2011 Lookback – Bouncy and Hock’s Swanky Adventure (aka Dining In Kensington In The Company Of Swanky Tramp) (also aka Lolocaust Does Eurogamer 2011

Two words:

Eurogamer Expo.

Two more words:

Swanky London.

Three more words:

Purple Dildo Weaponry.

One last word:

Awesome.

I don’t really *need* to write any more than this if I am honest, if you want a report on the ins and outs of the UK’s largest gaming festival then you are probably in the wrong place, try any one of the other thousands of blogs doing that.

Hell, they might even have nice video clips so you don’t have to read anything at all.

Imagine that, you lazy bastards. So if that’s what you are after, fuck off!

Have they gone?

Good.

Now dear readers, the ones I really care about, the ones who don’t want to simply indulge their curiosity with a paper thin cookie-cutter report*, readers whom are a little more interested in reality, well here it comes, the story of how I spent half a day on public transport and half the day in the company of DrHamHock himself, the story of how I got a bruise on my leg in the shape of a horseshoe and the story of how I ended up with a pocket that smells of chilli.

So – picking up my ‘Writing Articles For Idiots’ pamphlet, insinuating that I am an idiot that needs advice on how to write, not that I am writing for idiots to read – where to start. Well the beginning would make sense, but then that wouldn’t be the suitable way to start it. So here we go. A proper beginning should start with an end.

As the train pulled out of the station the smell of alcoholic football supporters and yesterday’s jam faded away and as it entered a tunnel a tired gamer caught sight of his reflection in the hazy glass on the carriage window. He noticed how content he looked. Not surprising really. His day had been awesome. Reaching into his pocket he pricked his finger on a small button badge that had been swiped from a stand earlier that day. Flinching, he accidentally knocked the man next to him who, despite his clearly unhealthy lifestyle, was sipping from a two litre bottle of Diet Cola. He spilt his drink into his lap, not much, just enough to look like an unfortunate incident in the trouser department had occurred. He turned towards the gamer with fire in his eyes. The gamer smiled, shrugged, and turned back to the window. Content.

Wow! Pretentious bollocks ahoy!

Ok, so writing in that style doesn’t suit either…

Right.. erm…

OK!

Let’s start again…

The alarm was ringing from under the wife’s pillows** and my eyes were struggling to find any reference point to see what time it was. I knew deep down that is was a little past five in the morning, but my night had been so broken that I’d lost all rationale and reason, instead I just got myself up, performed my daily routine of reading the back of a random bottle of bubble bath while having a quick poo and then washing everything that matters with a scaldingly hot flannel before chucking some clothes on – ensuring that my socks don’t match one another – and headed downstairs to check my bag was still packed. I know that sounds odd, and I don’t wish to generate the illusion that I may have tiny elves living in my crawlspace who creep out at night and unpack backpacks, because frankly that would be  crazy talk, but there might just be a creepy goat man that does a similar thing. Everything was still present and correct so I got my bike out, stuck my lights on, kissed the wife goodbye and set off into the misty darkness to catch an early bus, a very early bus. A bus that in fact was occupied only by five people and still one of them knew me. Sort of. Seems he went to school with my wife and once captive on the bus heading for Peterborough I engaged in chatter ranging from the lack of manners in city folk to the finer points of cos-playing as Gambit from the X-Men. All bizarre, but it did help the journey whistle along nicely. Now I think it pertinent to mention that my journey required a lot of luck if it was to work properly, needing to hit three areas within a five minute time frame to avoid an hour long delay – which eventually would have lost me half my day at Eurogamer – so imagine my delight that we were being driven expertly towards Peterborough bus station and arrived two minutes ahead of schedule! To think people say that public transport is dirty, over-crowded and tardy, travelling before 7am is the answer!

