A key highlight of the retro calendar descends on a large hotel conference centre in London. The London Gaming Market is the South-East’s biggest market for everything gaming. Held every three to four months at The Royal National Hotel it caters for retro and modern gamers and collectors. Stalls are packed in tight to the main hall and there is a back room to house a few more. The queue to enter was all the way out the door an hour or so before opening time. It is organised by the same company responsible for the Doncaster Video Game Market, Replay Events.
A noticeable aspect of London Gaming Market is the wide variety of stalls on offer. From the front of the hall to the back, full of games, hardware, merch and craftworks. But It is not just the wares for sale that are the main draw for the excited attendees.
Jono McNeil explained that “gaming markets have a mixed impact on the retro scene, it opens up to collectors to find items they need…But they are a great way to meet up with like minded people.”
He continued, “The retro scene is currently popular, I feel as it is seen as a cool thing. The rise of Facebook and lads pages posting pictures of four player N64 or pics of games rooms make people want it to impress their friends.”
The stand out theme of the event was one of community. It meant that friends were talking and enjoying themselves wherever you looked. Every stall was crowded with members of the gaming community catching up with each other. They were showing their pickups and chatting to the traders as well as keeping an eye out for that bargain.
Jono mentioned visiting game markets helps him connect. “The best thing for me today is just meeting up with everyone again. Being tucked away in Devon I don’t get to meet fellow, like minded people.”
Cliff Libby also shared this view. “Been collecting so long now that if I find games its cool, but I go to see people I never get to see and have long chats with them in person.”
It is not only the attendees that enjoy the community aspect of the day. When asked what it is like to meet his customers face to face Nathan Russell, of Gold Saucer Games said. “Its great, I know a lot of them through the Facebook groups. Its good to put a name to the face.”
Will Gentry, of Wills Game Console Modding & Repairs, followed up with, “It is really refreshing, you get to talk to them about the products…teaching people, not just seeing a virtual product online. Actually telling them how it works, what you can do with it…that gives me a lot of confidence.”
Will also talked about the importance of the markets to the retro community. “The different types of people you get…you get all ages, families, fathers and sons.” followed by “I think it is of huge importance because there is not many shops anymore. It just keeps the spirit alive of yesteryear.”
There are stalls just selling games, many selling hardware and the scattering of merch and arts and crafts in between. The variety is impressive and is an indication of how strong the scene is. Fil Bartczak was selling “a variety of everything, mainly Master System from my own collection…and then a variety of everything I have picked up along the way.”
Fil loved “meeting the people, I was a collector before a seller, so it’s nice doing it from this side. But not charging astronomical prices because I have seen it from the other side of the table.”
Buyers and traders come from far and wide. Sam Long was attending his first gaming market and enjoyed meeting new people .
“It was my first retro gaming market experience…I really enjoyed myself and had a few chats with random people who were also enjoying themselves. Notably the couple from Milton Keynes who were cool cats and are my official queue friends from the event.”
However, Sam was less impressed with the items on sale. “On a critical note I have to say there wasn’t as big a selection of games as I had expected, unless you were after PS2 as there were bundles of them. Personally, I was on the hunt for NES games and was a bit disappointed.”
The venue was packed from the moment it opened until the end. and the noise coming from the stalls was electric with trades and deals going back and forth. Many of traders mentioned it was the busiest London Gaming Market they had witnessed. This certainly appeared to be the case as at times it was hard to move through the crowds. It only goes to show how strong the retro scene is at the moment. The atmosphere throughout the day was buzzing with many smiles on the faces of happy customers.
This event certainly has many reasons to attend. It allows gamers to pick up some new titles. Collectors can hunt for a rare or sought after game. Online friends can meet in person and old ones can reconnect. There are no signs that the retro scene is unhealthy and if anything is going from strength to strength. Markets like this offer a real world experience that many community members may not be able to get anywhere else. They give an opportunity for younger gamers to learn about old hardware and games in a real setting. They keep the community tangible and accessible to those who remember the good old days.
Paul Villa, of Retro Villa, summed up the day perfectly. “If I did not have days like this, where I can meet up with my friends, sell to my customers face to face, I would not want to do it. This is really what the hobby is all about, people getting together, sharing the experience.”
Retro Faith would like to thank the organisers for a fantastic event and the traders and attendees for taking the time to talk.