Oliver and Phil get excited about a covered kit car.

It’s easy to forget with the popularity of the internet, but years ago we used to move mountains to play games with other people. We sought out someone to play multiplayer with, moved computers or consoles in trains and cars, even bought new hardware and software to increase the chances of playing with others.

Online gaming has eroded much of the need to do this now of course, but I still think where you live has an important bearing on how successfully you can enjoy your hobby.

My local area

I concluded pretty quickly in my teenage years that the area that I live in (Gloucestershire, UK) is not a great one for video games. This is my opinion of course, but the experience I’ve had of living here for the past two decades confirms that.

Meeting other like-minded people that play games, and being able to play with them locally is pretty simple in a very built up place or city, but in a rural of sub-urban place like where I live, I feel vastly outnumbered by people interested in other things.

When I briefly lived in a city – my ability to find other like-minded people was much easier, and there were better and more densely populated facilities for us to meet and play games. There were regular game nights at local pubs and bars, or retro days run by enthusiasts.

These days I struggle to find anyone with more than a passing interest in games in my immediate vicinity. This hasn’t proved a huge problem, it’s simply forced me to develop other interests and pursue the social channels of those, but sadly has meant that I too am forced to use the internet to wax lyrical about games in a way that isn’t going to bore the circle of people who live around me.

In fact when Game UK has its problems on the high street I was not (and am still not affected) by those store closures. I didn’t have a Game here in the first place, and seeing one means travelling to another city or town.

A streetview of Leila's milk bar. Running errands for Leila at the Milk Bar.

The consequence of not feeling welcome

While gaming isn’t a niche, it certainly feels like one around here, even though I know more than enough people that are willing to support video games retail and events in this area, no ones prepared to create or sustain anything.

There is one independent game shop in my town (there used to be two more, but they both closed long ago), and while it is good for pre-owned titles, getting hold of brand new games remains an ongoing problems. Truly, I have to travel further afield for a good independent shopping experience.

This is where the internet comes in again as a lack of decent video game retail in my town has forced me to do all of my games shopping online too – taking my money out of the local economy and perpetuating the problem.

Not only that but shopping online requires planning and care, if there’s a game I am likely to need on a certain day I have to pre-order to be certain that I will get it in time. Plenty of people will complain about pre-order but it’s a lifeline for me when a rare title is released.

I can travel to one of the many other independent games shops in another cities and towns around me, but that just repeats my desire for wanting a good one here, despite there not really being much of a market for it locally.

A in-game example: Ni No Kuni

In writing about my experiences of trying to enjoy games in a local area that doesn’t support it, I am reminded of the idea of two worlds in Ni No Kuni. Motorville (the quiet, peaceful almost bland suburbia) where the game originates, and it’s other, more fantastical world full of magic and intrigue.

Enjoying the settings of both worlds meant suspending your disbelief a little, and embracing the poetic licence of numerous RPG tropes; the young, pure-hearted hero on a journey, destined to combat all problems, a hidden magic power they were unaware of.

This example reminds me of my desire for a more enriched, video game-filled town, with thousands of other local gamers around me, yet I find myself stuck in an real-life equivalent of Motorville, as I crave a simplistic, yet busier gaming horizon. Ironically then, it is still the internet that adds that other needed dimension to my gaming world. The perfect gamers location doesn’t often exist, and forces me and many others to travel and mingle to find like-minded people in the most unusual of places.

I love where live, it’s a vibrant and eclectic place, but there’s no escaping the fact that it largely snubs my biggest passion and interest.

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