EGX 2023 - Old Meets New at the UK's Gaming Paradise
For those who are unfamiliar with the name, EGX is one of the largest video game expos in the country, attracting gamers, cosplayers, developers, publishers, and all-purpose geeks from across the UK and beyond.
The show celebrates video game culture, offering a space for meeting friends, discovering new titles, and the shared enjoyment of gaming. The event showcases games ranging from highly anticipated AAA titles to solo indie projects. It provides a platform for developers to showcase their work and for gamers to try out games before release.
In many ways, EGX is a microcosm of the gaming industry itself. It's a place where big budgets and indie creativity collide, where gamers can be sure to find something to suit their tastes. But it's also a reminder that in this digital age, there's something uniquely special about coming together in person to celebrate the games we love.
Despite the noticeable downsizing and the subdued presence of major publishers at EGX 2023, the event was still full of things to see and do. From nostalgic trips down memory lane with retro classics to exciting previews of upcoming titles, attendees were treated to a wide range of gaming experiences.
It is within this vibrant and diverse setting that I found my highlights of the show, each standing out for its unique contribution to the ever-evolving world of gaming.
Prince of Persia: A Regal Return with The Lost Crown
Perhaps the "old meets new" vibe of this year's show was perfectly encapsulated with Ubisoft's unveiling of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, a 2.5D platformer that pays homage to its classic roots while embracing the potential of modern gaming. The original "Prince of Persia" was a groundbreaking game that defined a genre. With its intricate level design, fluid animation, and challenging gameplay, it secured a place in the hearts of gamers worldwide.
The Lost Crown promises to capture this magic again. Even though only a limited demo was available at EGX, from the snippets shown, the game exudes a familiar charm blended with enhanced visuals and gameplay mechanics. Ubisoft has taken care to preserve the essence of the original, ensuring that long-time fans and newcomers alike can dive into the world of Persia with the same wonder and excitement.
If the whole game can deliver on the promises made by the demo, we may be looking at a worthy heir to bona fide gaming royalty.
The gaming world is ever-evolving, but there's something undeniably magical about its roots. EGX 2023 showcased this beautifully, dedicating a large section to retro gaming. From the mighty SNES and Megadrive to the obscure (and, let's face it, terrible) Amstrad GX4000, the array of old console and computer games available for play was a testament to the rich history of gaming.
What stood out most was the demographic drawn to these vintage games. Younger players, likely experiencing these classics for the first time, were just as engrossed as the older generation revisiting their childhood favourites. It was great to witness the timeless appeal of these games and their ability to transcend generations. Seeing a dad excitedly showing his young son a ZX Spectrum was enough to melt even the hardest of hearts.
Retro gaming is not just a nostalgia trip for those who grew up with these consoles; it's a living, breathing aspect of gaming culture that continues to captivate and entertain. As someone who has been gaming for over 30 years, it's great to see younger generations embracing the games I grew up with.
The Future of the UK Gaming Industry Looks Bright
EGX 2023 was a brilliant showcase of the talent and potential brewing within the UK. Universities and educational institutions across the country were present, advertising their game development courses and showcasing some of their graduates' work.
From innovative gameplay mechanics to striking visuals, the range of demos on display was impressive, easily rivalling the polish and creativity of established indie studios.
The National Film and Television School (NFTS), in particular, stood out with its showcase of graduate games. Each title bore the hallmarks of a commercial release, demonstrating the high calibre of education and passion driving the next generation of British game developers.
The message was clear: the UK is a burgeoning hub for gaming talent. If the government can capitalise on this talent pool and support the industry, we could see a massive boost for the gaming industry and the economy.
A Great Indie Game Takes a Bold New Direction
Upon discovering that one of my favourite games of recent years, Eastward, had a DLC in the works, I was excited to learn more. Titled "Octopia," this upcoming edition promises to take us back into the charming and intricate world that stole our hearts, but with a twist—it's a farming simulator. At first, I was dubious; Eastward, an action RPG with a rather dark storyline, seemed worlds away from the gentle world of the top-down farming simulator. However, as I delved deeper into what Octopia promises to deliver, my intrigue grew.
With Octopia, we could be in for a treat — a game that promises the chilled-out gameplay of a farming sim while retaining the rich storytelling and character development that made Eastward so good. This DLC is shaping up to be a beautiful blend of the old and the new, offering a fresh way to experience the world while staying true to what made the original game so captivating.
It's a bold move from the developers, stepping into new territory while expanding on a beloved title. If they manage to capture the essence of Eastward in this new, laid-back gameplay style, this will be a great expansion to what is already a classic game.
