EGX: Gaming at its Very Best

I have never been to EGX. I’ve been to Rezzed, the media/press arm of the convention but never to big, all out, video games show that is EGX at the NEC in Birmingham. In fact I don’t actually think I’ve been to Birmingham, until now. It had been an event that I had always wanted to try and when a friend said they fancied it, I thought “well why not?” after all it has the preliminaries for the European Cosplay Gathering (sort of like Eurovision for cosplayers), and more games than you could shake a wii-mote at. Plus for the first time in YEARS I have multiple video game cosplays at my disposal and it would be a shame not to show them off in their natural environment. So, where is this all going, as it’s quite possible I could just be rambling on but no! What I am doing and where I am going is to try and convince you that a) you should get to EGX (or similar gaming event depending on country of origin) and b) that you should check out a few of the amazing games that I fell in love with at the show. Some of these will have more of a write up in the future, but that’s for later. For now…

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EGX, previously known as Eurogamer Expo, is now in it’s 10th year, and is the biggest gaming convention in the UK. It draws the likes of Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and many more to display their wares and announce new games. It’s not quite E3, but let’s be honest, only E3 can be E3. They now run two UK shows a year, EGX and Rezzed, as well as EGX Berlin. And yes, you might think, well why would I want to go and queue for these big corrupt companies and their games/consoles that are going to cost the Earth, well you don’t have to. EGX also boasts a huge amount of Indie Developers, giving them pride of place as a major part of the show and as contributors to the gaming industry as a whole. No, nothing is too small to be given the same love and attention as the big companies.

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Image from EGX 2017

It’s a tad overwhelming when you walk through the doors and see this space full of games and goodies for you to get your grubby gamer mits on, and I would definitely recommend doing as many days as you can at the show or you’ll simply just miss out on so much. Once your brain has refocused and is now ok with quite how much choice there is in front of you, heading for the indie section will always be the best first choice. I mean, you could go and jump in a queue for the next big game but losing an hour, maybe more, to play a 20 minute demo of a game you know you’ll be buying as soon as it comes out seems a little pointless when you could be exploring something totally new. At least for me that’s the case. I like to find the stuff I’ve never heard of, and see what road it takes me down – this is why my PlayStation is full of weird and wonderful indie games.

The games I am personally drawn to generally full into the category of “puzzle solving” and then into the two subcategories of “super cute but with a dark twist” or “straight up spooky and terrifying”. And there was no shortage of either of these, but there were a few that stand out:

  • Doggo – A game being developed by WIPtail Games where you play the goodest boy in the world. Essentially you run, jump, bark and howl your way through simple, but cleverly designed levels, looking for your family. The emotional response you get right from the beginning – and spoilers I guess – as Doggo is abandoned by the unfeeling humans, is ridiculous, and the stylised simplicity of the art really creates a bond between you and Doggo. The narration is truly wonderful, the stand out piece of the demo, a warm, caring voice, encouraging you to push on and find your new home. A protection against the new world Doggo has found themselves in. I would definitely recommend checking out the demo video linked above.
  • Those Who Remain – My spooky choice. A creepy adventure by Camel 101 where only the light can help you. Driving to a dark, abandoned motel, in classic horror movie fashion, you find yourself in the middle of a nightmare. All the information you have in a telephone call tell you to “stay in the light” and the pin point eyes staring at you from out of the darkness. A terrifying premise, that had me on the edge of my seat while playing and definitely got at least one scream out of me (something that is a tad embarrassing in a convention hall). It feels like a really classic horror game but with its brilliant twists and I cannot wait to play it myself! You can bet I will be reviewing it!
  • Lake Ridden – A story based puzzle solver, that put me very much in mind of The Room series (some of my FAVOURITE puzzle solving games – review coming soon!) created by Midnight Hub. This is a game where you really need to open your mind to every possible way of thinking with puzzles of all types right from the get go. Unfortunately for me it’s only on PC at the moment and I didn’t get that far in it at EGX as I was struggling with a headache (thanks to a VR headset, earlier in the day) BUT I really hope it comes out on other platforms so I can really get my teeth into it. The well thought out, detailed design of each puzzle, as well the surrounding world that was completely immersive. What really struck a chord with me was that you play as a young girl, and in a medium that still dominated by overly buff, male leads, it was refreshing to not have that as the default.
  • Disco Elysium – A point a click, story heavy detective game by ZA/UM. Yeah, I totally loved it. Dark, self deprecating humour for the start, with Francis Bacon-esque artwork and a deep dive into the psyche, Disco Elysium takes you on a surrealist trip to murder town with a stop off at amnesia avenue and dangerous alcoholic lane. Completing tasks requires you to build your physical and mental stats so that when you roll the dice, you luck (or chance) can win out, while all the while having your inner monologue giving you a hard time for all the sh*t you pulled. Funny and bizarre, really looking forward to playing more.
  • Untitled Goose Game – It’s great. It’s freaking great.
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What a good Doggo

One of the things that really surprised me, was that the show also holds a careers fair for anyone who wants to get involved in gaming. Advice from those in the know as well as having stands colleges and universities with game design courses, along with talks and artist portfolio reviews all in a nicely contained little fair. I’ll be honest, I was pretty impressed by this. It’s rare enough to get portfolio reviews at conventions, but actively encouraging people into the industry and showing them a path to do so? Well that’s pretty amazing.

Also, I’m gunna say this because as cosplayer it’s really great that they had loads of seating. It made a big difference to me during the day that I could sit and I’m sure for others with more of a need it was a life saver, especially those with disabilities. The layout of the show was amazingly disability friendly over all. There were certain queuing areas, such as in the Nintendo and Ubisoft areas that may have been a struggle for wheelchair users but the hall itself, the floor plan and the general area was definitely keyed in with those needs. It’s great to see.

One thing that was a little weird, was how thin on the ground cosplay was. Considering that the UK prelims for the ECG are held at EGX I was very surprised by the lack of cosplay. That been said we all were very well received which is always great, haha.

For myself, cosplaying from indie game Earthlock: Festival of Magic, it was great to see how supportive the other indie game developers were of someone cosplaying from one of their own. They got so excited that I had loved an indie title enough to cosplay from it.

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L-R: Mossflower Cosplay, Myself, Soul of Mjolnir and EvilCleverDog. Taken by Donald Manning

Unfortunately the cosplay competition and the ECG prelims could really use some work. The level of cosplay that was on show deserved more than what we provided on the cosplay stage, and taking part in the Saturday competition we found that a lot of stuff did not run smoothly. You should not turn up to a competition sign up, that has no online sign up, and be told you need to have a performance prepared as that will be 50% of the judging. This information was nowhere on the website and made many competing feel that they had no time to prepare and therefore gave a substandard performance for the quality of their costume. It’s a shame since it has so much potential with good staging and lights, but felt that even with the ECG, where people were prepared, this was never used to it’s best. Hopefully this will be sorted for next year!

As a show EGX blew me away. It showed what conventions in this country really can be. If it can bring the cosplay side up to a higher standard, maybe more in line with European cons and their competitions, then I think it could well be one of the best shows in Europe for gaming. I really hope it continues to grow and continues to grow its love for indie gaming with that. I will definitely be back next year!

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Written by Holly Rose Swinyard

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