Have you ever been in a situation where there’s so much going on around you that you just don’t know where to look? Well, that’s the London Gaming Market in a nutshell! Taking place every four months at the Royal National Hotel in Russell Square, the event brings together a plethora of independent gaming retailers specialising in consoles, retro games, peripherals, merchandise, trading cards, board games and anything else your geeky little heart desires!
Setting myself a strict budget of £200 for the day, I climbed aboard the choo-choo train directly from my seaside home of Margate along the Kent coast to the big smoke. I’d originally intended to get there for opening, but in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t, as I’d have needed to get out of bed far too early for a Sunday! The hotel is just a short fifteen-minute walk from St Pancras railway station and is extremely easy to find using Google maps or even by asking for directions if you’re into the idea of keeping it old school. Upon reaching the hotel, there was a short queue formed outside that led through to the lobby to the table where you buy your tickets. Early bird tickets purchased before midday on the door cost £5; entry is £2 thereafter. I arrived at 12.10pm because I’m a tight-fisted git, but to be honest, I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on any of the action from arriving a bit later.
Be aware, if you are averse to crowds then this may not be the event for you as it does get very, very busy! The main room was lined with various stalls manned by some of the bigger independent retro games retailers and it was refreshing to meet some of the newer businesses who were keen to make their mark on the day by handing out business cards and chatting to customers.
It was particularly refreshing to see the amount of shared passion for the hobby circulating around the room, with people chatting and comparing purchases between visits to stalls and it must be said I saw some very awesome t-shirts – and not just from the t-shirt vendors!
Upon entering the main room, I said to my companion that I would be being very sensible and ensuring that I shopped around before making any purchases. Yeah… don’t do that! The thing is with these events, sought-after items will not wait around for you so if you see something you want, grab it there and then. I can almost guarantee that it won’t wait around for you to shop around. Making this mistake cost me a complete black label Spyro the Dragon 2 on PS1 for just £15 and a complete copy of Master of Darkness on the Sega Master System for £30. And although I might have left with £45 in my pocket, I’m sure the nightmares and trauma of missing out will haunt me for many a year to come! Don’t make the same mistakes that I did and buy first; think about financial security / commitments / not being slapped about by your spouse afterwards!
I particularly enjoyed meeting the guys from NeedThatGame, who were there to promote their online games market, which is tailored specifically for the retro games industry. (That reminds me, I really must make an account on there… clearly spending more money on games is the way to go.) I was also very pleased to see the guys from HyperPlay RPG magazine. I may have been a little bit overenthusiastic upon finding them after receiving a recommendation from a good friend of mine and was more than happy to pick up a few issues to see what all the fuss was about. (The guys also chucked in a free copy of Mad Dash Racing for the original Xbox, which was very kind of them.) Another highlight were the custom Gameboys on display from Deadpan Robot, which filled the room with the classic blips of Tetris and Super Mario Land. I decided against dropping another £80 on a custom handheld of my very own but it’s on my birthday list for this year!
As much as I stuck mainly to the games and consoles, there were also a variety of art prints, board games, replica weapons (Master Sword, anyone?), plush toys and trading cards all up for grabs so there is something for everyone. £245 later (sorry, budget) I bundled my haul into my backpack and set off for the pizza cafe next door for a celebratory bottle of wine and to look over my newly acquired treasures! Job well done!
For those of you who like spending far too much on games, the next event will be taking place on Sunday, July 15 at the Royal National Hotel in London once more. The event starts at 11am and runs through until 4pm.