Gamers’ guide to London

There’s less than a week to go until my favourite event in the gaming calendar: Rezzed. I’ve been to each one since 2013 and the thing I love most about it is the atmosphere as there’s a real vibe of support for indie developers. Everyone is really friendly and open for a chat, creators and gamers alike, and it’s possible you’ll come away with some new friends as well as a few games to look forward to.

For those who haven’t been to the expo before or who aren’t familiar with London, the big city can be a daunting place and it’s easy to find yourself in hipster-hell or an overpriced pub. It’s therefore dangerous to go alone so take this: a handy guide to the best places to visit and hang out once the Tobacco Dock has closed its doors to Rezzed attendees for the evening. Let’s start sorting out your itinerary…

By night

I love The Heart of Gaming but sadly haven’t been since it moved from North Acton to its current home in Croydon last year as the new location is a bit difficult for me to get to. It’s well worth a visit though if it’s anything like it used to be: this non-profit arcade showcases classic arcade machines and consoles. I spent many an hour here working my way through The House of the Dead and kicking the other-half’s butt at Street Fighter.

From classics to current: on the other end of the scale we have DNA VR, the first virtual reality arcade in London. I haven’t actually visited myself due to being one of those unlucky individuals who suffer from motion sickness but I’ve heard positive things about this place. You’ll need to book in advance and it’s a little pricey, but it’s a good alternative to having to fork out for your own VR kit.

Previously called The Loading Bar, Scenario spans two floors: on the top you can grab a gaming-themed cocktail and play board games, while on the bottom you’ll find the Games Lounge with both new and retro consoles. It’s another venue I haven’t visited myself yet but it’s well-known and has been going for a while – and there’ll be a stand a Rezzed so you can find out all about it.

Now here’s a gaming bar I’ve visited on numerous occasions. Meltdown isn’t the newest or swankiest in London; to be quite frank, it’s a bit of a dive and could do with a visual makeover. But it’s really laid back and a great place to go if you want to grab a beer and a controller, or watch others play HearthStone or League of Legends. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart as it’s where I first met Ben, my blogging partner in crime.

And now for something completely different: Drink, Shop & Do, just down the road from our previous stop. If you’re looking for randomness then this is the place to come. The local hipsters tend to love it here and so it can be a bit annoying sometimes, but it can be fun if you manage to get past that; expect LEGO robots, dance classes, houses made of toast and various craft workshops.

By day

The Gfinity Arena is the UK’s first dedicated eSports venue and brings together teams from around the world to battle for honour (and big cash prizes). Over 600 spectators can watch them show off their skills on StarCraft, HearthStone and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. While none of these titles are exactly my cup-of-tea, I’m planning to go so I can experience the atmosphere of a proper eSports event at least once.

No trip to central London is complete without a visit to the megastore branch of Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue. I’ve spent so much time (and money) here over the years browsing through the aisles with friends; expect to leave with an empty wallet and a few bags on your arm. Doctor Who fans might wish to check out the book signing taking place at 18:00 on Friday, 13 April 2018.

As part of this year’s London Games Festival, the Games Character Parade will be taking place at 12:30 on Saturday, 14 April 2018. Hundreds of cosplayers of all experience levels will take to the streets of the city to show off their skills so expect some great photograph opportunities. You can even take part yourself; entry is free and all you’ll need to do is complete the form on the website.

The London Gaming Market is the place to go if you’re looking to buy retro video games, consoles and merchandise – and as luck would have it, the next one is taking place at the same time as Rezzed on Sunday, 15 April 2018. The last time I went with the boys in November, my stepson ended up spending most of his pocket money and I bagged some excellent Monkey Island artwork by Cave of Pixels.

That’s not the only thing happening on the Sunday… I’ll be celebrating another year of levelling up at Rezzed with the boys. There’s nothing like playing a few video games, yelling at pixels on a screen and taking down a few opponents to make you feel ten years younger. If you’re at the event, do come and say hello – if we have any cake left, we might be willing to share it.   🎂