When you think the word ‘festival’, you think big and bold, colourful and packed to the brim with content… And that’s initially what I had hoped for when going to the London Games Festival; and boy was I wrong.

Clarice here bringing you my experience at the London Game Festival in Trafalgar Square, along with the additional ‘Now Play This’ event held in parallel in Somerset House, tied to the London Games Festival!

Thinking back to how I have attended the Matsui Festival (A festival dedicated to Japanese culture) and how grand this was in Trafalgar Square a few years back, going to what is a government funded project, you would think that this would top an independently funded festival such as Matsui, especially since we are in the age of technology and budding game developers and designers, with more and more young people and even seasoned business professionals looking to enter the industry and get more into coding…, But as I exited the 23 bus and entered Trafalgar Square I was shocked to see only two tents, one containing four AR app games for you to try including a pigeon chasing game, and a tent dedicated to Rocket League with two members of the NRG eSports team teaching you tips and tricks on how to be a ‘pro’ – Last but not least, the ‘festival’ featured 6 ‘Actual Reality’ (Their take on games-turned-reality) games which included hit the coconut… I mean ‘Space Invaders’ and a maze for Pac Man where you just chase your family members, even Whack-a-Mole cardboard box where you can bonk your children on the head with a soft play hammer, likening the whole day as more of a country fair rather than a fully fledged festival.

This amount of people was what we expected at around 1pm… Not 4pm…

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great experience for families of young children who are having a fun day out exploring London, but this was government funded, and I went going in with the mindset this was a celebration of the gaming industry and everything I hold dear to me. There was basically nothing there related to gaming other than the overall theme and inclusion of Rocket League, and I was shocked to see that – Here in the UK and even London alone we have hundreds of talented developers and representatives, with many in London alone such as Sega, Capcom, Atlus and other indie devlopers such as Ustwo Games and even Hello Games to name a few; whilst Hello Games is controversial, they can still provide an insight into the world of gaming and give tips and tricks. It was a pity to see that no one from inside the industry came to provide info on anything regarding the industry.

This exhibit in the Now Play This event featured an AI controlled game where an orb would absorb other orbs.

Now this is the part where I would go home and just think to myself “is there really anything I can talk about this experience?” – After all it was just for kids and their parents, but I found out something else about London Game Festival; there was a second experience being held which was entitled ‘Now Play This’.Immediately I was like “right, this is the place to be surely?”, this sounded like what I was initially hoping to find in Trafalgar Square, so I hurried along to this event which was set in Somerset House – A bit of a distance from Trafalgar Square but nothing that a brisk walk can’t do. As I entered I was stunned to see that this was indeed a paid event as opposed to the free London Games Festival, £8 no less, and for a price this had better be good.

Many exhibits were only there to be artistic. Some, however, were fun and interactive, like above.

Entering the house was interesting, stickers on the floor pointing towards where to go and each room had… Well, something interesting inside. The first room contained musical instruments and headphones, where you play a sound and it gets distorted and disorientates you. I know what you’re thinking, this has nothing to do with games, right? Well to them this whole exhibition is about different ways of playing… And to be honest I am just going to cut to the chase, Now Play This is an exhibition on political subjects and is there to question yourself and the world, and to me this has nothing to do with games whatsoever. I came here to experience my love for the industry but instead I just received some political nonsense that I didn’t want that was being forced down my throat… I am not here to discuss the topics but some of the topics mentioned included social comments on the pay gap, sexuality and feminism; personally I was not going here to discuss anything political nor controversial, and yes the exhibition did include some interesting stuff such as WarioWare inspired games and even a display that would bring your drawings to life through digital means… However a lot of these experiments were minimalistic at best and included light, somewhat shallow experiences such as ‘livestream’ of someone in GTA 5 (Or as they labelled it “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”…) putting a camera on a deer and watching it walk around the city… Seriously I am not making this stuff up. You had families sitting there watching an AI walking around… The leaflet even had two pages dedicated to bizarre yoga-like practices and ‘sensory experiences’ that wanted you to hug pillars, lie on the floor, sniff scented balls on a fireplace and curl yourself around a doorframe… What..? This event was clearly aimed at families and those who aren’t invested in the world of games but more at those looking at the artistic and experimental side of things, that’s if you could call this art to begin with…

Yes. I too like to watch AI deers roam randomly.

The whole day was a disappointment to me and part of me is insulted to see something so close to my heart be taken and strung out and paraded around under the guise of a celebration of the gaming industry; this whole experience was a political and artistic piece that was funded by the government, but had nothing to show for it… But hey, to some this was a brilliant experience and I won’t bash that  viewpoint, but for someone like me, quite clearly this wasn’t aimed towards my views or interests.