Norwich Gaming Festival: A non-gamer sees what all the fuss is about

Stacia gets ready to prepare the tea.

Stacia gets ready to prepare the tea. - Credit: Archant

It's the biggest festival of its kind to be showcased in Norfolk and is bringing together gamers of all ages to celebrate the virtual world of video games. Non-gamer Stacia Briggs stumbled into an alien world.

I feel like a fish out of water, like a puritan in a brothel, like the time I was sent to review a real ale tasting session despite my legendary loathing of beer.

The Forum in Norwich is hosting the Norwich Gaming Festival, the largest event of its kind to be held in Norfolk, until April 16 and the place is packed with video game fanatics, game industry professionals and... er, me.

I have never, ever played a video game. Never. I do, however, directly support the gaming industry thanks to my ownership of two teenagers and their associated gaming paraphernalia – XBoxes, Playstations, iPads, Nintendo DS consoles, you name it, I've had to buy it.

Despite the countless thousands of pounds I have pumped into gaming, I have never felt the least bit tempted to grasp the joystick/joypad.

Fantasy-based scenarios don't interest me, I am a lover and not a fighter and, frankly, leading a raid on World of Warcraft is never going to get the tea on the table.

In my family, it's my son, Cole, who is the hardcore gamer. Call of Duty and FIFA 14 are his poison and he and his friends play almost every night – if you think this means that contemplative silence reigns over the house, you'd be wrong.

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Through the magic of the internet, he plays interactive games with the friends he was playing (real life) football with just a few hours earlier: the screeching is incredible – it's like living inside Call of Duty, if that involves trying to hear EastEnders over caterwauling (I doubt it is, but then again, I've never played).

At the festival, gamers have the chance to try out AAA titles on the latest-gen consoles – no, means nothing to me either – or indulge in a retro arcade featuring games from the last three decades.

They can discover award-winning independent games from around the world, games being made right here in the east of England and learn from presentations and Q and A sessions from a stellar line-up of game industry professionals.

Or, if you're like me, you can wander around using your son as a real-life joypad to navigate you through a sea of stuff you have no idea about – the only reason I could pick an XBox out in a police line-up is because I've had to buy four and they are covered in branding.

The Forum is foreign ground during the next few days for anyone that can't tell their Dreamcast from their Gamecube, their Playstation 1 from their PS4 or their Wii from their Atari will be instantly recognisable as an outcast: a Dreamcast outcast, that's me.

Filled to the rafters with earnest-looking gaming fans (the average age of a gamer is 34, apparently), granite-faced mothers being dragged from console to console by their eager children and people sitting on the floor staring intently at laptops, the Norwich Gaming Festival is a mecca to those who get their kicks from computers.

I felt like I was stuck in an eternal self-service till area at a supermarket: surrounded by constant digital bleeping, lines of people waiting to reach a screen and, in my case, a general feeling of confusion and ennui. Nowhere was this as apparent as in the Minecraft Lounge where you can enter a specially-designed Norwich Minecraft section – if you have a computer and know what Minecraft actually is.

In the bowels of the Forum, it was strangely hot and full of people sitting on the ground presumably mining Norwich for valuable resources with which to build virtual things. 'But why would they want to?' I asked Cat, who has written her own account of the festival. 'If they want to make something, why don't they make something useful, like a cupboard?' She looked at me fondly, like one might look at an elderly relative who was losing her marbles.

I escaped back into the sunshine, un-seduced by the gaming world, my overriding feeling being one of gratitude that I hadn't had to hand over even more cash due to Cole's close proximity to a multitude of games and consoles. I think this officially means I'm old.

PS... I also shunned the chance to have my face painted as my favourite video game character. But I did agree to become Lara Croft as imagined by graphic artist Annette Hudson. We're often mistaken for each other, Lara and me.

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