Fans of comics, role-playing games and more are well-served in Birmingham. So for anyone visiting – and to help Brum's own nerds enjoy a better life – here’s a quick rundown of some of Birmingham’s more geek-friendly haunts.
Nostalgia and Comics, 14-16 Smallbrook Queensway
Nostalgia and Comics – or ‘Nosties’ to its regulars – is a bona-fide Brum institution. One of the UK’s longest-running comic shops, it’s been supplying comics, graphic novels and long boxes to Brum’s chic geek elite since 1977. It’s a big place with a staggering range of comics from across the world, from Marvel and DC superhero titles to Japanese manga books and lavish Franco-Belgian bande dessinée albums. For the uninitiated, the store’s friendly staff are always on hand to explain the difference between Batman and Man-Bat.
Tokyo Toys, 31 Corporation Street
Online retailer Tokyo Toys recently opened a proper bricks-and-mortar store on Corporation Street which caters for the discerning Japanophile geek. If manga, anime, gamer merchandise and weirdly cute plush toys are more your thing, then Birmingham’s newest geek emporium is the place to be.
Forbidden Planet, 74 Bull Street
While it might not boast as extensive a range of comics as its veteran rival Nosties (to be fair, who does?), Birmingham’s branch of the Forbidden Planet chain more than makes up for this with its vast range of geek-friendly film and TV merchandise. If you harbour an insatiable craving for Death Star juggling balls, a plush backpack in the shape of Finn from Adventure Time or perhaps some blue, crystalline Breaking Bad bath salts, this is a place for you.
The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street
With its ornate Victorian-era façade, quirky layout and great range of beers, The Victoria is one of Birmingham’s most geek-friendly watering holes. Its weekly Sound and Vision pub quiz is a refreshingly sports question-free arena, while on the first Wednesday of every month it holds a comics night courtesy of their friendly neighbourhood graphic novel retailer, Nosties.
What could be more geeky than spending an evening in a quaint suburban pub playing Sonic the Hedgehog on a Sega Mega Drive while listening to an 8-bit chip-tune cover version of Europe’s The Final Countdown? Answer: not many things. With 8-Bit Lounge you can immerse yourself in retro sounds and obsolete games consoles, taking an enjoyable trip down 48K memory lane.
Games Workshop, 36 The Priory Queensway
Located a mere philosopher stone’s throw away from Forbidden Planet (next door, in fact), inside this shop you'll find a strange fantasy land where vast armies of painstakingly-painted metal figurines engage in fierce, table-based territorial disputes. There’s been a Games Workshop in Birmingham since the early '80s, and while the location of the shop may have changed several times over the years it remains a haven for the city’s orc-obsessed.
BOM, 1 Dudley Street
BOM – short for Birmingham Open Media – is located just round the corner from The Victoria and describes itself as ‘a collaborative workspace for art, technology and science’. It has a gallery and variety of events (including computer-coding workshops and 8-bit Lounge gigs) that are open to the public, as well as a café on site courtesy of the always-excellent Urban Coffee Company.
FizzPOP, 90 Floodgate Street
FizzPOP is what’s known as a ‘makerspace’ or ‘hackerspace’, a safe haven for all kinds of creative geekery. Based in Digbeth (where else?), it’s a community-owned workspace where people meet, socialise and make cool stuff. There’s a free open evening every Wednesday, where aspiring Bill Gates or online Harry Houdinis can try their hands at coding and lock picking.
Wayland’s Forge, Custard Factory, Gibb Street
Based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Wayland’s Forge offers the discerning board-game enthusiast a veritable cornucopia of games, booster packs and figurines. The shop may be modest in size, but don’t let that fool you: it has a massive variety of games ranging from famous titles like Dungeons and Dragons to more obscure offerings like Settlers of Catan. Customers can take part in in-store tournaments, too. You don’t get that at Harvey Nicks.
Oasis Market, 110-114 Corporation Street
The Oasis Market’s association with youth sub-culture can be traced all the way back to the invention of the teenager. It should come as no surprise, then, that the city’s geek community is well represented here, with not one but two outlets catering to their needs. Retro Toys and Collectibles offers exactly what it says on the tin, while Game HQ is a treasure trove of collectible card games, taking you back to a simpler era of swapsies when the only mantra that mattered was ‘Got! Got! Need!!’
Know of any more geek-friendly places in Brum that deserve a mention on Time Out? Just let us know in the comments section below.