This week Virgin Media opened their doors to their 'Game Space' in Shoreditch East London. The concept it simple. A public area where anyone can come in and try out the videogames on offer.
It matched expectations at first. It's filled with consoles, PCs and tablets for people to just walk up and try out. Over all the televisions is the Virgin Media logo just to drum home who's paying the electricity bill and the usual pressures of gaming in public are all prevalent.
But the Virgin Media Game Space was different from similar exhibitions that have come before it. As I walked from screen to screen I soon noticed that there wasn't a first person shooter in sight. In fact there weren't any big budget titles in the bar at all.
As my time there grew on I also observed the people around me. They were cautious at first, approaching pads while looking at screens with confusion. Soon enough they were grinning at the TV with delight as they slowly worked out what the game was asking of them.
It soon became a celebration of Indie development. The games on show represented the movement that is slowly gaining more and more attention and it seems that Virgin wants to expose it to the mainstream.
to Lone Survivor
there were all sorts on show. It was bringing people together as everyone was looking to partner up for the many multiplayer games being showcased.
I was dragged to one side by a group of three people looking for a fourth. A pad was forced into my hand and within moments I was playing a game where I controlled a saw shark with the aim of stabbing the other saw sharks in the heart.
Within moments we were talking and laughing. Working out the controls at first, then tactics before crashing the game and laughing about it.
Iíve never felt comfortable playing videogames like this. Iím always aware of the queues building behind me and that sighs as I change my controls to invert. Thereís none of this here. You donít have to have headphones on to try and make some sort of sense of the story youíre forced in the middle of. It's just pure gameplay on show.
The room is also set out to try and discourage queues. Thereís not a lot of room for it which may lead to some disorganisation, but when youíre waiting to play something youíre usually right next to something else thatís not being used, meaning you drift from unit to unit. Thereís also a lack of tension from other attendees as there are no big budget must-play games there to whip people up into an angry frenzy.
Apart from maybe the centrepiece of the event. Three Oculus Rift headsets were placed at the back of the bar, connected to a space-based dog fighting game. I sat down, put the headset on and was transported into a virtual world.
Oculus Rift is an import bit of kit. It's fun, interesting but above all works. I was left buzzing thinking of the possibilities. It was like nothing I had played before. And it was created by indie developers who had an idea.
However, itís currently expensive and opportunities to try the device are few and far between. So itís fantastic then that Virgin Media Game Space offers the opportunity to try out the most exciting bit of kit in gaming for absolutely nothing.
The only issue I had was that there was no one there to teach me how to use it. I since found out that the Oculus Rift should really be adapted to each user so it kind of feels as though Iíve not truly experienced it.
But thatís a minor gripe. What could have been another money spinner from a large corporation promoting games that already have a huge marketing budget is actually far from that.
Itís a place that understands the importance of the Indie scene and wants to show the public that gaming isnít just bombs and guns.
With the promise of Q&A sessions with developers and game jams, itís a shame itís only open until 21/09/13.
Iíd strongly suggest you visit it while you can. Because if itís supported well enough, we might see more game spaces opening up around the country.