PLAY EXPO 2013
Date: 12th & 13th October, 2013
Play Expo is the UK's largest computer and video games exhibition and it is held each October at the EventCity complex in Trafford, Manchester. In previous year - and under different names - it was held in the seaside resort of Blackpool, but seems to have found a more permanent home here in Manchester.
The main focus of the show is on modern console gaming for the Playstation and X-Box generation, but there are masses of retro computers and consoles such as Amigas, Ataris. Alongside all these are areas for arcade video games and, of course, pinballs.
With such a wide range of attractions, it's no surprise the show has become amazingly popular, and lengthy queues build up long before the doors open.
Unlike the previous two year where all visitors entered the show through the front doors, a side entrance was used this time.
The exhibition hall is huge. Formerly a distribution centre for a high street retailer, the building retains that warehouse feel. It large enough to be divided into sections allowing two or more exhibitions to run concurrently.
If you've ever wondered where all those 14-inch cathode-ray tube TVs ended up when everyone replaced them with LCD panels, the answer is here, in the retro computing section.
The pinball and arcade games sections moved to a new area at the very back of the hall for 2013. They both had a larger space a long run across the back wall for organisers desks and vendors.
The pinball contribution to the show comes courtesy of the Northern Lights Pinball (NLP) crew. Their aim is to make pinball accessible and enjoyable for everyone - not just existing pinball fans. Many of the visitors to the show will either never have played a real, physical pinball before, or did so many years ago and have since forgotten about it.
So the intention is to either introduce or re-introduce show visitors to pinball, and let them experience the variety of games available. All the machines are set on free play, and any competitions are the of the friendly variety, without any WPPR points on offer.
The latest games from Stern Pinball - Star Trek and Metallica - and Jersey Jack Pinball - The Wizard of Oz - were here, thanks to Pinball Heaven.
Rows and rows of machines were set up for everyone to play, with NLP crew on hand to answer questions and fix any problems.
There were several competitions taking place across the show's two days. The World Fair Challenge tasked players with lighting all the numbered cabins on the backglass.
Two high score competitions were run on separate machines - Party Zone for the juniors, and X-Men for the adults.
Several pinball vendors also attended the show. Although the pinball section is primarily aimed at non-pinball people, there are still plenty of pinball collectors in attendance. So Play Expo is a good opportunity to stock up on spares.
Alongside all the gaming was another subculture - one which involves dressing up as your favourite games character. This is called Cosplay and it originated in Japan as an extension of gaming fandom.
It is common at Play Expo to see visitors dressed as characters from games or movies, and this year the phenomenon was extended to pinball.
More awards were up for grabs in the competitions. Alongside the high score events was the long-running Pinball Mania NBA Challenge where up to 32 players could take represent NBA teams and play linked NBA Fastbreak machines in a timed head-to-head mode.
Teams/players were arranged in groups of four, and each team competed against the others to determine the winner of the group. Whoever topped their group went into the semi-finals and then, perhaps, into the final.
The NBA Challenge took place on Saturday. On Sunday, a new competition from took over the space along the back wall. The Pinball News PinGolf Tournament cost £2 ($3.20/€2.40) to enter and gave players a challenge to achieve on each of three machines (holes).
The machines used were World Cup Soccer, NBA Fastbreak and Indiana Jones (Stern). The machines were set to 5-ball play, and players had to complete the hole's designated challenge with the fewest balls possible. Each ball used corresponded to a 'shot' for that hole, so that completing the task on the first ball equated to a 'hole-in-one'.
The PinGolf Tournament ran from 11am until 3pm, after which the players with the lowest scores were awarded trophies.
As the show neared the end, a prize draw was made for all those who brought their machines along.
In the adjacent area, the guys from Jamma+ had set up an impressive display of arcade video games which were also on free play and highly popular.
To see more of the video games, the consoles, the stands and, of course, all the pinballs, take a look at our Sixteen Minute Tour video below in full HD.
When the show was over, the machines returned to their owners, and the proceeds counted, the NLP crew had raised more than £3,700 ($5,920/€4,600) for their chosen charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Play Expo and the NLP crew will be back at EventCity on 11th & 12th October 2014 for the next event which will see the return of the Pinball Mania NBA Challenge and the Pinball News PinGolf Tournament which we will be running on the Sunday.
We'll be there from the set-up day on Friday, so look out for our extensive reporting across the weekend.
© Pinball News 2013