Game on, Manchester: Will the gaming market return to the city in 2019?


The Manchester Gaming Market may have packed up and dispersed the eager Pacman, Red Dead Redemption, and online casino fans, but the impact it had on the city can still be felt. From September 1 2018, hundreds of gaming fans spent the day at the city’s only retro gaming convention developed by PLAY Expo and Video Game Market organisers Replay Events.


The packed exhibition hall allowed fans of gaming through the ages to reconnect with some of the classics, make like-minded friends, and talk about the future of gaming and what they would be excited about going forward to 2019. With such a huge success, is the northern powerhouse going to be able to recreate the retro excitement for the following year?


What is the Manchester Gaming Market?


The Manchester Gaming Market’s exhibitor spaces were already booked up months before the convention’s new location at the !Audacious Conferencing Centre. These included: Deadpan Robot, Console Passion, Retro Plushy Games, Japanese Retro Game Sales, Sore Thumb Retro Games, Press Start Gaming, Retro Collect, Gameasaurus, Gold Saucer Games, and many more throughout the convention’s bustling weekend. Predominately retro gaming retailers and exhibitors, fans were able to contain all of their retro gaming adoration in one location, by searching out a bargain, having a chance to play some classics, and even get a sneak peek at some of the latest in gaming developments. The success of the convention sees organisers hoping for the convention to return to Manchester the following year. The convention aims to provide a window into gaming of the distant past, with treasures to be found in the form of games and titles that were lost to the annals of memory. The convention also acts as a gateway for the individual to get them to start remembering games they may have played, which would evoke feelings of what their lives were like at the time and who they were playing with. By allowing Manchester to play host to such an event that acts as a gamer’s paradise also helps put it on the gamer’s map.


Why Do We Love Retro Gaming So Much?


Retro gaming is incredibly popular, as can be seen through the remastered Crash Bandicoot series, the reignited Spyro the Dragon series and the launch of the PS1 Classic, which reportedly contains the best of the releases for Sony’s inaugural console. The decision to bring back out some of the older titles is a pull down one from eager fans, who have taken to social media – a forum games developers are acutely tuned in to – to vent their need to reconnect with their gaming youth. The modernity of online casino is also able to take inspiration from retro gaming, with new online slots especially reaping the benefits of memories of gaming past. The Theme Park slot, for example, calls back to the old PC games of Rollercoaster Tycoon, while the Ghost in the Shell slot harks back to the 1997 PS1 game. But, why are we more attracted to the nostalgia? Well, there is actually a science behind our love of retro gaming. At its most basic, retro gaming reminds us through nostalgia of memories we have associated with happiness and positive emotions. Not to mention, nostalgia can rewire your brain and way of thinking. Certain aspects of nostalgia can activate the ‘reward’ centre of the brain. So, when we think about something in the distant past with an emotional attachment, it can generate positive feelings. This can then make you feel more optimistic about your present and future. Researchers even found that nostalgia can physically make us warmer, through an experiment of listing nostalgic winter treats in a cold room and measuring participants’ perceived temperature. So, it’s only natural that we seek out things that remind us of emotional memories from long ago.


The Global Love of Retro Gaming


It’s not just in Manchester that the love for retro gaming is felt. The excitement of Pokémon Go – based on the 1995 games – that had streets across the globe brought to a standstill and hundreds of people running about their cities is based on our love and memory of the initial batch of Pokémon. One of the most famous, with its last run in 2014, was the Classic Gaming Expo that focused on games and games makers of yesteryear. The PLAY Expo in Manchester – and in London in 2018 – focuses a huge portion of its games-focused convention to the arcade games and retro gaming. Not only can fans engage with retro games consoles, but the lesser-focused arcade games that inspired some of the classics and that have been the basis of modern-day gameplay. Retro Events based in Leeds run a series of nostalgic nights that focus on video games of the past. Some are more broad, while others have a pinpoint focus on a particular aspect of nostalgia, such as the screening for the film Going for GoldenEye, made about players competing on GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64.


For many in the north, it can often seem as though London attracts all the best events and the ones that might have more of a specialised audience. In spite of this, Manchester remains a hit for tourists and is innovative in how it goes about getting them, such as through its Christmas Markets app. As the Manchester Gaming Market shows, and our collective hunger for retro gaming nostalgia reinforces, setting such a convention in the north lifts barriers for those who might not live in the capital. The success of the event and the anticipation by fans and punters for another one may ensure that the convention will return in 2019. With the focus dictated by trends that gamers enjoy, the scope for adaption and development of the convention is almost limitless. Tourists will flock to the city and fans of retro gaming will be appeased by some of the hidden treasures the exhibitors may have for them. Overall, the Manchester Gaming Market represents everything that’s so enjoyable about dipping into our pop culture past.