North East Retro Gaming and GEEKS Lincoln Comic-Con 2016 Experiences

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , ,

First of all I apologise for posting this a little late this month unfortunately I haven't been in the best of health and had a bit of difficulty putting fingers to keyboard when it came to putting this all down.

Earlier this month on the 2nd & 3rd I attended North East Retro Gaming (NERG) in Newcastle, I had learned about NERG early this year and was initially not particularly excited about the idea due to the travel but it turns out my friend the delightful lady from Buzy Bobbins loves pinball machines and convinced me to give it a shot and attend with her.

I will say now I was not disappointed and very much enjoyed my time there with it been well worth the trip.

For those of you unfamiliar with the event NERG is a yearly event for the North East of England and NERG 2016 was the 4th annual event with there been hopefully many more to come.
The aim was to collect together 100 video arcade machines, 60 pinball machines and 60 consoles which visitor could view and play alongside various stalls selling classic game and consoles as well various video game toys and paraphernalia.

In addition the event has various competitions such as a Iron Man gaming event were contestants play a series of games and add together their score from each game, a Street Fighter 3 Tournament, a host of tombola's, raffles and a pair of cosplay competition for adults and children.

Not quite the full hall but you can see most of the machines.

While there was a series of issues that arose leading up to the event such as a change of venue due to road closures for a local marathon the people behind NERG dealt with them well and kept everyone informed through frequent and detailed updated on their website and by email, they also did a deal with a local hotel the Ramada Encore for special offers for those attending the event. 
This meant that there were slightly fewer machine available this year but I certainly think it was well worth the £25 weekend ticket. 

There were also some issues on the day itself and it was to be expected that these machine (some of them older than myself) may break down over the day but even though the mechanics on hand were amazing often repairing machines in less than 20 minutes and it was certainly interesting to get the chance to look inside a few of these.

One of the most charming elements I found was that with the retro consoles not only was there the chance to play some consoles that never hit European markets but they also had little information plaques next to each one so it was interesting to lean about each machine and its successes and failures. There was also a remarkable amount of games on hand for each console and those that didn't have the physical copies often contained emulators that contained nearly the entire library.

I would advise that if you head to next years  event that you think of a few games you want to play on retro consoles a head of time as it will really help with the overload of choice that can occur.

I didn't even realise you could make your own cartridge for these never mind make one that fits a SD card 

Since the two of us were together we decided to have a competition of our own and see who was the better retro gamer while we looked around the event.

Our first match was on the absolute classic Tehkan World Cup, aka. Tecmo Cup which was the first multi-player soccer game featuring a trackball controller. Programmed by Michishito Ishizuka it was released to arcades in 1985 by Tehkan, Ltd., the former name of Tecmo.

While the trackball was initially tricky to use this turned out to be one of our favourite games of the day as it soon turned to fast passed action and a hard fought 5-3 victory to me.

Our next stop was just next door and another classic, Joust developed by Williams Electronics and released in 1982 is a mixture of cooperative and V.S game play were the goal is to take down waves of other gladiators on flying mounts.

This one I firmly dominated setting me ahead in a our little competition but this lead wasn't to last as we moved onto PaperBoy another arcade classic from 1985.

Now I've never been a great player of PaperBoy on home consoles and the unusual controls for the arcade machine certainly didn't help me here and I soon found myself losing all the houses on my route.

This was only the beginning of my losing streak as we moved to Pinball machines where I was quite trounced in the scoreboard.

 Just a pair of the machines were I faired rather badly.

Since balls in reality were not working in my favour I decided to see if digitally I'd do any better with Marble Madness and its freshly fixed trackball and thankfully things did seem to pick up.

Marble Madness has quite a bit of history to it but I think CGRundertow sums up my feeling on the game perfectly.

As the day continued we had a lot more games but I think I'm just going to post a few last honourable mentions:

Xavi Bowling on the XaviXPORT: Have you ever seen a console and thought "What The Hell?" thats what we did when we saw this though credit where it is due it actually was fun to play. Victory to me.

Twinkle Star Sprite: We only had ten minutes to try out this bespoke arcade machine by Pixel Arcade so we picked a game a random and found Twinkle Star Sprite a 1996 competitive scrolling shooter arcade game originally created by ADK. 
Whoever came up with this was a genius and it was certainly addictive to play. Victory to Buzy Bobbins. 

Parodius: Just by naming this game I've written myself into a corner, honestly just click the link or type Parodius into Youtube and enjoy the utter random chaos of this parody shooter. Victory to Me

With a narrow victory to me by just 2 games clinching the win on Sunday we headed home, while initially not in the best of moods as we left due to fatigue once we managed to sit and recover we agreed we had a great time. One thing that stood out to me was the general politeness and courtesy of my other con goers, there were very few instances of people shoving past me or bumping into me in spite of the crowd, kids were kept under control and generally everyone was pleasant, friendly and helpful. 

