Hi everyone. In anticipation for this years superb North East Retro Gaming event on July 1st and 2nd 2017, I’m going to share my experience of the last two years.
This my (most) local event and one that I have been going to for the last 2 years and one that I will always support, as it is a great weekend and must take the organiser, Phil Murphy (aka Big Phil), ages to sort the logistics.
If you can get there, please do, play some games, buy some stuff and say hi.
(The extract below was written up after the event and originally published on the Ten Pence Arcade Podcast Website – I will put some links to both this and the NERG site at the foot of this page.)
The date was Saturday the 20th June 2015, the sun was shining (a good omen) and at 9:15am I left my house in Carlisle and the journey eastwards began. NERG 15 the adventure had officially got underway. The A69 was surprisingly quiet, the gods really were looking down upon me, with only one aging gentleman pootling along in 3rd gear, who was soon dispatched. I had quickly looked up the venue on my Google map (other apps are available), prior to leaving and knew my turn off from the main road and figured that such a prestigious venue as the International Sports Stadium would be well signposted from there-in.
Leaving the security of the dual carriageway behind, I entered into Gateshead proper, passing the familiar Sage building, but still no signs to point me in the right direction and traffic was getting busy. I fumbled out my phone and fired up the satnav app, resting it somewhat precariously behind the gearstick, against the aircon controls. Comforted by her soothing tones, and heading in the right direction, I speeded up and confidently swung round the next roundabout, as my phone, affected by the tremendous 0.3G I managed to pull, slid effortlessly from it’s perch and skittled around in the passenger footwell !! DOH! As I tried to reach for it, clearly not happening, but for some reason we try anyway, as if the mere act of trying will enable your arm to double in length and reach the object, a familiar looking brown sign appeared ahead, directing me to turn next left, which I did, to find myself at the venue!! Top signposting!!!
Anyway, I was there and so it would appear, were hundreds and hundreds of other people!!! I followed the vehicle procession, past car park after car park, into a very pretty field, where I abandoned the motor, checked pocket for ticket, grabbed a bottle of water, confirmed tic-tacs in pocket and followed the throng of excited people back to the entrance, trying not to skip as I went. As I walked towards the doors, I observed the people ahead and around myself, categorising them as I went; there were lots of teenagers, all dressed in sporty lycra type garments, lots of parents, most carrying coolbags likely stuffed full of food/drink; a lot of younger kids, excitedly grasping their dads hand, choosing to show their excitement by openly skipping alongside; some adults who had chosen to really enter into the experience by dressing up as their favourite character from game or film; and the rest were the normal(ish) bods with whom I categorised myself.
As I entered the large glass doors, I was presented with the pleasant smell of cooked breakfasts from the café area (more on this later) and continued to follow the masses passed reception and through some open turnstile type glass gates, which is where things became slightly clearer with a large sign pointing myself and some of the others to the left for NERG 2015, whilst the aforementioned energetic, sportswear clad people, continued straight ahead and out into the athletics stadium, where a large schools competition was taking place. Down the corridor I walked, with the levels of anticipation increasing with every corner turned, and there were a lot of corners, each one emblazoned with another sign, pointing me towards my goal. Then the walking slowed as a slight queue formed as tickets were being checked and scanned, ahead of a large set of double doors which were open and alluded to glances of what greatness lay through them.
Ticket out, wristband on and I was in. Initial glances purveyed a large sports hall, and I mean large, with a huge ceiling height, filled with all things gaming related. Immediately to the left was a double row of inward facing arcade cabinets, preceded by the star raffle prize (which sadly I did not win), The Back To The Future pinball table. (NB: There is a really good and comprehensive walkthrough on the Ten Pence Arcade Podcast where they list pretty much every cabinet, pin and console, so please listen to that to save me typing all of those.) Next to this double row was…… another double row of cabinets, all playing, all working with the exception of one dead jamma cab. Next to this double row was………. A double row of pinball tables. The next area was mixed with various vendors with their stalls set out, littered with all kinds of merchandise, from fluffy toys, to t-shirts, to games and consoles, plus lots, lots more. Then the next area was filled with tables sporting an entire cacophony of consoles from yesteryear, some of which I have owned, some of which I wished to have owned bitd, some of which I had never heard of, let alone been able to play on. Leaving the final row to yet more vendors and the wares for sale. There was also an area put on by Clarkcade’s with some beautifully made bartop cabs.
