Turning Back the Clock - Replay Expo 2011 Report
By Ian Wilson - 03 Dec, 2011
Time flies! The follow up to last year's successful Replay Expo had arrived and it was time to see what was in store this time around. The venue remained the same, Norbreck Castle - Blackpool, and whilst it's not the most cultural of areas there's no denying it's an apt place for such a show with it's sea front arcade heritage. Suggestions had been made that a second hall would be utilised this year and in effect the show would be twice as big. It turned out that whilst there was indeed another hall it only housed several tables which were used for gaming tournaments and not a great deal else. Rumours circulated that this was down to the owner of the Norbreck requiring the space for another event (horse related it was suggested) - not everything revolves around retro gaming it would seem!
The setup inside was quite similar to last year, still not enough Japanese Candy Cabs - these machines always prove popular! There was a nice selection of arcade cabinets including classics like Operation Wolf, Smash TV and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. The usual vast array of consoles and computers were present and the "Northern Lights Pinball" section was considerably lengthened this year with 59 machines present in tota l- most of them regularly occupied during the weekend.
As was the case last year Bomberman proved to be a popular crowd pleaser and the Sega Saturn version was very busy during the weekend - multiplayer fun doesn't get much better than this!
Cosplay was more prominent this time around with a competition for most impressive effort. The young lady masquerading as Lara Croft, though not the winner, certainly turned heads! On the subject of Cosplay, SteelSeries (of the show shows sponsors) were represented by two harajuku Cosplay girls- who danced around the venue seemingly all day attracting admiring glances from the attendees! A welcome distraction from the games I'm sure many would agree.
Events like these are as much about the people you share them with as the systems / games on display themselves. Whilst it's great to see an old favourite game there's as much enjoyment to be had discussing those misty-eyed memories with like minded people. I attended the show again with my brother and also met fellow retro fan "tweeters" Jake Smith (@jake74), Michael Heald (@michaelheald) and Jamie O'Neill (@JamieOretro). On this note there was a particular moment during the weekend when an old copy of Complete Guide to Consoles (Volume 1) was lifted out of Jamie's backpack. We had just sat through a Newsfield Publications talk which covered several of their magazines such as the great "Crash", fronted by the Frey brothers this was an interesting session and these talks remain a highlight of the replay events. Once the talk was completed there was a congregation towards the back of the venue where I flicked through the magazine and we reminisced about classics such as Golden Axe and Revenge of Shinobi. A few people joined the small crowd and added their memories as we went along.
That's the great thing about Replay, were you even to attend on your own then you'd still meet like minded people during the course of the weekend all to happy to discuss the good old days. From uber geeks to the more casual gamer there's something for everyone.
A return to Blackpool next year is almost a certainty I would think, dare I say it there's even been some very initial suggestions that Julian "Jaz" Rignall and the Mean Machines crew could attend to hold a talk about the well loved magazine. Far from a certainty and merely many a fans hope at this stage... though were it to happen the race to grab a seat would be intense!
Jamie O'Neill - 03 Dec 2011, 20:32 GMT
Brilliant stuff Ian, I read your write-up on last year's Replay for The Mean Machines Archive and after you mentioned you were covering it again this year, I have been looking forward to reading this article.
I really like the way this piece reflects upon meeting other retro gamers, that was my favourite part of Replay 2011, too. It was loads of fun hanging around and chatting with you and your brother, plus retro heads like Jake and Mike. I think that I will follow your example and try to head to Blackpool for the full weekend, next year.
Spot on regarding the early Tweets about how incredible it would be if Replay could organise a Mean Machines panel with people like Jaz Rignall, Richard Leadbetter, Gary Harrod and other members of its classic team. I know that we are only talking about a few Tweets between Mean Machines fans and Jaz at the moment, but if there was any way that this could be organised to become a realistic part of Replay 2012, it would be amazing.
I really enjoyed reading this report, thanks for sharing the memories, Mr Wilson.
Michael Heald - 03 Dec 2011, 20:51 GMT
Nice article Ian, and I second every last word of it. It was fantastic to meet you guys in person and really confirms what makes events like this special. Like minded people gathering together and enjoying the same things. Looking forward to next year already!!