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21 of the best gaming events in the UK (2017 Update)

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From the endearing simplicity of Pong to the hyperrealistic adventures of Uncharted (a favourite of our chief designer), the Gaming industry has certainly come a long way. Nowadays video games have branched out in such a way that they’re almost like personalised T-shirts – there’s bound to be one that’s just perfect for you.

For those who still think that it is a niche market, let me enlighten: The global earnings of the industry are estimated to be around $83.6 billion and in the UK alone it is worth around £4.2 billion — it is the sixth market, coming after China, USA, Japan, South Korea and Germany.

But people not only play video games here, they also produce them. Not many are aware that some of the best titles from recent years have been developed in the UK. Grand Theft Auto V — which is the most successful video game of all time (making £511.8 million within three days of its release) — was coproduced by Rockstar North that’s located in Edinburgh and Batman: Arkham City, a game praised by both fans and critics, was codeveloped by Rocksteady studios which is based in London.

And that’s not even mentioning eSports, which is a whole different monster. Competitive gaming makes millions every year and has just received the support of the UK government.

The best gaming events in the UK for 2017

With such a booming sector, it only makes sense that events catering to its following are sprouting everywhere. Some of them are organised to showcase the latest products, while others have educational purposes and some are just a big geekfests where gamers get to share their passion for everything gaming.

ICE

Type: Expo
When: February 7-9, 2017
Where: ExCeL, London
What’s the deal? Unlike the other events on this list that are designed for gamers or developers, ICE is a B2B exhibit aimed at professionals. With 133 countries represented on their last edition, ICE is one of the biggest international gaming fairs in the world.

GEEK – Meet Make Play

Type: Festival
When: February 17-19, 2017
Where: Margate, Kent
What’s the deal? GEEK is a festival that even though it features next gen titles, is focused on retro gaming. The expo is known for showcasing a great variety of playable consoles, old and new.

The PC Gamer Weekender

Type: Expo
When: February 18 – 19, 2017
Where: Olympia, London
What’s the deal? An entire weekend dedicated to PC video games. Fancy playing Hearthstone with a few mates? How about Overwatch? Or Dawn of War III? Then this is the place for you. There will also be talks, workshops, and board games among other activities.

Growing a successful Games Studio

Type: Talk
When: February 22, 2017
Where: Charles Russell Speechlys, London
What’s the deal? Organised by TIGA, a network of game developers and digital publishers in the UK, this event is a free talk that will cover the business side of running a successful games studio.

VideoBrains

Type: Talk
When: Usually, the last Tuesday of every month. Check their website for specific dates.
Where: At London Gaming Bars
What’s the deal? Catered towards the more “intellectual” gamers out there, VideoBrains is an initiative by several professionals in the industry who organise monthly talks on different subjects related to the sector. Anyone, regardless of their background, is welcome as long as they’re willing to take a look at video games from a different angle.

Wifi Wars

Type: Performance
When: March 10, 2017 (More dates will be announced soon)
Where: Royal Institution, London
What’s the deal? Part game show, part comedy routine, part gaming, Wifi Wars is a spectacle where the audience gets to play along with their own smartphones or tablets. Led by video game commentator and comedian Steve McNeil, the show promises to deliver lots of laughs and a bloody good time.

London Games Festival

Type: Conference/Festival
When: March 30 – April 9, 2017
What’s the deal? The London Games Festival is a series of events from talks going through financial advice to the British Academy Game Awards. It’s a 10 day celebration of everything gaming.

eSCon europe 2017

Type: Conference
When: April 5 – 6, 2017
Where: Le Meridien Piccadilly, London
What’s the deal? eSCon is the biggest B2B esports conference in Europe. Their goal is to build a thriving esports community. Those who assist will get to listen to talks by tournament organisers, publishers and even law firms, among many others.

INSOMNIA 60

Type: Expo
When: April 14 – 15, 2017
Where: NEC, Birmingham
What’s the deal? Easily the most famous, Insomnia is also one of the oldest UK gaming events, it is a big festival about everything gaming including big exhibition halls, interactive activities and eSports tournaments, among others. They hold three editions a year, during spring, summer and winter.

Animex – International Festival of Animation and Computer Games

Type: Festival
When: May 22 – 26, 2017
Where: Teesside, Middlesbrough
What’s the deal? Animex is a mix of workshops, talks, presentations and much more related to everything animation and computer games. An event for those who want to find out about the latest in the industry.