One final thing that really made me smile however was the opportunity to share some of my childhood games on the Amiga 1200 with a friend and been able to go back and replay some of my favourite games.

 Now to the bit I simply don't want to write about the GEEKS Lincoln Comic-Con 2016 that was on the 9th & 10th. Now if you've been following the blog you'll know I enjoyed last years event but was with slight disappointment due to the shambles of a cosplay competition  and that I had worries about this years event due to its relocation to Epic Centre on the Lincolnshire Showground.

If I had to describe this years event in a word it would have to be Meh.

If I could have two words it would be: Over Priced.

If I could three words it would be No Travel Options. 

Seeing a pattern yet?

I only attended the Saturday of this years event rather than the full weekend for two reasons, firstly my experience of the previous year was that its possible to see everything in a single day and second there are no local buses that travel up past the Lincolnshire Showground on a Sunday making it not possible for me to attend.

Considering the Epic Centre is extremely expensive to hire and there is a number of similar or larger venues located amongst Lincoln I can only guess that the choice was influenced by the availability of parking. Its been suggested that the target audience has also shifted towards those with a large  disposable income and that the increase in price and requirement for a car to attend is a way of dissuading poorer attendees who are less likely to purchase items at the event and this makes sense, when I was there it honestly felt like I was in a tourist trap of a convention.

Now on the lead up to the event GEEKs were relatively poor with their organisation of information and feedback on the events Facebook page, information like local transport options and day schedules were posted but were buried under general chatter and questions and their own drive to push for more ticket purchases.    


While the event on the day was better organised with events been announced over tannoy there were still issues with microphone failures and the ticket checking was slowed considerably by only a single person having a working bar code scanner which left us queuing in the rain.

Once in it was goody bag time for the early entry and whilst there were several varieties of goody bag they had all been sorted into boxes so if you attended with a group you would would usually end up with nearly identical stuff. My lucky dip was a DVD of Batman Gotham Knight, a Sign of the Deathly Hallows necklace and a Blake7 poster which together was worth about £5 hardly exciting stuff but to be expected, I managed to get a peak at a few other bags and there were a mixture of books and other DVDs.  

As we entered the event was split into three sections, the entrance area where the Epic Centres Catering had set up with tables and chairs, last year there had been some concerns over the lack of available food venues so this was a welcome sight while I brought myself a packed lunch and can't personally comment on the food other than the outrageous prices (£3.50 for a small tart that costs 80p elsewhere, £10 for a Sandwich, typical convention mark up to ripoff visitors) it seems the catering group screwed up badly with people reporting been made ill by the chips (bad or unclean oil has been suggested) and one person found that their sandwich upon opening was moldy.


The second section was the collection of shop stalls, while I mention last year I was a little disappointed by the stalls been a bit repetitive, well someone must of read that and passed the word along since this year there was but a single anime related stall (a stack of pre owned mangas ) and a box containing about 8 XBox games (I refuse to acknowledge that as a video games stall). No, this years theme was mixed meme shirts, posters, old collectable Star Wars, Doctor Who and Thunder Bird figures or various toys which was interesting for the first two stalls then got repetitive and crushed my dreams of my old toys been worth anything.
Oh and Pop figures, Pop figures as far as the the eye could see. 

 Pops for The Pop God, there were other stalls with stacks higher than me but I wanted to show a picture with variety.

Somehow with more stalls there was less variety though there were a few oddities like the little comic themed cravat scarf for dogs, or made as you wait rubber cosplay supplier and outfitter who had two stalls for some reason, or the hama bead artist who stole all their designs from Deviant Art and Pintrest but in all honesty I'm having trouble recalling anything note worthy or memorable.
To summarise I enjoy stalls at these events because they are unusual, because they offer new or uncommon goods and experiences, because they are selling items I would find difficult to obtain however this felt like I was going through a huge Forbidden Planet Bargain Bin with the same few items on offer over and over. Don't get me wrong I like pops but they are honestly beginning to tick me off on how they are just taking over convention stalls.

Having managed to look at the entire range of items on offer in less than 30 minutes from entering I was dishearten to put it generously and decided to spend the rest of the day watching the panels.

The final section was various seating arrangements for guests to sign autographs and various photo shoots with a small area off to the side with chairs where the panels took place, like most convention prices often started at £15 and went up from there for autographs and photos depending on the actor but unlike most conventions there was very little queuing time which many autograph hunters said was a great bonus.
This was also the area for their retro gaming section but more on that later.

As someone who is a occasional causal viewer of Doctor Who the early morning panel wasn't of any particular interest to me but I wanted to see if there were any interesting insights, while the actors introduced themselves I still had no clue what characters they were (apart from Winston Churchill) but the crowd was a bit hesitant with questions to begin with and just as the questions began to pick up the hour was over.

