Tope Fabunmi heads to trendy Shoreditch to explore the gamer disco scene.
The Book Club sounds like some reject of a literature society, where knobs alike meet to discuss irony and postmodernism while eating faux middle class Rich Tea biscuits. I expected an over-trendy crowd in an equally over-mod setting, but as I skipped into the magnetic blue building on Leonard Street, Shoreditch, and headed almost instinctively down to the basement, I was in truth very excited about what GamerDisco would offer for their Nintendo Summer Special event.
Once the sliding doors parted and I entered what hosts Dave Fade and Nicky Biscuit described as a “physical social gaming experience”, it instantly conjured images of a fuck-dungeon fight club. Though appearing cult, the openness of the event, which welcomed players of all abilities to show their skills while skanking to chiptunes, redeemed what could have become a forum boy’s utopia. Three gaming tests were selected to represent Nintendo’s social gaming at its best: Super Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros Brawl and Super Mario World Speed Run, along with a spot for low attention span arcade games. Making a conscious decision to approach the first body that looked like they were in control of this prime orgy setting, I found Dave and Nicky tinkering in the corner. I asked them about the origins of GamerDisco:
Dave Fade: We’ve always been into gaming, and I was hanging out at Nicky’s a lot in the day as we didn’t have day jobs, meanwhile drinking, playing video games, and listening to music. A lot of retro stuff. And we thought, why isn’t anyone doing this stuff in a club? Our favourite developer/era was the 16bit Nintendo, SNES – Super Mario Kart etc, which are very easy to pick up and play.
Nicky Biscuit: Originally, it was very inclusive to Nintendo, so we thought we’d change it to have GamerDisco include all developers and more of a community feel.
Relaxed and unfaltering in their belief in public “nerd culture”, Dave and Nicky spoke of the demand for their niche event, quickly rising from 100 to 300 guests, and their strong claim of bragging rights for holding events for the 3DS launch, Capcom, IGN and SEGA. After their initial success at Camden’s Lock Tavern, they admitted needing to expand their scope to contemporary games. More range, less pixelated view – referencing their Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale event. The closest to its kind on the night, SSBB was the multiplayer epicentre that attracted the gaming comradery Dave and Nicky encouraged. Though separated by game preference, masters and unskilled button smashers were unified in a truly social gaming experience. I found myself grinning as one player laughed their way to defeat to the chiptune of Jay-Z’s Dirt Off Your Shoulder. Not wanting to play host to sore losers and the trolls that online gaming breeds, Nicky and Dave discussed the state of social gaming:
NB: If I’m on the phone to my mum drinking, I’m not a social drinker – I’m an alcoholic. We wanted to bring gaming out so you can *be* social, you have the physical contact. What bothers me about online gaming are the comments.
DF: After school when you’d invite your mates round, you’d have the banter and nudge each other. Now we’re older, we want to continue that.
Moving on from the cons of online gaming, they emit a genuine passion for videogames without coming off as cheese-filled couch potatoes, making a point of proclaiming themselves “hardcore gamers”:
DF: I suppose you could say we are hardcore. How do you differentiate between someone that plays COD every night and someone that completes Skyrim in one sitting? We collect games like others collect vinyl.
NB: The time-wasting theory is ridiculous. I go on as much of an emotional journey playing Final Fantasy as I do reading Lord Of The Rings.
Though there was minimal dancing to DJ Jet Set Rory’s nerdcore, Dave and Nicky recalled the influence of game music, equating it to tear-jerkingly profound art. I could dig it, and befitting hosts they were to understand how the range of tunes made motivational music to storyline sorrow:
DF: Sand Ocean on F Zero, but one that’s stuck with me as a series, Zelda. If we’re going retro: RoboCop. Beautiful.
NB: Final Fantasy. Nobuo Uematsu is a great composer. The songs live with you longer than the story does after you’ve finished.
When asked which of the three games hooked up for play on the night was their favourite, they championed Super Mario Kart on the SNES. The game fully clocked by Sami Cetin, the current PAL Time Trial World Champion, who I had last seen wearing sunglasses indoors. The game has hidden depths despite its simplistic gameplay, and beyond its social function Nicky asserts it has nuances that some games still don’t. Sami bossed the game ever since the event started, sitting untouchable on a pimp white couch and wearing this top lest we forgot his accomplishments:
After Dave and Nicky had spoken to him with what was evidently humble respect, I manage to pull him away to address his gaming and success.
Demonstrating the round that won him his title in Time Trial mode, it’s clear that he has studied this to a scholarly level. His method consists of cutting corners smoothly on Vanilla Lake 2 to achieve what is now his average finish score of 48.33 seconds. Though Sami has won titles under multiple modes in SMK, he speaks with indifference to his advanced player status. He began his relationship with gaming in 1991 when he was just nine, and his experience has seen SMK become a gaming gym for him, considering tournaments real psychological challenges after hard bouts of training.
He dismissed his stats to continue with the game, so I signed up to play with the pressure of not just going up against a powerhouse, but the fact that I hadn’t picked up a SNES control pad in years. My palms were sweaty and I let out a Homer Simpson-esque squeal every time I fell off the track, even though I went in confident in my shitness. I imagined this was how Sami might feel at a tournament with a crowd of gamers of superior ability – without the feelings of inferiority. All my smack-talking roosters came home to roost with relatively horrific results…a time of 1:35:40. I wasn’t going to sink into despair about girl gamers over this highly inconsequential situation, but I did think of Sami’s neice, Leyla Hasso, who is the current fastest SMK female player in the world, at age 14. Glad that gamers such as Leyla are raising the profile of female players, I saluted her in spirit and left Sami in his element – garbed in gaming tees and accompanied by a vintage brick SNES.
Images: Tope Fabunmi