Gamescom Diary 2 – (hashtag) Lads on Tour

My original intention had been to get this diary done a while ago. However, I have just surfaced from a sleep-addled haze that has lasted for most of the past week, and that opportunity seems to have passed me by. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because in the state I was in I seriously doubt that an attempt to write an article would have made any sense, let alone be entertaining.

Over the last few days I’ve been running on a cocktail of adrenaline and junk food, which was surprisingly effective. Upon arriving home from our little jaunt to Germany, however, I crashed… and crashed hard. The only reason I didn’t fall asleep on the bus home was because the seats were sloped. At least, that’s what the elderly gentleman next to me insisted. I took his word for it.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though, because although the journey back is a story in and of itself (don’t worry, we’ll get there), the real exciting stuff was what came beforehand.

It’s tough to explain to people the scale of Gamescom. It’s all too easy to forget for yourself, as I discovered when I actually arrived there for the second year running. The thing is, Gamescom is huge, both in sheer size and in the number of attendees. There are few frames of reference that are comparable to Koelnmesse, the venue; perhaps the best way to explain it is to tell you is that it almost made the airport we left from look small. In the EA space alone there were probably over a hundred screens and consoles.

This is how HUGE Gamescom actually is. Four times the size of the UK.

Most important though, were the games. There were hundreds of them (probably) and, for the first day at least, they were glorious. There were a few that each of us desperately wanted to play -Watch_Dogs was the favourite with Ed and Ric, while I wanted to hunt down Killer Instinct – and over the course of that first day we got the opportunity to try a few of them. There were appointments aplenty too, and we left Koelnmesse on Wednesday feeling pretty chipper and pleased with how the day had gone. I even had my most bizarre dinner of the week, with the main course being some delicious miniature burgers, with a side of candyfloss. It was brilliant.

What may have been outside our door

We had the rather surreal experience of running into a family of Englishmen who were headed the same way we were. Not only that, they would be heading to Gamescom in the morning, and were hugely enthusiastic. It was pretty fun to see some people who could speak the language, though it became a bit odd when they followed us around the corner, into our hotel and then entered the room directly across from ours. We were up pretty late that night; I hope we didn’t keep them up.

The next day was the first of the public days, and I had a front row seat to doors opening. As I made my way back to the press centre – rather slowly, I was tired – hundreds of people sprinted past me, clearly in a hurry to get to the games. By the time I reached the first of the halls they were already packed, and only grew busier as the day went on.

Bearing in mind that this was meant to be the least busy of the public days, lines were already extending past the one hour mark, and most of the people in those lines spent a vast chunk of time sitting down. I don’t blame them, of course, but that just suggests how busy it was.

Friday was even worse, getting so bad that every time I had an appointment I was advised not to hit the show floor. I ignored the advice, because I’m an idiot, and despite the fact that I had no intention to actually play anything, still regretted it. There was just so many people, all of them in a hurry to get here or there so they could stand in yet another line. They had no qualms in pushing or shoving past others to do so, and so I left the show floor a little battered and bruised. I did finally find Killer Instinct, but by this point the line was so long that there was no hope of having a go, so I left without getting the chance.

Then we tried to actually leave Germany. Considering that this is the ménage à trois that managed to get things so horribly wrong on the way, it was pretty foolish to think that we would accomplish the journey back without any issues.

Ed started things off by having an appointment that cut things uncomfortably close. So close, in fact, that Ric and I went for dinner without him, because we were sure that we would miss the train otherwise. As it turned out we were right to do so, as he scraped into the station less than ten minutes before our next train was due to depart. Armed with donuts we boarded the train, and then stood, as it was totally packed.

Fast forward a few hours to where Ed and I left Ric at the bus stop, probably about to be murdered by the homeless chap who had seen us leaving and clearly sat down to wait, but we hoped for the best and went to find something to drink. After guzzling several beers, we returned to where we’d left Ric. He’d survived! Shortly thereafter, the bus arrived, only for a bunch of Germans who were nowhere to be seen for the previous forty-five minutes to push us out of the way and leap aboard the bus and declare it full. If we didn’t catch this bus, we were going to miss our flight, and after having left Ric to keep our place in queue, and potentially be murdered, we weren’t going to let this go.

As it happened, none of them spoke English. Our driver wasn’t particularly accomplished, but he did take our side. We think he did anyway; he was speaking German at the time. Some very angry Germans then shouted at us, and the only other English person on the bus stood near us making concerned noises. It turned out there wasn’t space for him either. One way or another, we found our way onto the bus – still brandishing our donuts, although not as many of them as earlier – while the angry Germans took the other English guy with them in a taxi to the airport.

Someone else had to catch a taxi to the airport too when, at the next stop, they tried to board the bus but were told that it was full. Later, at the airport, we came to the sudden and horrifying realisation that he was the co-pilot for our flight. We figured this out when he walked into the airport lounge in his uniform. Thankfully, we don’t know anything about aviation uniforms, and it turned out that he was one of the cabin crew. We still ducked when he walked past though.

We had to do more ducking than expected, as we spent more time on that plane than we were meant to, despite arriving on time. Apparently Stansted didn’t have any staff to get stairs to our plane, so we  had to sit there and fidget. They didn’t even turn the seatbelt lights off. When they finally got around to providing us with stairs they didn’t bother actually securing them to the plane. Wobbling down them was terrifying, but at least we finally got off the bloody plane.

We made it though, which, considering we let Ric plan our journey back, was a miracle. Clearly we didn’t learn our lesson last time. Having said that, if there is one thing I’ve learned from Gamescom this year, it’s this – never, ever, trust Ric.

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