A few months ago I took my 6 year old son to his (and my) first gaming expo.
Having listened to the reports from the 2012 and 2013 Play Expo Manchester (UK) events by Paul and Dave from Big Kids Playground, I was eager to experience one of the events for myself. Luckily this year saw the return of Play Blackpool, an event aimed more towards retro consoles and indie developers rather than the more new-release style of the main Play Expo. To me, this was perfect as it meant I could relive my gaming memories from my younger days, while also showing my son what gaming was like when I was his age. Tickets were bought, hotel was booked, and a couple of hundred miles of driving was done.
The main hall was split into roughly 3 sections – old arcade systems, retro consoles, and indie devs. Sadly, we had to pass over most of the arcade machines, as the height of the screens and controls meant they were unplayable for a 6 year old, which made the retro systems our primary section for the day.
Watching my boy’s eyes light up at the rows and rows of consoles, none of which he’d ever seen before, was an awesome sight. Despite his normal gaming being on my PS3 & X360 and on his Nintendo DS, he happily got straight into the likes of Pong and Centipede, games which to me do look fairly old and dated now, but to him were fantastically simple and fun games that needed next to no instructions. He picked up controllers that he’d never before used, but almost instinctively knew how to work them. We spent hours moving from one system to the next, working our way from the early Vectrex and Intellivision systems, through the Atari’s and NES years, into the 16 bit era and beyond through to the xbox and playstation generations. By the end of the day, I had lost count of how many different games and different systems we’d been on.
Being honest, I was completely envious of my lad that day. In my (almost) 30 years of gaming, I’ve already owned half the systems that were on show, but to him everything was new. Here he was at 6 years old, with a massive history of gaming available to him. When I was his age, gaming was still in its infancy, and I’ve had to grow old along side it. I can only dream of what gaming will be like when he reaches my age, and can only hope that in the year 2040, as I approach 60, I still enjoy it as much as I do now. You never know, maybe I’ll be tagging along as my son takes his own kids to a retro expo to show them what gaming was like when their dad was a boy.