wrote snarky stuff about the things you played or played on.
I only ever experienced Digitiser from my perspective, and it's hard for me to try and see it, and understand it, from the perspective of those who read it at the time. Aside from anything else, I wasn't the singer in a band, or the star of a TV show, and there's no precedence for a teletext games section having a fandom that has, inexplicably, lasted 25 years.
The best I can do is put it down to Digi being daily, so it was just a constant part of its readers' lives. Plus, the fact that we were on air for ten years meant that we were a daily part of a lot of lives for a long time. People literally grew up reading us. It's the only way I can explain the affection I receive; I'm the uncle you never had!
It may baffle me, but I neverthelesss feel blessed to be part of it. The way I rationalise it to myself is that Digitiser meant as much to me as it did to a lot of other people. I don't feel I'm to be celebrated, but I do feel a responsibility to be part of the celebrating, and not ruin it for people. There is, in my head, a kind of disconnect between that and the fact I was responsible for what Digitiser was.
Anyhow, if you missed my panel, here it is in its complete "glory" (and you can see the rest of the talks on Retro Unlim's YouTube page). I failed to make any of the big announcements I expected to make, having rambled on for too long about Atari, and getting distracted by the noises I could make with the microphone. But never mind.
And apologies for the hair in my intro; a mixture of Blackpool weather, and it being the very end of a very long day, had taken its toll.
Also: I'm a filthy tramp. Let it now be known that I'd forgotten to take a change of underwear with me, and had worn the same underpants for three days.