Bringing retro back!

All I can hear are the sounds of arcade games. Pac Man, street fighter, the unmissable sound of Phoenix. You would think they are still here, but all the sounds are in my mind. Every time I close my eyes that’s all I can hear. Now they are gone, I really miss them. What a weekend it was though. I had been waiting all year for this weekend to come. If you know me, you know I am a big retro fan and love everything 80s and 90s and when that Thursday arrived and I got the call that the lorry is here, all I could think about was arcades. I had a meeting in the morning. Naturally it got postponed as nothing was going to come in the way of those arcades!


Picture 1: Arcades outside The Wardwick (former central library), Derby, DE1 1HS

The supplier had already started unloading (see Picture 1) and was already creating a stir with passers-by. One particular chap stopped by and started looking with a lot of interest and I asked him if he was looking for anything in particular. Apparently he was looking for a specific arcade brand as he used to make these many years ago in Derby. Unfortunately we didn’t have the ones he would have made but just made me realise how much heritage Derby has in gaming and something we have not really explored.

This all came about after Luke Earle, who is co-organising this event with us, tweeted a picture of a warehouse full of arcades back in 2017 and I replied back wishing we had this in Derby and it just spiralled from there. Luke is passionate about retro gaming and has a large collection of Lara Croft memorabilia as well as retro consoles/games. It has been really good having Luke on board and he has helped make it a success. We both feel that Derby has a good heritage in Gaming and we need to do more events like this to cement Derby’s position as a Gaming city.


Picture 2: Arcades installed and ready to “Test”

Once all the arcades were in place, the first game I went for was Track and Fields. Just in case my bosses are reading this, I was only testing them for Health and Safety purposes. I was not playing them, no Sir! As part of the arcades, we had been promised Pinball machines but the supplier let us down and rather than disappoint punters, I decided to purchase one myself, to be used at the event. I found this really innovative virtual pinball machine with over 500 different pinball tables (see picture 3).


Picture 3: Virtual pinball machine playing classic 80s film The Goonies

This year we had nearly 50 classic arcade machines including a sit down Star Wars Cockpit and Double player Time Crisis 2. Both were very popular and were a great addition to the event. We also had other classics like Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Street Fighter, Phoenix, Tron, Space Invaders and a host of others.


Picture 4: Arcades

We had 6 sessions throughout the weekend, and the idea was that you paid a small amount to get into one of the sessions and then all the games were free to play. The sessions for Friday and Saturday night also had a DJ with his 80s/90s disco. He was not just any old DJ, no sir, but was Austin Powers himself dressed in 80s shell suit! Mixing some really awesome tunes and getting people on the dance floor.


Picture 5: Austin Powers DJ

If you got fed up of playing games, not sure if that’s possible but you never know, we also had some Retro Board Games and a pop up cinema playing some classic 80s/90s movies. I have to admit and say that the Retro Board Games were more popular than I had envisaged. We had a lot of young people, especially kids, who spent a good few hours playing the various games donated for the event.


Picture 6: Retro Arcade event daytime and evening (Luke Earle)

Overall we had just fewer than 1100 people attend. This was roughly double the number of people we had last year so really happy with the up take. The feedback we have had has been phenomenal. Many of the people that came last year came again and everyone that I spoke to thought it was a fantastic event and glad that it was being held in Derby. I didn’t realise this at the time, but with the 47 arcades, we were the largest retro arcade event in the East Midlands and not that far from being the largest in the Midlands.

Our plans for next year are even bigger; we are planning on bringing 10 more arcades and have already started discussions for adding 10 retro pinball machines to make the event the largest in the Midlands. We hope that people in Derby and beyond can help make next year an even bigger success. We are targeting a November weekend date, either at the Silk Mill Museum of Making or it’s current location, which is Museum and Art Gallery on The Wardwick (former central library). Watch this space.

So I am now left with an empty room, where once classic arcades adorned each corner with their unique sounds. As I close my eyes, I can still hear those sounds buzzing through the room. Then in the corner I see my Virtual Pinball machine. Oh yes, I forgot I had bought this for the event. I plug it in and all my memories come flooding back. Yes I have something to play during the dark days when I miss playing arcades and it will give me that motivation to hang on for another year… only 400 more days left!