I opted for the latter, so I could hang out a bit in the evening with some of the people who'd travelled up there for the Digitiser live panel I was hosting on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, that drive - as it was for everyone who took their car - was an epic. Over eight hours in total, with a route that dragged us over the Peak District in an effort to avoid the M6 crawl.
I didn't make it to the London Play Expo in August - being represented at that event's Digitiser panel by a pre-recorded video, and an army of guests from the series - but I attended the Manchester one a few years back, and the Blackpool show back in February. For me, it has a much nicer, more personal, feel to the Manchester show (and, from what I've heard, the London show). Even if the venue - the labyrinthine Norbreck Castle hotel - takes "faded glamour" and contorts it into "The Shining 2".
In February I announced the launch of the Kickstarter for Digitiser The Show. This time I was revealing some of the show itself - alongside two of my co-hosts, Paul Gannon and Octav1us, as well as two of the series' guests, Kim Justice and DJ Slope (alas, regular Digitiser hosts Gameplay Jenny and Larry Bundy Jr couldn't make it).
The forum for this unveiling; a shambolic, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute, live episode!
To be fair to me, I've spent my every waking hour editing Digitiser The Show for the past couple of months, and I'm chronically tired. Putting together an all-singing, all-dancing, live event wasn't something I had the time or energy to plan for (which is why the backers' live show has been pushed into next year).
Fortunately, I knew - from having worked with Gannon and Octav1us already - that a rough spine was all we needed in terms of a structure, and we could wing it. And we did. More on that shortly.
Unlike at the February Expo, which was a marathon of interviews and meetings, I had some time to wander the show floor, play a few games, and browse the dealer stalls. I even picked up some set dressing for a potential series 2 of Digitiser The Show. Mostly, though, I spent the morning trying to conserve my energy.
Inevitably, what we ended up with was loud, anarchic and chaotic - the biggest excesses of Digitiser The Show writ large - which probably did little to back up my insistence that, despite the teaser material shown thus far, Digitiser The Show is indeed all about games.
I'd heard from a few people earlier in the day that there are concerns floating around that Digi won't feature much in the way of actual gaming content, and will just be a bunch of "in-jokes". Which is a shame that it might've come across that way, as we went out of our way to make it feel as inclusive as possible.
It's hard plugging a show like this, because a lot of it is talking about games, which doesn't make for thrilling trailer material... but in order to put some of these concerns to rest, I hastily edited an extended segment - in which Larry and I examine the Vectrex - into the teaser reel I intended to show at the end of the panel.
Before that got shown, the audience unfortunately had to tolerate Paul Gannon and I fighting over a sausage.
There were a lot of people in the audience who, it seemed, didn't know what to expect from Digitiser The Show. Or, possibly, hadn't even heard of it. I don't know if we managed to lure them into the fold, but the sequences shown did at least seem to go down well with the faithful (apologies, however, to YouTuber Adam Koralik, who had to endure having his home of Chicago being referred to as "Cowboy town" and "A windy city").
The show felt to me like 15 minutes of chaos, but actually lasted about 90 minutes. I loved every second of it, particularly getting to riff with Gannon and Octav1us again. It had felt like we finished filming just as we were getting into our stride, but we seemed to pick up more or less where we left off (it probably helps that I was part of Gannon's Cheapshow Live a couple of weeks back).
It's strange and surreal to have found myself in this position where I'm being a performer. My wife disagrees, but I'm not sure whether it comes naturally to me. The only way I can make it work is, really, by being myself, and treat it as I would writing a script or article (albeit much more in-the-moment).
Yes, it's a heightened version of me - somewhat louder, more belligerent and bullying towards Gannon than I am in real life - but it stops me from overthinking anything when I'm in that spotlight.
Five years ago I wouldn't have believed I'd be doing stuff like this. Even a year ago I was incredibly nervous before inadvertently hosting a comedy night at the Centre For Computing History. I didn't feel comfortable doing that, primarily - upon reflection - because I was reading from a script; Digitiser The Show only really started to flow once we ditched the autocue.
That night was important, though; it was there that I had a fateful meeting with Paul Gannon, and learned what my own, personal, style of presenting and performance shouldn't be. Not that I'm saying it's any good now, but at least I'm comfortable in my own skin when in that role. More than that; I've learned to love it. I've worked out to tap into the stream-of-consciousness part of my brain which used to produce Digitiser daily.
It also helps hugely to have Gannon at my side, who I trust implicitly to catch me if I fall. Somebody asked me afterwards if he and I really do hate each other, but it's the opposite if anything. Somehow, very early on, we just clicked together as something of a double act, and I hope we work together for a very long time. He's a lovely little monkey man.
After the live show, I had to go back to my room for a lay down. I knew I was meeting up with people in the evening, but - unfortunately - the rest didn't do much to restore my energy levels. The combination of the drive the previous day, and having my performer hat on for two hours, had really taken it out of me (exacerbated, no doubt, from the months of editing fatigue).
Everyone I met later was really lovely, though - as they always are. Digitiser genuinely has some of the nicest people in its community that I've ever encountered, and I love that they've become friends, and are so welcoming of new people into their fold.
I hope this doesn't sound insincere or gushy, but I truly mean it. Anybody with social anxiety, anybody who doesn't entirely love themselves, or feels a bit awkward around new people, should become a Digitiser fan. It'll do wonders for your mental health and self-esteem. Even as we move properly into YouTube, long may the Digitiser community be this all-embracing and free of drama, because it was really noticeable this past weekend.
And that's it. I'm still knackered, but I'm taking a rare day off of editing to play Red Dead Redemption 2.
Yeah - Cowboy Town!