This weekend saw the third annual instalment of the Replay Expo! For those that don’t know what Replay is, it’s a growing retro gaming expo hosted in the north west of England. It’s been expanding substantially year on year and this year it was colossal! The queues were in their thousands on opening day with people travelling from all over the UK to come and sample the retro gaming delights on offer.

There were so many arcades and pinball machines on show that it was visual and aural delight. You could get your hands on more classics than I can even begin to list here, so it was an incredible trip down memory lane. There are few to no places left on earth where you can go to get that 90’s arcade feeling, but it was here in abundance this weekend! Having a 4 player Vendetta mash up with complete strangers, challenging someone to a bout on Street Fighter 2 or trying to grab the highest score on Galaxian was just too much fun.

Alongside the plentiful coin-ops was (literally) every games console and computer ever made. So you could literally sit down, pull up a chair and enjoy any gaming machine you could dream of. The atmosphere was alive for the whole weekend, and due it being a building full of like-minded folks, everyone was so friendly. All you’d hear all day as you meandered around was someone saying ‘fancy a game?’ and on you’d go for a couple of games with a complete stranger. It really amplified what made retro gaming great, actual physical people, playing alongside actual physical people. No internet, no headsets and nothing ‘virtual’ in sight.

One of the highlights for me was an amazing Q&A session with Mike Montgomery, one of the founders of the Bitmap Brothers. The whole thing was so inspiring and to hear a true gaming legend stand there and reminisce was superb. He was also kind enough to sign my copy of Speedball 2, so I was somewhat happy with the whole event :)

The big difference this year was that the organisers decided to open the expo up to a wider audience and target half the show (which in total is about 300% bigger as a whole) at the modern gamer, so there were lots of contemporary gaming booths on show and some epic MW3 and Halo 4 tournaments.

Some of the highlights of the modern gaming booths were ‘advance previews’ of upcoming games and hardware, so I not only managed to get my mitts on the Wii U (very impressed, especially with Rayman!) but I also managed to get an advance play on the superb Metal Gear Rising. Bizarrely (as I’m rubbish at most games usually) I managed to complete a timed challenge, bagging myself a rather tasty 3D lenticular poster. Hurrah!

On top of all this there were some great stalls selling all manner of retro goodies and memorabilia, so it was damn near impossible to get your wallet and not give it a good beating.

All in all it was a fabulous show and I’ve come away more inspired for my game than ever before! It was also great to meet up with a few retro-heads from twitter that I chat to regularly and put some more faces to names.

If you’re in the UK, I strongly urge you make a visit next year!

Mike.