On a wet, miserable day in Doncaster one of the key events in the video game calendar took place and it certainly did not disappoint. The Doncaster Video Game Market is the biggest, and longest running, gaming market in the UK and takes place at the The Dome every three months or so. 1000’s of collectors, gamers and general geeks descend on the venue to sample the wears on show. Taking place in the huge main hall, hundreds of tables and stalls align the walls and aisles. They offer everything from classic retro games and accessories to merchandise and console modding.
There are stalls that cater for importers as several traders keep a healthy stock of Japanese games and consoles to satisfy every need. The appetite for import games is high and this was shown from the constant queue at Allan McCluskey’s Japanese Retro Games Sales stall.
To give an idea of the variety on show, Paul Mattock gave us a run down on all the different kinds of items he was selling. “Anything retro! Today I have anything from Acorn to PS2, GameCube, Master System, Mega Drive, a whole range.”
The amount of traders, full time or otherwise, is quite breathtaking. To witness such a gathering is testament to the strength of the UK video game community. Often misunderstood as an online only scene, the popularity of events like this show that gamers still want real world spaces to purchase games and get together.
There is nothing quite like having a face to face chat with a trader who understands what you are searching for. That tangible, real experience that brings the hobby to life as opposed to waiting for the mailman after an online purchase.
Paul explained that “meeting the customers, for me, is the best thing. I like to be able to give that person the game they have been after for the last ten years. When they say, ‘this is the game I wanted to play when I was ten but never did.’ To me that is the best.”
Ally Hogg, of The Retro Hunter in Southend, summed up his thoughts on face to face interaction at the markets.
“It’s great to meet customers face to face. I have a shop, so it’s a bit different for me, but it’s how I prefer to sell. With face to face selling, customers can see the condition of the item, they can check the manual, check it’s all there. It makes for a happy deal.”
Ally continued by explaining “The best thing about selling at the markets is putting items into peoples possession. Items that they have been looking for for a long time. That is one of my highs of the job. A customer sees that one thing they have been chasing for years and they say ‘oh my god, you’ve got that game!’ It’s that reaction that gives me job satisfaction”
The market offers a chance to purchase items for the collection or to play. Attendees can indulge the inner geek with all the retro related artwork and merchandise on sale. One of the more unique stalls has a huge range of retro game related magazines and Marc Jowett, of Sega Mags, explained why it is special to be able to set up shop at the market.
“The best thing about selling at the markets is meeting new people…helping them to finish their magazine collections. We are able to marry our magazines with customers who need them.”
Marc also talked about how important these events are for the community. “Markets like this are very important, for me, they bring the community together. We’ve had people up from London, we’ve had people down from Scotland. And in terms of selling, you can see the item, it’s not eBay, it’s not Facebook. Customers can see before they buy.”
The atmosphere was electric throughout the day and many friends, who normally only interact online, have the opportunity to meet up in person. Glenn Edwards said, “Awesome, a great day…to actually assemble and congregate together with a chance to put names to faces is invaluable.” This sentiment was followed up by Matt Bonney who explained that “just meeting everyone that you can put a face to the name to and being able to meet finally, rather than just chatting online.”
The theme of having these face to face engagements really ran throughout the day. Many attendees expressed how much they enjoyed meeting new friends within the community.
Hollie Dieudonné talked about meeting up with people. “It’s so good! Being able to put faces to names from the [Facebook} groups and people who watch my channel, yeah, it’s been crazy. People will come up that I don’t know, and I ask if they have a YouTube name, they will say it and it will click…..so good to meet people who watch the channel.”
The hardcore collectors can get in on a pre-paid early bird ticket which grants access at 11am instead of the normal 12pm opening time. And those that prefer a more leisurely stroll around, without all the hussle and bussle, can attend later once the crowds start dwindling away. To say the hall is packed would be an understatement. There are times when it was difficult to get through the crowds to view the stalls but everyone is friendly and with some patience you are able to get around everywhere.
Another notable aspect of the event was the diversity amongst the crowds. It is wonderful to see young kids and families enjoying the market. The retro video game scene has traditionally been the domain of middle aged men. However, there were plenty of younger attendees and lots of female game players excitedly rummaging through the wears and catching up with friends old and new. The scene is far more welcoming than ever of different groups of people. This could be seen as one of the reasons the scene is thriving today.
If you’re looking for something new to play, a specialist item or just to bump into friends the Doncaster Video Game Market certainly is a marvellous day out. It brings a community together that is normally hindered by distance. The community is mostly online these days and there is sense of nostalgia that sharing with others is amplified. It is also a great way to get to know the traders so they can look out for items needed for a collection. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, collector or someone who dabbles, check out this event, you will not regret it.
Retro Faith would like to thank the organisers, traders and attendees who took the time to share their thoughts.