EGX, Birmingham 2015: Chronicles of a Doped Video Game Culture

The path from Birmingham International train station to the NEC's halls where the 2015 edition of EGX was held, considered the biggest video game event in the UK, seemed never ending to me. I hadn't entered the halls of the event and I was already tired. This is the chronicle of my experience at EGX. As a disclaimer I have to say this is my first time at these kinds of events and I will speak from the perplex point of view of the curious sociologist. And I know, the pictures are terrible. Blame the photographer (me), the camera (mine), and the dimmed lights (that's on EGX). 

The dope
Don't get me wrong, there was nothing illegal happening at EGX. I am making reference to the stand giving away one of those energetic drinks that are suppose to fuel gamers' drive. I smiled back to the girl who offered me one of the cans; I claimed and took my dosage. It's one of the first things you come across once you step in the hall. Impossible to miss. And it's free! But that was not the only dope in the event. The people, the noise, the flashing images, the lights, the dark zones. Everything was set to drag you into a hyped state of feverish video game overdose. And it worked.

Wandering a non-place
People who attend video game events are not gamers, they're wanderers. The layout is designed to make the attendants jump from one environment-booth to another. These events force us to traverse an endless circuit of wandering, watching, queueing, playing, and repeat. Occasionally you sit somewhere, eat something, tweet, or go to the toilet. But all those things happen on the air; there is no interruption, no schedule (or it is, but the activities are standard copies or the former, even if they're different presentations or talks), no sign (internal or external) that warns you stop or take a break. Everything works in an organic systemic way, flowing like a continuous current. Like those casinos in Las Vegas, there are no changes in the general tone, the light, the music, the sounds. Video game events are an ephemeral version of one of those non-places described by Marc Augé (2009).

Indies vs. The Corporation
In general both indies and big companies work under the cultural logic of late capitalism (Jameson, 1991), but the typical Microsofts, Sonys, Ubisofts and Nintendos like to show muscle by building their own differentiated environments. They are managed as if they were night clubs: wait your turn queueing and, maybe, the guy in the entrance, the one with the list, will let you try their new piece of work for five minutes. Some are nicer than others, but the independent developers are clearly more accessible. And you can actually talk to them while you're playing their games.
One of the things I did was to play video games on platforms I usually don't play, i.e., PS4. If these events are exceptional, as those moments of collective effervescence described by Durkheim (1915), I was determined to do something exceptional. So I came across Everybody's gone to the rapture (The Chinese Room, 2015) and decided to give it a try. That's when I realised these events are  really infested and contaminated by sounds, lights and all kinds of stimuli. Everybody's gone to the rapture is suppose to be an immersive and introspective personal experience. If you have some lads next to you with microphones shouting at the top of their lungs in some sort of activity with loud music, video and dancing... that's not what you experience. It's not only their fault, everything is massive and excessive in all its glory. It's part of the attractiveness of the event, but creates disruptive experiences with the medium.

Remember the dope I wrote about above? At some point, I don't know why, I decided to drink from the can I took. The can was full of warnings: 'tornado', 'storm', 'energy'. Also, the ingredients did not give much space for speculations: guarana, caffeine, taurine. I drank half of the can, anyway. It helped me to vibrate at the same frequency of the event: I wanted to try everything but at the same time I was put off by the flow that drags you around the circuit ceaselessly. Everything becomes a distorted, abnormal experience of what is gaming. Substitute 'religion' for 'gaming' and it's as if Durkheim was describing video game events a century ago:
However, it may be objected that even according to this hypothesis, religion remains the object of a certain delirium. What other name can we give to that state when, after a collective effervescence, men believe themselves transported into an entirely different world from the one they have before their eyes? (1915: 226)

Don't look at me now
Playing video games while surrounded by strangers who are watching your gameplay made me uneasy. It's not nice to feel all those eyes on you when you know your are not a particularly skilled player. This was excruciatingly painful when I tried games I never played before (MGSV, Assasin's Creed: Syndicate) on platforms (PS4) alien to me. It seems that all those days in the arcades are long past now. Were they judging me or it was everything in my head? I blame the dope for this paranoia.

All in all, visiting a video game event for the first time was funny but tiring; interesting but repetitive. These events encourage exploration of video game culture but in a strident way, which, in the end, is fabulous for sociologists, anthropologists and other knowledge scavenging creatures like me. 


  • Augé, Marc (2009). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso Books.
  • Durkheim, Emile (1915). The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  • Jameson, Frederic (1991). Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press.


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