An Unexpected Interruption: Just Stop Oil
The show turned unexpectedly when the infamous group Just Stop Oil chose the event for their next protest. During a live Tekken tournament, the protestors raided the stage and sprayed orange paint across players' screens.
Their target? Event sponsor Barclays Bank and their heavy investment in fossil fuels. As the paint flew and security were dispatched, it was a stark reminder of the gaming world's place in the larger societal conversation.
I have always seen gaming as a counter-culture, a refuge for those who felt out of place in the "real world," providing a space for escape and self-expression. Yet, in this moment of protest, the realisation hit: gaming is no longer on the fringe; it has firmly planted its feet in the mainstream.
For people like me, this was a rude awakening to the intricate web of corporate ties that the gaming industry is a part of. But it also served as a call to action, a prompt to reflect on the values and ethics of the industry we hold dear. We are unquestionably at a crossroads, navigating the balance between the founding ethos of video games and the broader implications of its growth and commercialisation.
Regardless of where you stand on the actions of Just Stop Oil, one thing is sure – gaming is no longer the underground scene it once was. It's a powerhouse, a cultural phenomenon, and with that comes the responsibility to acknowledge and address the complexities of its place in the world. We must remain vigilant, ensuring that our haven of escapism does not lose sight of the values that brought us here in the first place.
TikTok's Entry into Gaming
As the headline partner of the show, TikTok's presence at EGX was undeniable. With their massive booth in the centre of the hall, their message was clear: they are ready to dive headfirst into the world of game streaming.
Up until recently, I saw TikTok as nothing more than a place for people to post videos performing dance routines and show off their bums. But clearly, the streaming service wants to be seen as more than a one-trick/two-cheek pony and has clear aspirations to break into the world of game streaming. I've noticed more and more Twitch streamers are simultaneously streaming on TikTok and using the platform to host clips of their streams. It's evident that this platform is quickly becoming a contender in the game streaming realm.
This shift presents a paradoxical scenario. On one hand, TikTok, with its massive user base and algorithm-driven reach, has the potential to level the playing field. Indie developers, previously reliant on tight marketing budgets, now have the opportunity to showcase their creations to a global audience, as evidenced by the meteoric rise of games like Among Us, Five Nights at Freddy's, and Only Up! that were embraced by streamers and their viewers.
However, this new avenue for exposure has its caveats. Creators and streamers seem to exist in a bubble; the TikTok booth at EGX was an exclusive invite-only affair, which raises questions about accessibility and inclusivity. Are we simply trading one gate-kept community for another? Will TikTok become as perceived as elitist as traditional games journalism?
Overall, EGX 2023 presented a varied landscape. Compared to previous years, it felt noticeably quieter, with most major publishers absent from the scene. There was a clear void as the show's usual flair for exclusive previews and grand showcases took a backseat.
Nintendo's presence, for example, while usually a highlight, epitomised this shift. They offered fans a chance to try out their latest Mario title, but with the game's release date literally days away from the show, it begged the question - what was the point? The whole show lacked the exclusivity and anticipation that has defined EGX in years past.
However, the lack of the big players certainly didn’t represent a step backwards for the event. The indie game section of EGX was a standout, occupying a more substantial portion of the floor and the audience's attention. It was a vibrant display of innovation and passion, with indie developers showcasing games brimming with passion and creativity.
While at one end of the hall the corporate sponsors were the focus of Just Stop Oil’s ire, at the other end the indie section was a bustling hub of activity, with developers eagerly sharing their projects and attendees keen to explore the diverse range of gaming experiences. One of the busiest parts of the show I saw was a single developer showcasing a game that involved projecting a digital overlay onto a handmade pop-up book to create a literal 3D game. It was low-tech but brilliantly inventive, and it was clear from the audience's reaction that people were excited just to see something so different.
The shift in focus towards indie developers and the enthusiasm from younger generations for retro gaming painted a picture of a community embracing its history and the people making games out of sheer love for the medium. As AAA titles become more and more about the bottom line, with publishers less willing to stray from a tried and tested formula and take any risks that could lead to a drop in sales, this shift felt like a perfect evolution for EGX, a rekindling of the event's roots in a simple passion for gaming.
Moving forward, the future of EGX may lie in embracing this change. While the event may have scaled back in size and spectacle, it has opened the doors to a new realm of possibilities, championing the indie and retro gaming communities and ensuring that their spirit continues to thrive at the heart of EGX.
Roll on EGX 2024!
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