With no interest on watching little kids do light saber training and having seen it all at the Sheffield comic con I went to see the cosplays of the new arrivals as the doors now opened to the normal ticket holders and amongst the typical super hero costumes there was some real gems.

Just a special mention here while Deadpool is a pretty common sight about the con now days this chap had the goofing around attitude which makes Deadpool a fun cosplay to play.

With a little more time to kill I noticed a stumbled across the retro gaming section initially mistaking it as part of a neighbouring stall that was selling second hand odds and ends, now I wasn't expecting another NERG but Sheffield Comic con had managed a few XBoxs and arcade machines and what did Lincoln have? Four Plug and Play knock off consoles of a Mega Drive, & Atari which were decent and the and a god awful pair of ColecoVision & Intellivision which perfectly replicated how the originals barely worked and was horrible to play.

How the hell is a emulator of this garbage this worth £50? Kids would rather do homework than play this.

Getting over the fact that advertising this as a retro gaming section was barely technically correct I noticed that there was no signs or notes or staff, the "consoles" had just been plonked down and left. As the only person old enough to actually have a few very early childhood memories of the ColecoVision & Intellivision and thus a chance to figure out the terrible menu selection and controls I found myself instructing several fellow bored looking curious onlookers on how the damn things worked.

Understandably most people who tried gave up after a single game due to the unresponsive pads that just didn't work most of the time and tried to get a go on the far more popular Mega Drive but some guy was determined to finish Alien Storm and wasn't coming off the machine after losing all his continues.

For some reason basic etiquette like keeping quiet during a panel was lacking from some of the con goers

With another hour ebbed out painfully slowly I returned to the panel as the kids filtered off from their light saber training, I was ready for My Dalek Has A Puncture as from the title it sounded interesting and I was guessing it would be cosplay or comedy related. When I discovered it was a autobiography I suppressed a groan but decided to listen anyway on the chance it would be somewhat interesting or at least I tried.

With the initial error of the laptop not working so there would be no presentation with the panel this was followed up by microphone errors every few minutes growing ever more frequent, while Mr Becker tried to continue it was difficult to hear him as the increased attendance of the con had risen the background noise considerably. Then as a finishing blow various groups of people obviously not interested in the panel used the area for a sit down break talking loudly over him, I've not had the desire to slap people so hard for a while now.

Giving up on the panel I decided to take a bathroom break only to be accosted midway by someone making a fuss over over my cosplay, pleasantly surprised and a bit disorientated by the sudden attention I realised they thought I was a different character as I had removed my Payday 2 mask when I politely apologised and explained I was in fact a different character they started trying to shame me for wearing a video game cosplay to a comic event. 

No I am not a social butterfly at these events, I'm not the type to go up and bond with people over costumes or just introduce myself as I tend to interact with people better over joint tasks and working together so I wasn't expecting to make a hundred or so friends but this was the final nail in coffin in the convention for me as something in my head just clicked. So with walking away a "F$%k you and F$%k this S$%ty con" I went off to finish my business before returning to my friend to explain that while I did want to see the stand up, the cosplay competition and the Red Dwarf panel I wasn't prepared to wait about bored out of my skull for another few hours and that I was leaving but they were welcome to stay.    

Unfortunately they were also finding it difficult to find things to do and were reluctant to stay without me even though they really wanted to see the Red Dwarf Panel, so we both ended up leaving annoyed and generally upset and miserable. 

So well done Lincoln Comic Con I think my biggest frustration is the mixture of disappointment and anger caused by the whole thing, in spite of everything I had managed to get myself excited for the event and feeling positive only to have it crushed by the utter boredom of the day.  

I shouldn't be clock watching praying for time to move faster during an event I'm supposed to find fun because the organisers expect us to be bottomless wallets and the presence of generally inconsiderate crappy people.
Combined with the fact that the ticket was bought for me as a gift and while I get angry if I feel like my money has been wasted it makes me even angrier when its other peoples money spent on my behalf.  

It almost makes it worse that a lot of people had a great time and that a lot of first time convention goers loved it and that GEEKS actually had a positive turnout, if it was a complete mess of an event then I would feel justified in having found it so generally tedious. It just makes it all the more obvious that I'm not really the target audience and that Lincoln Comic Con is focused now towards celebrity autographs and photos.         

Since GEEKS have stated their "new permanent home from this year onwards is the massive Epic Centre on the Lincolnshire Showground" this will be most likely the last review on the GEEKS Lincoln Comic Con I will write, because honestly for the price and content it better for me to go to Sheffield, Nottingham or Skegness events because they will have more to do there, have better public transport links and if the event turns out to be a bit dull I can go and see the local sights and amusements rather been trapped waiting for a once every 2 hour bus that costs over £5 each way.

 Should of been name Geeks Lincoln Star Wars and Doctor Who Con.


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