My Experience @EGX 2017 – Jimmy Dean

Achieving its 10th anniversary this year, it’s fair to say that EGX has moved from strength to strength in each and every passing year since its inception. Moving out of its hometown of London and shifting to Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in more recent years, this shift in venue goes far to illustrate just how big the event has ballooned over its lifetime. Attracting the biggest names in gaming alongside countless indie developers, technology firms, eSport teams, guest speakers, cosplayers, and reaching highs of roughly 80,000 guests across the four day event, this significant growth within scale and attendance makes one thing abundantly clear: EGX is without a doubt the biggest annual games event the UK has ever seen.

Making no exception, the EGX of 2017 was every bit the large-scale gaming convention it set out to achieve. Quite literally choc-full of the latest and greatest video games to come our way in the foreseeable future, attendees were certainly spoilt for choice over what to play across the entire show floor. With big names such as Activision, EA, Square Enix, SEGA, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all held under one roof, a hugely diverse line-up of video games included the likes of Call of Duty: WWII, Sea of Thieves, Sonic Forces, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and Super Mario Odyssey, to name but only a few. Locked into a heated battle to capture the attention of the thousands of gamers walking the exhibition halls, each booth pulled out the stops to make a statement. Whether it was because of the games themselves, the freebies given out at the handful, or in the case of Monolith Productions, bringing a life-sized Dragon to promote their game, it was easy to find something of interest at every turn.

Perhaps the studio with the biggest presence this year, though, Ubisoft were certainly impossible to miss. With huge booths dedicated to proudly presenting some of the biggest titles of this year and the next, gamers were left salivating (figuratively speaking, that is) over the opportunity to play the likes of Far Cry 5, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and, of course, Assassins Creed: Origins ahead of release. Not to be content with only those titles on show, the recently released Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was also thrown into the spotlight alongside a huge statue of Rabbid Kong that, naturally, attendees (including myself) couldn’t resist posing with for a photo.

Blockbuster games were indeed in abundance and despite being present for each day of the event, it simply wasn’t possible to see and play everything – a true testament to the sheer scale and selection offered across the convention. Sony, for example, had a huge offering promoting cross-platform titles such as WWE 2K18 and Monster Hunter: Worlds, but also offering hands-on time with console exclusives such as Detroit: Become Human, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Gran Turismo Sport, not to mention a healthy sum of Playstation VR titles, too. It really seemed that no single developer or publisher wanted to miss out on being a part of EGX 2017 in some form, so it was disappointing to find that Bethesda were, unfortunately, largely absent from the show’s proceedings. Attendees on the Thursday, however, were at least treated to a live, on-stage demonstration of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus courtesy of Andreas Öjerfors, Senior Game Designer at MachineGames, making for an appreciated alternative to a hands-on experience.

Representing just one of the many on-stage presentations held across the EGX grounds, it was welcome to see such a large focus placed on this particular aspect of the event. With several stages amongst the convention that covered a variety of different showings including developer talks, the aforementioned live demonstrations and even Cosplay-themed sessions, there was a lot to enjoy here for those interested. Packed with busy schedules throughout each day, the organisers did a fantastic job of catering for guest speakers and legitimately captivating sessions that offered something refreshing aside from the usual show floor action. Creating a particular highlight of the week, Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants took to the EGX Theatre to exclusively discuss the latest Oddworld title, Soulstorm, and left every single person in attendance with a huge smile on their face. Talking in-depth about the game’s concept, revealing the game’s first trailer and even showing off concept art for the first time, this particular session was not only an absolute treat for Oddworld fans such as myself, but was also a pretty big deal. Despite this, however, it still wasn’t enough to detract from the real star of the show: the Rezzed Zone.

Faced with this area immediately upon arrival, the Rezzed Zone was the home for everything Indie and contained what I considered to be easily the most impressive titles to be found at the event. With a massive presence that contained a huge amount of games covering a range of different genres and platforms (VR included), it was impossible to resist checking out everything that was on offer here. Attracting the likes of Team 17, Rebellion and Coatsink, titles such as Yoku’s Island Express, Strange Brigade and Augmented Empire were just some of the inclusions that left long-standing impressions. Existing as a small-scale edition of the standard Rezzed event, it was easy to admire the effort that had gone into building up such a strong line-up of games here. Filled with a plethora of gems outside of the aforementioned, this entire area served to remind of just how big the independent scene has grown over the last generation.

Putting this observation into perspective, it was admirable to see the likes of Nintendo hosting a booth dedicated to the so-called ‘Nindie’ titles coming soon to the Switch hardware. Containing the likes of Super Meat Boy Forever, Flat Heroes and Dimension Drive, it was ultimately refreshing to see the platform holder fully-embracing the work of much smaller developers. Not only this, but both SEGA and Square Enix even held their own indie booths, too, with both the Leftfield Collection and Square Enix Collective respectively. Housing some incredibly promising titles within their confines – particularly within the former – it was easy to spend hours (and even days) moving from one video game to the next, checking out literally everything and being floored by the creativity and sheer talent on display.

Aside from the video games themselves, EGX 2017 put out all the stops to capture the true essence of gaming culture. Branching out and catering for gaming technology (Alienware, PC Specialist), eSports (Twitch, Overwatch, League of Legends, Rainbow Six), Cosplay, live-streaming and even retro consoles/games on top of everything else, there were certainly many more dimensions to the event outside of simply playing video games. Going as far as to establish a career’s fair as part of the event in association with numerous educational institutions and game studios, the event organisers must be commended for their efforts to make the event as inclusive and as expansive as possible for not just those who enjoy playing video games and competing within tournaments, but also to those wanting a future career out of the medium as well.

With surprises around each corner and an attention to what really matters within the entire industry, it’s safe to say that EGX truly felt like a celebration of not just video games, but gaming as a whole. Establishing an event that unites each corner of this expansive, ever-growing industry, it’s hard to argue with the feeling that EGX stands above its competition as the UK’s premier gaming convention. Thanks to a solid experience this year and a consistent track-record of getting bigger and better every year, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even the slightest bit eager to do it all again – bring on 2018!

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