After arriving at Peterborough I quickly made my way to the railway station and found myself in a quandary. You see I use Google for a lot of planning, and reading a review of the station and it’s facilities it was very clear that if I wanted to buy a Super Saver Ticket (no point paying for quality when on the East Coast line) I had to go to the ticket office, but there was a huge queue and my train had already arrived. I chanced it with the automated machine and blow me if it didn’t sort me out in super fast time. I was done before the first person in that long queue had even paid, so quickly hopped onto a fairly empty carriage and got my book out, ‘Dave Gorman Vs The Rest of the World’, to keep me entertained. Not that I needed it, the sun was coming up and as we whistled through the countryside the mist hung on the air and the country looked beautiful. It seemed that many of my fellow commuters onboard this rattling tin can were less interested in the stunning scenery, instead burying their faces in newspapers and smart phones. Their loss I guess. As I witness horses galloping across a misty hillside I smiled and sent a text to fellow Lolocaust Dr Hamhock to see if he was still ok to meet up with me at Kings Cross. He was, and the exchange of filthy messages caught the eye of the ‘professional type’ sat next to me, who had spent the last ten minutes sipping at a foul smelling beverage in a paper cup. I wrote ‘Slutty woman next to me is reading my texts, possibly to supplement her barren love life’ and soon enough she stopped looking. Shame there was still another half an hour to endure:

As time passed the rolling fields became built up channels and tunnels as we headed into the Nation’s capital and I had arrived – the first time I’d been in London since about 1998 when I visited the Trocadero for an evening meal at Planet Hollywood and spent some time in Sega World. It was the first time I’d been into London by train since about ’94 when I visited London Zoo, and in that time I had forgotten how big Kings Cross station is. Stunning – despite the enhancement and regeneration works that were on-going at the time – and yet familiar from all of those films that have been shot there – yes and THAT one as well, I’ll come back to that soon – and I rather confidently striding along the platform towards the Nero coffee shop where I arranged to meet with Hock. That confidence quickly disappeared when I noticed people readying their train tickets to get through the automated barriers – this was not in the guide I’d read – and I’d packed my ticket into my backpack so I had to try and get into my backpack while being ushered along by the writhing masses of people who were better prepared and seemingly all in a terrible hurry. I *just* managed to get the ticket out of my wallet as I got to the barrier and made it through unscathed, but I did fear that my rummaging in a backpack, in a crowded railway station while sporting a beard would have attracted the attention of the authorities. It hadn’t, obviously, I was being ridiculous.

So there I was, stood in the middle of the ‘busy bit’ of Kings Cross waiting for Hock to pop up from the Underground and I was a bit bored if truth be told so I started whistling and dancing a little bit, which DID attract the attention of the authorities as a large BTP officer walked over and asked if I was busking. I said that it was doubtful that anyone would give money to a fat bloke whistling in a train station and she said ‘It’s London love, stranger things have happened’. Guess she had a point, especially as my next trip to the capital would be memorable after seeing a drunk try to get some loose change by busking with the aid of a huge traffic cone.

Soon enough it was time for two giants of the Internet – don’t laugh – to finally meet up as I spotted Hock stride into the station. I wandered towards him, we shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and headed down to the underground to catch the tube to Earls Court. We were on our way!

I have always been a fan of the idea of the London Underground, it’s a fascinating piece of engineering that seems to be notable more for it’s money grabbing arse-expanding drivers and delays. As we stepped onto the carriage of the train – that was RIGHT THERE – waiting for us we chatted about all manner of things ranging from random cat attacks to the laws of physics, while having a side-step conversation about the nature of gamers to be over defensive when criticised. All rather high-brow, but delivered with low-brow humour. Glad I have a large forehead now.

We soon arrived at Earls Court station and came up over the road from the exhibition hall and spotted HUGE posters advertising games I already knew about and two tanks advertising a game I’d never heard of. Seems these PR companies had figured out their target audience, billboards to emulate the posters on the walls of our bedrooms and busty women on tanks to supply us with enough testosterone fuelled attraction to tide us over until we got inside and had cos-players to stare at photograph.

