King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Wednesday, January 24

Why oh why oh why?

Once again, my most regular excursion up to London was called for. Heading up on Monday evening with Steff, my new apprentice, and John in the sorted Volvo was going to be the easy bit. We took the portable DVD with us for the first time, and I admit I wasn't completely concentrating as one pun after another was said as Steff and John watched "Clue." For the first time ever I now had Sat Nav to help me around London, and even though I knew where the hotel was, I still doubted TomTom.
Still, we got there just before 8, dumped the bags, and went to meet Misty. Once again, TomTom got us to Hanwell without any problems, and as I pulled up, I couldn't see any house numbers. The easiest thing when it's that dark, and that foreign, is to phone her. She said she'd seen me pull up, and with a frantic search, I could just make out a silhouette in one of the windows of someone putting down the phone. We dropped of her new whizzy PC, and you could see she was keen to get to the pub, so we left immediately. A pleasant evening was spent regaling stories, eating chips, feeding the pub dog, taking pictures of Misty without her knowledge (here and here), watching the Police book people outside, and it was a shame when we had to leave. A quick visit to the Hanwell Alcoholic's Emporium and then home for a can of Strongbow and then bed.
Waking up early, I'm not sure whether it was the planes landing at Heathrow or the local "Kosher Food Distributors" next door shouting, we prepared for a long day. I'd been in two minds about driving to Earls Court and getting the mortgage paying for the car parking, or walking to the local tube station and leaving the car at the hotel for a fee of £5. The -273c outside temperature put paid to that idea, and we drove.
The actual show started out differently. Normally getting there at 9:30 means a half hour wait outside, but this year they'd set up coffee bars and seating inside for you to wait for the main show to open. They even had a few stands so we could have a go on a few games before entry.
This year the show was split between 2 levels; the main downstairs was occupied by the fruit machines and such, and upstairs was mostly video games like Sega or Konami. This meant a much more relaxed and less hectic atmosphere. The quality of the games wasn't outstanding, but Sega had interestingly decided perhaps retro was a good thing, rejuvenating Outrun last year, and this year re-releasing classics Chase H.Q. and Afterburner, both faithfully reproduced but with modern day graphics and sound.Afterburner

Other innovations that stood out were a mat that looked like water. You'd step on the mat, and small ripples would eminate outwards. This was very effective, looking real ("don't you get me wet," I cried as Steff pulled his foot out), but was also entirely computer generated. Nothing more then a projector and a motion detection camera, the sales guy told me they had one in Hull Sea-life Centre, and that the custom software had fish swimming around in the water as well. Apparently kids could be seen trying to stamp on the fish, who were always getting out of the way in time. Also, not so innovative but just as impressive, was an arm wrestler adorned with tattoos etc. John failed at the first round. Steff got through to the second. I *just* managed to beat the third and final round, and the sales guy said I was the first ever to do so. I was intrigued by the technology behind it, and now (muscle wrecked) went around the back of the machine to be introduced to Mr. Mean's secret. A 48v 400w motor with a torque conversion gearbox attached. How I beat it I'll never know, but by God do I wish I hadn't! My shoulder's in bits.
Downstairs led to meeting up with a host of old colleagues, but the usual crap industry machines (seen one, seen 'em all) left us to be bored quickly, so we returned back to a now busier upstairs, and had a few games before leaving. Stopping in Reading for a bite to eat with Scaryduck, and I'd like to think he was genuinely pleased to see me. John was certainly impressed at spending time with such an internet celebrity, and the few hours flew by! I'd not decided whether to avoid the Severn Bridge or not, and when I'd heard about bad traffic on the A34 and how tired I was, I decided I'd stick to the M4 home. Finally crawling in at 9:30, John was asleep, Steff was looking like a war-torn prisoner of war, I was feeling like not one inch of me wasn't screaming out in pain.

Why do I do this?