Retro is where the fun’s at, says head of Manchester’s first social gaming festival

Manchester’s first gaming festival is to arrive in the city next month, with organisers wanting to put the emphasis on the social side of gaming over hardcore competition or the latest triple-A titles hoovering your wallet.

The iPlay Gaming Festival kicks off on Friday June 5 at Gorilla with a night of games, drink, and even a BBQ planned for festival-goers. 

Organiser Michael Davies explained his vision for a gaming festival full of the retro classics and social gaming culture he grew up with.

Speaking with MM, Michael said: “I’ve been thinking about doing it for a while. I’m a big gamer myself, I love everything about gaming, and I’ve been thinking for a while that there’s nowhere to go and socialise and play games any more.” 

Typically, gaming events fall into one of a few categories, such as the industry spectacles of E3 and Gamescon dictating the launch calendar for new titles with previews of the latest games.

Elsewhere, competitive gaming festivals attract some of the largest gatherings, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of prize money available in competitions such as America’s Major League Gaming.

Michael, whose favourite games include FIFA and Call of Duty, spoke of the notable absence of a more intimate social gaming event in the UK festival scene.

“There are big national festivals – Insomnia is one that’s really popular – but they’re once every six months,” he said.

“Especially in the north there’s nothing that really touches that space, so I thought why not fill it.”

On the day, the venue will be split into eight zones, including Party Gaming, Football Zone, Fighting Zone, Retro Zone, Racing Zone, Warzone, Kick-Ass Comps, and Fab Food and Drink.

The idea is to create an atmosphere where gamers can get together and enjoy themselves, but friendly competition can still be expected.

Michael explained: “There will be one-on-one, winner stays on, as well as competitions. But I don’t want it to be too serious. 

“There will be an informal cup, small prizes, but the main element is everyone getting there and enjoying themselves.”

Patrons will get to play retro games such as Atari’s 1985 classic ‘Paper Boy’, and whilst the latest generation of games will be present, Call of Duty can expect to take a back seat to Mario Kart 64.

The decision to focus on retro gaming was an intentional attempt to create an atmosphere that will remind gamers of the days when multiplayer was played across a room rather than across the planet.

Michael explained that the old classics are still the titles getting people excited: “Like with Goldeneye, everyone remembers playing Goldeneye, Mario Kart, Street Fighter, that’s where the main interest seems to be. 

“We’ve had a lot of communication from people in Manchester, people wanting different things, and it seems like retro games are where people see the fun being.”

The venue for the festival will be Gorilla, based just off Oxford Road, and Michael was keen to sing their praises for agreeing to host to event.

“Gorilla is obviously famous for its burgers, and we’re going to have a BBQ in there and have really good food for the attendees,” he explained.

With a month to go, it looks like the event could be a sell-out  something which bodes well for the future of iPlay Gaming.

“We’re hoping to run this every couple of months in Manchester, and we want to have another one this summer,” explained Michael.

With ambitions for a ’traveling party around the North and the Midlands’, Michael is hoping to be able to host additional festivals in Leeds and Birmingham.

Demand even indicates that an under-18 event could go down a treat, but with plenty of work left to do, the attention remains on the Manchester festival next week.

iPlay Gaming will launch on Friday June 5 at Gorilla. More information is available here.

Image courtesy of Google Maps, with inset from Colony of Gamers, with thanks

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