๐Ÿ•น️ PLAY Expo 2019 – Manchester ๐Ÿ•น️ @KingdomOfCarts @BrittRecluseUK #RetroGaming #Arcade

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For us at Kingdom of Carts HQ, Manchester is a great Expo to get to, it’s a straight three hour train from Cardiff and a brief walk from the station to the event and surrounding hotels, this is a mere sojourn when compared to the multiple train changes and hanging about required when getting to Blackpool, although that doesn’t slow us down. I wear flares…not skirts.
The last time we went to the Manchester PLAY Expo it was at a more out-of-town venue, it was cool but a bit more awkward to reach from the centre, plus, Faye had booked us into a hotel that appeared to have had its heyday fifty years ago…and even then, not as a hotel. That said, I do have fond memories of the event.

In this article, I’m going to approach the 2019 Manchester Expo on a more personal level as visiting the event as a crack journalist on behalf of Games Freezer also ties in with my social life as part of Kingdom of Carts.

Each year we make more friends at the events and as such, they have slowly morphed from becoming essentially retro game markets to genuinely warm social gatherings where we catch up with a lot of folks we don’t get to meet in person throughout the year. Judging from the reactions on social media to the event, I gather that a huge amount of people felt the same way which was a great experience to be a part of.
Now, before I begin in earnest, I know what you are thinking and yes, we took an empty suitcase to fill with gold from the market over the three days we were there and yes, it was half-filled with saucy nuggets of gaming bronze before we even set foot into the Expo, thanks to a closing down store called ‘Entertainment Trader’ near the Arndale centre and some surprisingly fair prices in a CEX that we passed on the initial Friday wander.
The venue was really cool, a large, cavernous structure smack in the centre of the city and we managed to saunter in a little before opening to the public thanks to the power of the press pass, which I was swinging around like it was a silver dagger at a werewolf party. Heading straight towards the pinball machines, I spent a few precious moments playing Dirty Harry (love that table) whilst Faye went to her ancestral home, The Addams Family pinball machine (click-click).  
As usual, the pinball tables and arcades on offer were all set to free play, in great working conditions and awesome fun to play. There were also a few high-score challenges and a tombola for those feeling lucky (not us, sadly). Beyond this, there were rows of tables and chairs set up with an impressively vast array of consoles and computers for people to dive in on literally dozens of games through the ages. It’s always great to see both younger players discovering the history of the medium as well as old hands re-discovering gaming memories.
There were quite a few indie developer areas as well, showcasing up and coming titles which mostly looked like they had a healthy amount of support from the visiting gamers (including one booth which had one kid sellotaped to it all weekend to the point that he won a free Xbox for his dedication, good!).
Another highlight for me was the Youtuber talk, Octavius Kitten (who has been a supporter of Kingdom of Carts for which we are really grateful, very cool of her) , Top Hat Gaming Man (who, along with his wife were very pleasant folk, I spent the majority of the YT talk pulling funny faces at their child), Nostalgia Nerd and Kim Justice (a person of whom I am very much a long-time fan) spent an hour taking audience questions and giving pretty in-depth responses, this was a part of the weekend that did stick with me.
We stayed in this area for DJ Slopes’ quiz and I’m really glad we did, the questions were varied, challenging and ended in a tasty mash-up gaming-laden dance track (natch).

It was interesting to see the difference between the Youtubers and DJ Slopes as he clearly comes from an entertainment background which runs through his stage presence and charisma whereas the YouTuber panel was more naturalistic and conversational.
Also, Slopes fell over.
Refreshments were sold at eye-watering, pearl-clutching prices. Did I pay five English pounds for a can of Carling? No, I did not. Did I head back to my hotel room for regular bourbon breaks? Yes, yes I did. The majority of the people there and (I get an inkling) gamers, in general, are not big drinkers, sticking instead to soft drinks, I assume so that they can stay up well into the night playing The Curse of Sherwood on C64 but there was no respite from prices that rivalled gig venues in central London, expected but not appreciated.
After posing for the largest group retro selfie in Europe (we are in there, somewhere!) the action spilt out into the streets and to NQ64, an underground arcade bar with a strange mix of bouncing hip-hop, cocktails, craft beers and arcade machines. We didn’t stay there too long as we were after a spot we could chat with people as opposed to screaming over music. I do enough of that at my gigs.
The night ended with us having drinks with Games You Loved, Kim Justice and King Monkey before heading back to the hotel, watching some Larry Bundy Jr. vids on Youtube and diving into our purchased goodies a la Scrooge McDuck.

I had several conversations with people over the weekend about the market prices and found myself in disagreement with them. As a collector of gaming gold, I actually find the prices levelling out with eBay and not being as bad as they used to be, saying that, I am more discerning in my purchases these days as our collection has grown so much over the years and I did feel there was a bit of a lack of disk and cassette-based systems available at the market, which was a shame.
Once again, I missed the presence of the brains behind The Mighty games Freezer, Rich and the chance to meet Atari Champion Lord Arse but there’s always Blackpool in a few months.
If you haven’t been to these Expos and are a fan of gaming (especially older systems, pinball machines and arcades) these really are a fun way to meet like-minded people. The Retro Hunter wasn’t there (we threw a Lot of money at his handsome face last time) but that’s kind of the beauty of these things, it’s different each time whilst also having a warm familiarity about it… and afterwards, everyone gets booming and talks about Public Domain Amiga games, what could be better?
A huge thank you to everyone we saw as well as the folks behind the scenes that put these on. As the day wore on I was getting more and more warmed up and, as Faye is the social media queen for Kingdom of Carts, I’m terrible at remembering people’s Twitter handles at the best of times (except Ryan Brown of Numskull, who we had a really lovely chat with whilst he had a moments break away from the crowd, clutching the Pac-Man quarter-cabinet oh so tightly) so I won’t attempt to recall them here. Basically, everyone we met and interacted with was awesome and I look forward to future conversations both online and off.
See you in Blackpool!

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