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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

Portsmouth Games Festival

This weekend Portsmouth Guildhall hosted their annual Games Festival; celebrating retro, modern and board games. With a wide range of games, from the Mary Rose Museum's Tudor experience to introducing VR games and e-sports.

One of the most noticeable things for me this year was the mini communities. It appeared to me, a lot of people came for a particular exhibitor or game.

People still walked around and visited the different zones, exhibitors and games, however these mini communities seemed very noticeable in creating their own spaces. The Games Festival felt like a celebration of these different gaming communities, as much as an exhibition of them. It was honestly so enjoyable to see and to be able to experience each of the zones/ community spaces.

As always it was great to see the Dice Team and to play a couple of games on their tables in the main hall. We even had the pleasure of helping another couple with their first play of Azul. Does that make us intermediate gamers?

Nearby to our table was the local Pokémon League stand. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned them in previous event reviews, but I have seen them attend a number of local events, including Games Festivals and Comic Cons. While being an interesting stand to check out, it’s another great example of how the Festival celebrated gaming communities and how exhibitors welcomed people new or interested in finding out more.

During the day I noticed three new exhibition spaces that seemed really interesting and added something special to the event.

Firstly, the Mary Rose Museum’s space was a lovely insight to the different historical Tudor games/ activities and added a local history element to the space. I believe having these local collaborations, much like the more modern Portsmouth Pokemon League, really keeps a Portsmouth feel or relevance to the event.

Secondly, the Blood Bowl Tournament. I found out, Blood Bowl is a miniatures board game created by Jervis Johnson in 1986. Players pass, throw, or run with the ball, attempting to get it to the other end of the field, with the other team trying to stop them and recover the ball. Players play through the game with miniatures such as human warriors, goblins, dwarves, elves, orcs and trolls.

Thirdly, the e-Sports/ Twitch Streaming space. This space was very popular throughout the day, with crowds collecting to watch the online battles. The cheers from spectators definitely drew people over to see what was going on (if they weren't already watching). This was a really engaging space, with a presenter and live streaming of the matches played. Hopefully introducing the Games Festival to even more people online.

These three new spaces really added to this years event and highlighted the variety in gaming. Thank goodness the days of games being represented solely by Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit are over! It really did feel like there was something for almost anyone.

And if you wanted to find out about a game you didn't know, there were plenty of people around to help introduce you to the game.

There was a lot of space and game opportunities with Dice's board games and Game Over's great selection of retro arcade games on stage. Though one space I didn't really visit was University of Portsmouth's VR and innovation zone. I do wonder if with Meta and maybe soon Apple promoting VR and AR gaming, this might be a zone to really look at next year and see how this field of gaming is growing and if it is becoming anymore accessible.

My one wish for change would be to increase the exhibitors in the discovery space and to have more new games being shared. I imagine this is a difficult zone to increase and promote as new games/ producers/ creators will likely have limited capacity to attend events; but it would be great to see more new games and creators given the opportunity to grow their support and a player base.

The Guildhall's Game Festival was again a great experience. A big thank you to the team for inviting me along and providing a media pass to take photos and share my experience of the event. It has been great to see the Games Festival evolve each year and provide a fun experience for people of all ages. I'm already looking forward to next year's event.

If you would like to find out more about events at the Portsmouth Guildhall visit their site here.

Personally, a big recommendation for Comic Con!


Please note: This post includes collaborative content; I was provided with a media pass for this event to share my experience.

However, Portsmouth Guildhall and their partners have not seen this post before it is published, nor have they instructed me on what to say. The views, experinces, thoughts and insights expressed, along with photos in this post are my own.


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