It’s a dark and rainy night in Manchester, a typical setting, and I’m wandering around the northern quarter looking for an odd Bar called “Dive Bar”. I hear a noise from around the corner and suddenly a neon sign blinds my eyes. It’s Dive bar. I make my way down the stairs and as soon as push through the double doors I’m in another world. The room is packed to the brim with gamers and developers alike, the bartenders are performing tricks to make cocktails and everyone is having an absolute blast. I don’t even know where to start but with the huge range of games on show, I know that what’s coming up is a night to remember.
This is Manchester Gamers Unite, a monthly gaming meetup of developers and gamers alike as they get a chance to give feedback, grab some food and most importantly play the latest games on offer. Having started two years ago over the whim of a twitter message its two founders have dragged a small gaming meetup in a corner of a bar, to a giant celebration of gaming that takes over the entire bar it once had the corner of. Originally planned as just a small meetup where gamers could come and have a drink/chat, quickly became focused on community-driven development. They began inviting smaller developers to bring down their work in progress games and get feedback on the ongoing process as to test the waters. Needless to say, that was a huge success. So, as is the norm when things start to go well, you move on wards and upwards. More developers started wanting to come and the event itself grew twofold. Sooner or later the event started catching the eyes of not just small-time developers but big triple-A studios like Sony, Ubisoft and Nintendo, giving gamers a chance to play the biggest releases as well as the indie games on offer.
But let’s just go back to my experience for a minute and I have to admit at this point I was a little nervous, seeing what was in front of me. I didn’t really know where to start, but after working up the Dutch courage to get stuck in I headed to play my first game “The Otterman Empire” by the guys at Tri-Heart Interactive (A lovely group of people we did a SBOClight on that you can see right here). And within mere minutes of chatting to the Devs behind the game, I felt right at home. I got to talking to the different departments in the company, learning how they went about the process of development, the game’s future and its humble beginnings and I got a real insight into what this sort of event does for them as a company. Because although the main benefit this event offers developers is player feedback it’s also a chance for developers to finally let other people play the games they worked so hard to bring to life.
Now on a different wavelength of thought, I started to talk to some of the other developers at hand, asking them about their experiences making the games they’ve worked so hard on to bring to this event. And to hopefully no one’s surprise, every single developer was an absolute joy to chat too. I got to have in-depth conversations with developers about their production of the games and really get a good feel for what they were showing me (there’s something terribly infectious about enjoying a game someone is so ecstatic about showing you). Of course, there’s also the sheer range of games I played that helped spice up the night, one minute I’m playing the fast-paced Bomberman-esque “Minesheeper”, the next I’m playing a quaint 3rd person platformer tackling tricky puzzles in “The Lamp Of Us”. With the scope of the games at hand, the wide range and the lovey developers behind them it all collates to a great time.
However, as I briefly mentioned earlier this meetup isn’t just about the little guys and my first trip to a meetup let me get hands-on with one of the biggest titles of the year, Far Cry 5. Every so often at these meetups, big triple-A developers come down to showcase their upcoming releases with the last preview being the sleeper hit Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle. It gives attendees a chance to play and talk to the team behind some of the biggest games releasing weeks (or in Far Cry 5’s case months) before they hit the shelves. This to me was great because the environment you’re playing in is not one that’s pressured. It’s one where you are just as interested in watching people play as much as you are playing yourself. It’s the perfect environment to play a triple-A game early as you’re not having to queue for hours and you don’t feel pressured that you’re taking up other people’s time. This all just helps me get my point across of how fantastic this small community driven event really is (and how diverse it is despite only taking place in an underground bar). The experience you’re getting is really unlike any other event I’ve been too and it stands out because of that.
Having attended and worked many gaming conventions/meetups it’s safe to say that while this is one of the smallest, Manchester Gamers Unite its the one with the biggest heart. Its atmosphere invites all types of people and if you share a love of games you’ll share a common interest with most people attending. Rarely has an event made me feel like my impact has made a difference and rarely has an event felt so personal. See, what an event like this does is bring you in a room with like-minded people. While initially, I was nervous about how the event would go I eventually realised that I’m just in a room full of people that are obsessed with the same things I am. People that are just as passionate about games as me and are there for the same reasons I am. It’s because of all that, that I can wholeheartedly recommend you go and check out Manchester Gamers Unite on their next monthly meetup and who knows, you might find your next new gaming obsession.
If you’re interested in attending the next monthly Manchester Gamers Unite or even a developer wanting to bring your game to this fantastic meetup just follow Manchester Gamers Unite on Facebook!