Step away from the mess of consoles in your bedroom and get immersed in the latest experimental games from across the world at Somerset House’s nine-day video-gaming extravaganza. Into 8-bit 1-uping or cutting-edge new releases? Now Play This is all about interacting with thoughtful, inventive games that draw from the world we live in.
This year, you can play on slot machines that reveal what it’s like to live with a disability or try out the award-winning Florence, where players enter the interactive love story of a 25-year-old, completing micro-tasks like shaking a Polaroid and unpacking a flat. Grab your mates to see if you can play classic ’80s single-player games like Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda with seven others. Belt your heart out in an immersive retro karaoke booth where the original lyrics swap and change. Turn yourself into a walking installation with the help of the 3D forms in Affix, a design by Sabrina Shirazi. And experience a sharp wave of nostalgia by exploring forgotten online worlds of the noughties – we’re talking glitter graphics, empty chat rooms and virtual pets – in a collaboration between artist Molly Soda and indie gamer Aquma.
Are you a serious single player? Have a go at making your own game with indie Dutch collective Sokpop or invest in a Makers’ Weekend Pass for two days of unlimited special access to the Makers’ Corner, where you can get to know the festival’s designers and artists through talks, workshops and other activities. If you’re analogue at heart, there’s a dedicated board-game lounge full of new and old tabletop favourites. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or have never even held an Xbox, there’s loads of virtual fun to be had here.
Where to find retro arcade games in London
It’s technically a Science Museum exhibition, but ‘Power UP’ is really an arcade of 160 consoles spanning 40 years of gaming history, from Pong and Pac-Man to the latest VR experiences.
Science Museum. South Kensington tube. Sat Apr 6-Apr 22. From £8.
Drink craft beer while throwing some meaty uppercuts in Street Fighter 2 at this Peckham bar filled with retro games. Right now it’s got Mortal Kombat 2 and Asteroids. Time to level up.
187 Rye Lane. Peckham Rye Overground.
The Heart of Gaming
It doesn’t get more old school than playing a bunch of salvaged arcade games in a shopping centre. At The Heart of Gaming, you pay on the door instead of feeding coins into each machine.
Whitgift Centre, Whitgift St. East Croydon rail.
Whether you’re a pro player or a Nintendo novice, find more ways to get gaming at the London Games Festival.
Find plenty of other great things to do in London this month with our April guide.