Heading for the press entrance we were directed to a line that had formed, a very long line, a VERY long line full of the cream of European game blogging and journalism – and then there was Hock and I. We joined the line at the end, as is customary in queue-based scenarios, and while I was talking to Hock the people in front of us turned and asked us if they could ask us a question, which is actually a bit rich, I mean honestly, why ask to ask a question, who do they think they are?! Either way I was open to the obvious question “Aren’t you that bloke off of The Crystal Maze, who took over after that bald bloke?”*** Imagine my surprise when they asked about my C.O.G. tags instead. I explained how I got them with a pre-order Gears figure at Gamestation. I considered making up a story involving Cliff Bleszinski and a pineapple in York, but to be honest I had a hall plan to memorise. See as well as Google planning the trip I also planned out the best route around the exhibition space, as we had press entry passes and would be getting in an hour earlier that the riff-raff. We would have one hour to experience things without a horde of heavy breathing nerds stood in front, behind and below us, and we had one place to head for, and one place only.

We got through the door, handed over our barcoded passes and got given our special press passes… oh… no, scratch that. Our ‘Normal’ press passes. Normal press. Is that an appropriate was to describe what we do here at the Lolocaust? Are we normal? What qualifies as normal? Who decides what qualifies as normal? These are all questions that the poor bloke attempting to attach a wristband to my gesticulating arm really didn’t want to be hearing. Instead he snapped it on and I headed for the steps up to the main hall, I spotted a Sonic Generations display… Nothing could stop me now!

Well… It shouldn’t have.

“Excuse me Sir, can I check your bag please?”

GOD DAMMIT!!!

We now pause for an advertisement break.

Welcome back to Bouncy and Hock’s Swanky Adventure, in part one Bouncy caught a train and Hock said something. Join us now for part two of this exciting episode and discover how a rainbow wall delighted and a tramp was elevated up the class system.

So, right, we were heading in and I was grabbed by an over-zealous security guard who rifled through my back pack searching for all manner of explosives and weapons – I guess – in case I wanted to put a significant dent in the world’s supply of display boards and promo girls. He found nothing of note and I was soon allowed to move on to the hall where we were simply taken aback. A giant Link was ‘flying’ above a Zelda display booth while Kinect cameras were tracking all manner of curious gamers while they danced and puppeteered their hearts out. We passed all of this and headed for a black and orange cube in the centre of the hall offering the future of gaming – and a free console worth £70 – so we had to head there first. OnLive – as no doubt you’ve read over the months since the show – offers streaming gaming on both PC and TV and looks to expand to iPads and other such devices over time. I admit I was very doubtful of it’s chances, but while queuing for our free consoles we had plenty of chances to see games running on their system and we were mightily impressed (worth noting that since I brought the console home both Nerfie and Star have played with it and we collectively have given it a thumbs up for effort and execution and look forward to the next generation of tech). We signed up on Hock’s iPhone, speeding up the process of getting our free machine, and soon enough we were both some of the first people in the UK to own an OnLive system. It felt great, and grabbing a handful of promo pens and stickers as we exited the booth I realised that if nothing else of note happened that day I’d have been happy.

Luckily lots more would happen.

Now at this point there is little point describing the games we saw, and how they played, as the lion’s share have seen a release since we visited but I think that one title is worth highlighting as it’s existence is still somewhat unknown, mostly due to the special edition release of the original game on XBLA recently, and that is ‘Joe Danger: The Movie’. Not a numbered sequel of sorts, but it did change things up as each stage was inspired by a movie scene or stereotype. Hock and I tried out a mine-cart stage – naturally – and while I was somewhat or a Joe Danger veteran having owned it on the PS3 for some time, Hock was a Joe N00b and still he picked up the brilliantly simple concept rather quickly. We both loved what we saw and can’t wait to play the game when it finally gets unleashed upon the world – hopefully this time without the delay before hitting the 360.