Norwich Gaming Festival

Type: Festival
When: May 22 – June 3, 2017
Where: The Forum, Norwich
What’s the deal? The Norwich Gaming Festival describes itself as a “free, family friendly celebration of video games”. Here’s a chance to meet local developers and learn how video games are made while you have fun.

Celtic Games Show

Type: Conference
When: June 10, 2017
Where: Tramshed and Tramshed Tech, Cardiff
What’s the deal? The Celtic Games Show is an event dedicated to the growing video game industry in Wales. Developers, professionals and casual gamers alike are invited to take part in the one day program that features talks, workshops and even an afterparty!

Brains Eden

Type: Festival
When: June 30 – July 03, 2017
Where: Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge
What’s the deal? The biggest student game developing festival in the UK. Brains Eden is a place where young developers get to learn from professionals of the most important companies in the industry. It includes a 48 hour jam where attendees have to design a game based on a surprise theme.

NERG (North East Retro Gaming)

Type: Expo
When: July 1 – 2, 2017
Where: Gateshead International Stadium, Gateshead
What’s the deal? Loved playing Streetfighter II on the SNES? Or how about the first Mario Kart? If you’re a fan of first and second generation video games then NERG this is the event for you. A weekend where you’ll get to play the best games from the past and spend time with like-minded people.

Develop In 2 Minutes from That Video Company on Vimeo.

Develop: Brighton

Type: Conference
When: July 11-13, 2017
Where: TBD
What’s the deal? A two-day conference that covers every aspect of the game development process from the idea, going trough design and funding to production. Develop: Brighton is a great opportunity for smaller studios to make themselves known and learn from their peers.

Nine Worlds

Type: Festival
When: August 4 – 6, 2017
Where: Novotel Lodon West (provisional booking), London
What’s the deal? As they describe it themselves, Nine Worlds is a geekfest that during three days will shamelessly celebrate Fantasy and Sci Fi. While it does feature some gaming related activities, it is not the focus point of the event, but still, if you’re into Game of Thrones, Doctor Who or anything in between, then by all means…

EGX

Type: Expo
When: September 21 – 24, 2017
Where: NEC, Birmingham
What’s on: They introduce themselves as the UK’s biggest gaming event. EGX is the place to discover new indie games, try out blockbuster titles weeks before their release and experience eSports events. On top of all the fun, the event will feature the GameIndustry.biz Career Fair for those interested in getting a job in the industry.

Play Expo Manchester

Type: Expo
When: October 14-15, 2017
Where: Manchester (Venue TBA)
What’s the deal? For those gamers in the north of England, Play Expo Manchester is a great choice to get your needs fixed. The event will feature current generation and retro games tournaments, talks, arcades, pinballs, merchandise stands and a cosplay presentation, just to name a few activities.

We’re not usually a fan of squid, but we couldn’t get enough of this. #Gamerbake #Splatoon #Cake

A photo posted by Gamerbake (@gamerbakeuk) on

GamerBake

Type: Competition
When: The organisers posted on Twitter that they’ll be announcing new dates soon.
Where: TBD
What’s the deal? GamerBake is the most creative event on this list, yet the premise is very simple: A video game inspired cake competition. And the best part is that if you don’t enjoy baking, you can still stop by to taste the goods. While he entrance is free, attendees are encouraged to make a donation to charity.

VRTGO

Type: Conference
When: TBA
Where: TBA
What’s on: VRTGO is an annual conference and expo that explores everything related to VR (virtual reality). Regardless if it is for entertainment purposes or other more serious endeavours, the event is a perfect occasion to find out the present and future of VR.

eSports Industry Awards 2017

Type: Awards
When: TBA
Where: TBA
What’s the deal? The British award ceremony that celebrates the very best of the eSports industry. If you would like to nominate someone, but haven’t had the chance yet, you’re in luck because the deadline has been extended until May 20th.

LionZDen Gaming

When: TBA
Where: TBA
What’s on: LionzDen is a tournament organised by Ozzy the Liono that gathers gamers to prove their skills on games like FIFA and Tekken and the action takes place on — wait for it — a real boxing ring. Their next event still doesn’t have a specific date, but I contacted the organiser and he assured me that a 2017 edition is on the works.


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