The Eurogamer Expo experience

Joe Trotter

It’s 9am and the London Underground is stale and busy. Although I don’t regret drinking with the Brazilian pilots the night before, I do regret the hostel’s subsequent breakfast, a mixture of hard toast, stewed bread and disappointment. Tired faces stare sullenly ahead contemplating the new day as I turn to Corey, my partner in gaming crime and mumble something about queues. He nods. Queues had become the bane of our existence, that staple of videogames exhibitions, and Eurogamer was no exception. If I could split the Eurogamer experience into a pie-chart it would be approximately 15% playing games, 50% queueing, 25% getting lost, 5% eating shit food and 10% failing to understand how pie-charts work. I think I visibly aged ten years in the various queues which took up the majority of our two days in Earl’s Court, and we didn’t even attempt to hop on to the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 juggernaut.

Now, queueing is an understandable and expected aspect of any event with a large amount of people. 50,000 people attended the four day extravaganza, a huge amount even by the standards of a Nuremberg rally organiser. However, a select few (hundred?) had something the rest of the plebs could only dream of: a press pass. ‘Anyone with a press pass come this way!’ cried one Eurogamer helper, like an enthusiastically geeky Pied-Piper, leading a small and smug band (and I am both small and smug) through the tumultuous and scattered crowd with the promise of early-early entry, leaving us by the entrance.

‘W’at you doin’ ‘ere?’ greeted the head-bouncer nearest to us, the only person who appeared to have a modicum of control over the situation. After several members of the congregation calmly explained that we had been led here in search of the promised early entry, we were told in no uncertain terms that no such early entry for press existed, that we had better just wait here as it was tantamount to queue jumping and that ‘some kid has probably just got a bit big for his boots’. Said kid just shrugged his shoulders, muttered that no-one had told him otherwise and walked into the convention centre, leaving his forlorn followers to watch the majority of the early entry holders squeeze past them before they could enter (I assume; Corey and I unashamedly nipped under the rope and strolled in long before this).

This overall sense of confusion and contradiction is something we soon got used to at Eurogamer. The army of Eurogamer Helpers, to a (wo)man, were friendly, enthusiastic and entirely useless at their jobs; not one seemed to know where anything was, or been given any training in, you know, actually helping, so we quickly turned to the helpful and shiny looking programme to aid us in our quest to find games and developer’s stands. Looks can be deceiving. The programme, despite being packed full of vainglorious blurbs about a number of the bigger games available at the show, failed to actually include either a useful map which pointed out anything but the bloody obvious (the +18 section is the bit with the big walls which say ‘+18’ like a crap Berlin Wall, you say?) and didn’t feature a full list of exhibitors, which is frankly criminal for an exhibition the size of Eurogamer.

The result meant that not only was it unclear which games were actually exhibiting, it was also impossible to subsequently find them if they did happen to exist. Allegedly confirmed games like Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2 – one of many I had set aside for preview – were lost in the hangar, and I have absolutely no idea if they actually exhibited or not. Likewise, I could not find a particular stand where I had arranged an interview, and only found out where the stand was just as I was leaving on the last day and nipped into the toilet. I had asked and pleaded with staff, helpers, receptionists and even other developers where the various stands might be and none had a clue, aimlessly pointing to information apparently in the programme they had clearly not read. Frankly, much of the organisation of Eurogamer 2012 was completely inept, far worse than last year, and whoever was in charge of logistics and the organisation of the programme and helpers needs a massive, firmly planted kick up the arse.

Still, being a games expo, there were still plenty of things to do (nearly all involving games). I got beaten in a variety of different games by a wide selection of the gaming populus, including two demon nine-year old girls who flogged me to within an inch of my life on Joe Danger 2, whilst the only game I showed any real skill in was a quick thrashing on FIFA 13, though my insistence that the guy write me a letter (5 goal rule people) was met with incredulity. However, I did manage a go on the best releases, including Far Cry 3, Assassin’s Creed III and Dishonored, my personal game of the show and probably game of the year, whilst Nintendo’s fantastic Wii-U stand was the best exhibit to be found. Beyond the new releases were some tournaments, which were cool despite being predictably dominated by monstrously talented ne’er-do-wells, whilst the retro gaming area boasted a range of old and rare games consoles, including a 10 person version of Bomberman, possibly my highlight of the whole thing. Some of the freebies were decent too: the Agent 47 bobbly head I received at the Hitman: Absolution stand has been staring at people in my toilet for days. The thing is, once you get into the Expo it is undoubtedly really, really good fun, but that’s because games are great full stop. What’s not great, however, is £8.00 for 9-inch ‘pizzas’ with two slivers of cheese and an olive on, the most expensive water outside of the Falkland Islands, and absolutely no-where to sit down (unless playing, of course). Seats are a commodity in such events and must be fought over like fuel in Mad Max.

As such, Eurogamer Expo 2012 was a chaotic and immensely enjoyable mess of an event. For every clear lack of organisation or useless staff member (and, urgh, the toilets), there was a real community spirit and refreshingly diverse audience of all types and ages. The sheer quality of the games available to play was exceptional, if you could find them, but the apparent inability to provide for a quantity of human-beings in one space was exasperating, whilst the lack of a quality map or games list was unforgivable for an event this size. Still, I did really enjoy it, and I do really want a press pass again for next year, so I will describe it thus: it’s like watching The Who at Glastonbury – you know you will really enjoy it, but you might have to stand in shit to get a decent view.

Presentation: 8.0 – Lots of shiny stands, but the toilets, my god the toilets.

Gameplay: 7.5 – Exceptional games, some terrible organisation.

Value: 8.5 – Lots to see and do, but expect to pay handsomely for anything.

Overall: 8.2 – A good performance, but much to improve on for next year.