So yeah we played most of the big titles, but as I say it’s pointless describing them, but we did have little nuggets of fun in between, including and not limited to:

Being asked by a girl about half my age if I’d ever played a Mario game before.

Blagging a set of dog tags reserved for people who had pre-ordered Battlefield 3, with the help of a mobile phone and pure British determination.

Hock and I spent too long playing with a wall that had multi-coloured lights shining on it (see picture)

We discovered that World of Tanks is literally World of Warcraft, but with tanks. Everything is better with tanks.

We learned that the 360 version of BF3 multiplayer was much more popular than the PS3 version, but as the line was longer how many people were tempted to play on a slightly inferior system to save ten minutes?

We spotted a great Capt. Shepard that turned out to be a contributor to the brilliant Death By Robots podcast! Ooohh.

Also in costume, two Silent Hill nurses that caused equal amounts of terror and fear in my mind leading to what can only be described as a fright-boner.

We realised that Saints Row: The Third was the game that offered the most unique experiences after watching six different people playing six different ways and wearing six different outfits. All were laughing hysterically.

Unfortunately for me we discovered that some tee-shirts should be bought sooner rather than later.

While browsing the retro area I was insulted by someone who offer to give me tips on how to play Dig Dug! On stage 2! When I hadn’t died! HE WAS ABOUT 19! I was playing Dig Dug before he was even born!

We also discovered that I am getting sensitive about my age.

Dr Hamhock learned that the MB Vectrex is the most future-proofed console that was ever released.

Speaking to the promo girl at the Vita stand, it was clear that I was certainly of the age whereby I just look like a creepy old perv when stood next to a chick in near-spray on clothing… Did get to rummage around in her helmet though, and found out that she had a Liverpool accent. Also she couldn’t take being asked a question about how she was doing. Brilliant lady though. Proper gamer too. Which is a rare thing in promo work, as evidenced at the Saint’s Row booth when I was asked if I had played on an Xbox 320 before. (NOT a typo!)

At lunch time we decided to avoid the anal rape of concession stands at the show itself and headed out into Kensington to find a cheaper lunch – oh the irony. We found a cheaper lunch – with the only cost-addition being an unhealthy side of soul-destruction – at Tesco. We each grabbed some food-based goodies, avoiding the swanky London-only products, and headed out for a nearby bench right by a busy intersection and I tucked into my unseasonal Christmas Dinner sandwich while Hock had something rather swanky, most likely involving something made from swanky things and mixed with swanky stuff and laid on a bed of swanky salad. Swanky. Hock and I used the calm and quiet well, chewing the fat – damn you Tesco sandwich producers! – and conversing on a wide range of subjects, but mostly about web life in general. It’s always interesting meeting people who have set up a niche website, to discuss their hopes initially and how that has changed with the fickle visitors’ interests. I have to admit that I found Hock to be a very intelligent, amusing fellow and as I polished off my vile sandwich I was really pleased that I had not only come down for the show, but that I had made the effort to meet up with someone I’d only really spoken to once, during a game on the Gears of War 3 beta. (There is a vague recollection of another time, but it eludes me for now.)

As we were finishing off we noticed a homeless man setting out his meagre lunch on the bench near to us. Well I say meagre but he had a rack of ribs and a bottle of red wine. It seemed that even the homeless folk of Kensington were of a higher quality than back home. Was this a new scheme that Boris had created? The regeneration of the homeless? Free ribs and vino for anyone without a roof over their head? Either way it was a brilliant sight, even more so when he laid it out on his napkin on his lap – he was also wearing a shabby old suit. Eventually he fell asleep and we headed back to the convention hall for round two, this time wandering around watching gamers and searching out cos-players. We had our photo taken with Mario – which in itself presented me with a moral quandary, having spent years fighting the fight for the Sega army I had been trained up, maybe even sublimily, to kill Mario as soon as the opportunity arose. As we moved to pose I offered the hand of reconciliation to Mario, but he moved away, so when the photo was taken a look of pure hatred spilled out of me as I considered jumping onto his stupid over-sized head and dropped my trousers to off-load a giant steaming turd – just as 90% of the pictures submitted to Mean Machines featured – all over his perma-smile.

