On a cold and frosty Friday I gingerly made my way across London and toward a gaming event held at Shoreditch’s BOXPARK. An unconventional pop-up mall made from old shipping containers housing an amalgamation of the cool and crazy, I’d say it’s about as hip as the so-called ‘hipster’ trend gets – but what do I know? I was the kid with the tamagotchi at school.
The event for which I was headed was rather intriguingly named Video Game Democracy and was the creation of George Swain and Matt Farthing, the guys behind the increasingly successful JoyPad Bar, who host retro-gaming events across London. Here’s a (smiley) picture of the two of them:
The idea behind Video Game Democracy is a beautifully simple yet delightfully novel one: every 15 minutes two retro titles – one coloured red, one coloured blue – go head-to-head against one another in a battle to see which of the two games will be played next. The catch? There are no ticketed ballots here…
At the time of my arrival the event was already in full swing and democracy was taking a beating, quite literally. In the centre of the room a large monitor displayed two games on its luminous screen, Wipeout (red) and Crash Team Racing (blue), and laid out on the table in front were a series of buttons relating to the colour-coded titles. As I looked on, two groups of gamers, whom I could only assume had descended into a state of retro-gaming madness, furiously pounded on the buttons. Veins bulged and sweat ran as both teams frantically clambered to collect as many points as possible in favour of their chosen title, the outcome teetering on which of them could bash their colour’s buttons the most within the specified time limited. Points win prizes at this event, and for every button bash you’re awarded a single, glorious point toward your title of choice. As it stood, Wipeout was just edging Crash Team Racing, much to my delight.
Though I’d only been there a couple of minutes, I suddenly found myself being urged on by my inner gamer and it wasn’t long before I was caught up in the furore as well; throwing caution to the wind I yelled, ‘Go on Wipeout!’, at the top of my lungs. A couple of gamers next to me, Crash fans judging by their reactions, looked absolutely appalled that anyone could possibly vote for Wipeout over Crash Team Racing and, shaking their heads in unison, redoubled their own efforts at cheering on their candidate.
Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t to be. With the crowd counting down the final precious seconds on the clock, team Wipeout, arms aching, hands numb, could only look on in agony as Crash Team Racing edged ever so slightly ahead at the last moment. As George called an end to the competition, an almighty whoop went up from across the table – Crash Team Racing had won, 183 votes to 178. A narrow victory, but a victory none the less. As the winning game was whisked off to its corresponding console and the crowd dispersed, one girl from the Wipeout team fell to her knees, Shawshank-style – she’d taken the loss hard. I watched as her friend, also a Wipeout fan, picked her up and, giving her a hug, cheerfully proclaimed, ‘Don’t worry Ames, we’ll try again in 15 minutes’.
And such was the beauty of Video Game Democracy: like the presidential elections the two candidates sported red or blue ribbons of various hue, but unlike those same elections this was a fun, enjoyable and entertaining affair featuring candidates retro by name, but not necessarily by nature. And perhaps more importantly, if you didn’t like who’d been voted in the first time, you had a chance to change it only a few minutes later. Now that’s how you do politics.
JoyPad’s next event will be held on January 31st and is their fantastic Super Gaming Warehouse Party. Check out www.joypadbar.co.uk to find out more – you’d be a fool to miss it!