There was a serious amount of stuff to take in. Although this was my first time at NERG I had been to Arcade Club a couple of times, and the first visit there, I remember having spent too much time, walking around looking at stuff that I ran out of time to play and had left wishing that I had had at least one go on each machine. So with this philosophy firmly set in , I set about playing each and every machine, finding some old favourites, some absolute classics as well as playing games that I had heard of but never played and others that I hadn’t even heard of.
Some of my standout machines (and this is very personal to myself) were, Bombjack, Gyruss, Outrun, Powerdrift (deluxe cab), Centipede, Missile Command, DK, RallyX, 1942, 1943, Pole Position, Championship Sprint, but that really doesn’t scrape the surface. Then I got into the pins. Now I have never been all that into pins (I’m still young – that can change!!), but I don’t really know why I’ve never got into them, however at my last visit to the Arcade Club, they had a better collection that last visit so I gave them some time. So when presented with such a beautiful array of pins at NERG, I delved deep and didn’t re-surface for some time. The pins were busy, but as with the cabinets, if you stood behind someone, once their game was over, they kindly stood aside and let you on. The more proficient pin people were very helpful too, (in a similar way that when you go into a restaurant abroad and although you might be willing to try and speak in the local lingo, they normally seem to be able to sense your inability and help you out), guiding me to various ramps and targets, depending on what the many flashing lights and commands were shouting at me. Am I a converted pin addict, probably not, but I had a load of fun on games that I would never buy, nor even shove a pound in, in favour of something else, and I think that is what events like these are all about. Pins of note, for me; T2, AC/DC, White Water, Starwars, Spiderman.
Go to events like these, get well and truly stuck in and try everything, even if you don’t know what you are doing, just try and you might just discover some hidden treasures.
But less about me, more about NERG. Before I knew it, it was 2:30pm and my stomach called. Back to the café I headed, through the maze of corridors and corners, following the smell of freshly made food. When I got there it was RAMMED!! Not only had half of NERG decided it too was lunch time, but so had all the parents attached to the aforementioned athletic offspring. Having said that, they had about a dozen staff serving, what turned out to be really nice food, very quickly and efficiently, along with proper coffee and all for relatively few of my English Pounds, I was very impressed by the whole set-up. Not only that but you then get to eat your big fat curry (very generous helpings too), overlooking the running track, trying to remember what it was like to be young and full of energy again!
Suitably refreshed it was time to return, this time I spent a bit of time going over the dozens and dozens of consoles, sometimes watching others, sometimes playing, but there were really just too many to stand any chance of getting through them all, with some having literally hundreds of games on disc to choose from. The stalls and merchandise on offer were again vast, but for myself it was all about the cabs and pins, personally I just don’t have the time for retro console gaming right now, so a lot of the merchandise was not for me, but if it was your bag, I imagine you would be like a kid in a candy shop, with loads of said kids persuading their dads (without too much resistance) to buy game after game. There were also a lot of cuddly toys and anime/manga related stuff as well as T-Shirts, mugs, jewellery, keyrings, framed prints, books, basically everything you could have wanted/expected to see.
At one point, in the middle of the afternoon, the heat in the hall, reached fever-pitch, despite the presence of three very large industrial air-conditioning units being on full blast. But the fire doors in each corner were opened with very friendly security staff, in NERG emblazoned T-Shirts letting us pop out for some fresh air, without having to negotiate the myriad of corners and corridors.
All in all this was an amazing day, where I played all I wanted to play, met some old friends and made some new ones, I had to travel back that night, as I had commitments on Sunday or else I would have upgraded my ticket to return the next day. Oh well, there is always next year, isn’t there Phil?
PS: I’m not sure on exactly which people come together to make this happen, (I know the main ones) so it would be wrong to name some and not all, but to all those that did make NERG 15 what it was, from me – THANK YOU.
And that was that. Below are some links which are well worth a quick click on;