Suffice to say I behaved. I was mature enough to have sympathy for the poor person inside the costume, having to endure the heat as well as the attention of waves of nerds and geeks grabbing at them. That pity turned into sheer delight. Schadenfreude personified.

From that posed photo Hock and I moved over to the Zelda display where one of us insisted on doing a silly pose that was drawn out when the other person failed to use the camera properly, see if you can figure out which one of us it was:

I feel I must add that the litter around Link’s feet was nothing to do with us. Clearly Nintendo doesn’t care enough about it’s hero to clean up around him. I dare say that had I visited the next day I would likely have found Link laying face down on the floor with a carrier bag over his head and a day-old jam sandwich smeared all over his trousers. High above Zelda would look down from astride the Loftwing crying tears of oil while the Loftwing itself wanks off onto Link’s cold corpse.

Probably.

Shame on you Nintendo!

So back to the feature, the day was winding down and the sight of perma-tanned dancers wiggling to Just Dance 3 and perma-fat PC nerds wiggling to stay on the chair at the Star Wars: The Old Republic booth had taken it’s toll, we were knackered. As we headed to the official T-Shirt booth I bought myself and Hock a commemorative shirt – missing out on the one I wanted thanks to my procrastination – and we set about heading off home. Sitting on the steps outside Earls Court I thought back over my day, how we’d laughed, how we’d scrutinised and how we’d gamed together, two near-strangers who came together – ooer – over a love of alternative viewpoints and gaming. I already considered Hock to be a mate, but now I was confident I could call him my friend.

Together we’d chortled at the Minecraft man, enjoyed the sight of the 3DS booth and picked up more Street Passes than I ever thought possible. We’d posed with a Liverpudlian in a skin tight racing suit and been ‘threatened’ by a cardboard box robot ninja and as we left Earl’s Court behind and headed back to the London transport network we said our goodbyes.

The journey home was a bitter-sweet one, as I was glad to be heading home to my family, but I was also leaving behind a friend. I’d be back, I knew that much for definite (and I was about a month later) but for now I was left with my bag of swag, a camera full of photographs and a smile on my face that a whole carriage of football fans drinking lager and shouting could not shift.

I arrived home under the cover of darkness and hugged my wife before regaling her with the highlights of my day, and as I booted up the OnLive console and had a few games on the ‘future’ of gaming consoles I considered how I would ever write up my day. I never considered taking months to do it, but I feel that it was right to do so. This feature wasn’t about the games, it was about two site members meeting up and enjoying their day. It could have been a feature set in Bristol and the tone would have been the same. Bro-mance aside Eurogamer Expo 2011 was brilliant and we will be back for 2012. I’ve uploaded all the photos from the day to a Flickr account that you can view here, hope you enjoy looking at them as much as we had while taking them!

Oh, but I forgot a bit…

See it seems that my meticulous planning missed one salient piece of information, namely ‘when’ I could come home. I ended up waiting for an hour and a half in King’s Cross station so decided to look for the wall that Harry Potter and his classmates ran through to reach Platform 9 3/4 in the films and books that immortalised the station for a new generation. Sadly due to heavy congestion the ‘people in control’ decided to move the trolley that was set into the wall to a more open location. It now resides outside of the station. I think it loses *some* of the magic though:

See what I mean? All the magic of a Hollywood movie eh?

* Not a review of cookie cutters, obviously, snork!

** You filthy minded person you!

*** I don’t – for the record – resemble Ed Tudor Pole, but I have been mistaken for him on three separate occasions…

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2 thoughts on “2011 Lookback – Bouncy and Hock’s Swanky Adventure (aka Dining In Kensington In The Company Of Swanky Tramp) (also aka Lolocaust Does Eurogamer 2011

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