My First Time at EGX

This year was my first time attending EGX, previously known as Eurogamer Expo. It’s also my first time attending any sort of convention event ever. You can imagine my head was going in a million directions – what would I see? How would things flow? Would it be too crowded? Would I enjoy it? 

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Overall, I had a really good time. Held at the NEC in Birmingham this year, the new venue is four times larger than last year’s at Earl’s Court in London. This has definitely translated well. While there was a lot to do and queuing everywhere, I never felt suffocated or over-crowded. We went on Thursday and Friday, so I can’t vouch whether this was still true on Saturday, which would have been the busiest day by far. However, we overheard attendees from previous years remarking how much larger the venue was this year and that last year’s event was plagued with overcrowding and layout logistic issues.

EGX 2015 Impressions – Day 1

EGX 2015 Impression – Day 2

Being located outside of London and in the more central Birmingham also allowed for better commuting, more affordable accommodation and just a different atmosphere altogether. For example, the venue was only an hour and a half journey for us, whereas London would have been four. Yeouch! While the price of things immediately surrounding the NEC was more expensive due to proximity to the venue and a nearby international airport, it was still cheaper than London would be.

In terms of flow, we found out the hard way that the quiet day is when you do the long-queue games – because they will be even longer and unbearable on the other days. We found this when we queued for games on Friday, as the crowd had probably doubled from Thursday. Normally, queueing for a game you’re interested in is okay. My problem? I’m in genre-limbo right now. This is my way of describing a period where the popular “fad” genre amongst AAA titles is not your cup of tea, which means you’re not too excited about it. The fads all come and go cyclically – zombies, fantasy, retro callbacks, etc. Right now, it’s FPS Squads and Stealth. I’m not a big fan of either, so there wasn’t much of the big games for me to get excited for.

Virtual Reality was out in force – sort of. The Playstation VR, previously known as Project Morpheus, and the HTC Vive partnered with Steam were both present and doing demo slots. Attendees could enroll online to reserve a spot, though these went almost immediately, as you can imagine. HTC’s booth was advising walk-ups that they could try first time in the day and see what happened, whereas Playstation was kind enough to take names and numbers for a waitlist, texting attendees when there was an availability. This was how I managed to get a hand’s on play with the Playstation VR and EVE Valkyrie. They were nice enough to even give lordwelshi when the other session, The London Heist, opened up! With this big push and the rising popularity of VR, it’s odd that Oculus was absent. There were a few indie titles that utilised the Oculus Rift (such as Crystal Rift), but the device manufacturer themselves was not in attendance. I feel like that’s a real shame, since there are so few opportunities for UK gamers to try these devices, especially outside of London.

EGX also features cosplayers, including it’s own small theatre stage. This hosted sessions on things like cosplaying in a budget, creating props, wig styling and cosplay body confidence. There were also the normal cosplay performance pieces, masquerades and photo shoot opportunities. Due to other sessions being at the same time, I was not able to attend any of the cosplay sessions, though I’d love to in the future.

One (constructive”) criticism I have for EGX is the visibility of their policies. While their website lists their Terms and Conditions, which includes “Harassment of any kind will not be tolerated during EGX events. Harassment includes verbal abuse, discrimination, threats of violence, ‘trolling’, any other form of intimidation and filming or photographing people against their wishes”, these were not posted anywhere. While these will be common sense to those amongst the anime/manga and video game con-goer circuits, not all of these terms will be for those new to conventions – specifically, asking permission of cosplayers before taking and sharing their photo. Not only that, but there are genuinely people who don’t believe this rule should exist, that cosplayers just being in cosplay grants them the right to take as many photos of them, whenever they want. So it needs to be present and visible at the event that these rules are in place and that breaking them will not be tolerated.

In terms of the sections themselves, there were three areas for Indie games in Zone, all with different curation requirements and feels: the Rezzed Zone, the Indie MEGABooth and The Leftfield Collection. Nintendo has an open-plan area for their section, though parts of this felt cramped. This was particularly true around the Nindies, Nintendo Indie titles, where there was generally one screen per game, back-to-back with another aisle of games. There was enough room to play a game, but none to wait for one. I will admit – I didn’t even go into the Microsoft booth. This was because unlike Nintendo and Playstation, they opted for a queue to even get into the area, and then to queue further for each game. As we only had the two days and we don’t even own an Xbox One, we opted not to bother and continued on. Playstation had an odd 360-rounder booth going on, however this felt more open and navigable than Nintendo. In addition, about half the games were sit-down with stools or beanbags, whereas none of Nintendo’s were other than the StreetPass zone.

EA was in the centre of the whole thing with two medium booths – one dedicated solely to Star Wars: Battlefront, while the other was split between Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (why? Just…why??) and the latest Need for Speed. There was no chance in hell of getting into Star Wars. Even on Thursday, within a couple hours of opening, there was a FOUR HOUR QUEUE. I believe my words at the time were “fuck that noise.” I’m going to buy it anyway…

Dominating the back of the last zone was the 18+ area, complete with bouncers (ok, NEC staff) to make sure no youngster came in and ruined our adult fun! That said, there were a total of three developers back there: Ubisoft, Square Enix and Koch. This is where demos such as Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Just Cause 3, Homefront: The Revolution, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and Tom Clancy’s The Division lived. Holy HELL, the line for The Divison was long, too! I have no idea if it was more or less than Star Wars, but it was pretty comparable. In addition to demos, Square Enix hosted two theatres to show the gameplay of the latest Hitman and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. While it was a bit disappointing that they had no live demos for these, rounding out the Friday with the two sessions was very enjoyable and the games both look very impressive. I wasn’t even into Hitman before going in, but I will almost definitely be getting it now.

In terms of sessions, we didn’t attend any of the dev sessions in the large theatre – mostly because during the first one was when Playstation texted with me “If you can get here now, you can try the VR”. You can imagine I ditched that line pretty quick. We did, however, attend two smaller sessions in the Rezzed theatre: Curating Games, and How To Be a Hit on YouTube. Both were very informative and entertaining. The latter was hosted by YouTube Gaming, Mashed, Turps from Yogscast and Outside Xbox. I didn’t actually realise Outside Xbox was on the panel, which was neat because we’re subscribers!

All in all, I had a really good time. I’m hoping future events will have more games that I’m interested in, but that’s really up to the developers! The Con Season Survival Guide at Women Write about Comics helped prepare me for my first time (shameless plug, ho!), but I still had plenty to learn in terms of prioritising, time management and keeping myself from stressing out (I failed on that Friday morning).

And now, some tweets of the day, spread between lordwelshi and I!

 

 

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