Play - War Room
Henry Northmore chats to the people behind the Ministry of Gaming, Edinburgh’s new centre for community gaming
Gaming is great - digging out your console or powering up your PC for a dose of virtual action. It’s even more fun if you get a few mates together for a bone-crunching Tekken session or a pass-the-mic round of SingStar. Now imagine a group of 28 with your own top of the range PC in the same room. Think of the fun of an all out frag fest on Quake 4; the military precision of a multiplayer BattleField or the spine-chilling atmospherics of the creep and kill dynamics of Alien vs Predator, with the lights turned down.
That is exactly what the Ministry of Gaming offers: the shared gaming experience of 28 high end machines all geared solely for gaming. The big bonus is that you are actually sitting next to the guy you last took down, or your comrade in arms. First Person Shooters make up a huge part of what MoG has to offer, but there’s also strategy gaming, RPGs (such as the phenomenally popular World of Warcraft) and even just common or garden internet browsing.
At first glance it’s just a room filled with people hunched over computer screens wildly bashing away at their keyboards. But there’s an air of excitement in the room, and once you plug in, load up and don the headphones, you soon realise why. The gameplay is fast and furious, the competitiveness amped up by close proximity. This is another league compared to online gaming.
‘We’re not all about the game, we’re also about the community,’ explains general manager Marc Seymour. ‘Guys can come down and sit and chat with their mates. When you’re sitting at one end of the room and you shoot a guy from across the room and he screams and you look up and think “yeah”, it’s a great feeling you get out of it. You get to join in the tournaments, you can compete nationally. It’s about meeting like-minded people as well. It’s a great sport, it’s no longer a basement, underground geeky thing. We get businessesmen through the door, people from Scottish Widows, RBS, Standard Life, they come in as teams. So it’s becoming a corporate event. It’s like paintball without the pain.’
Wait a minute, did I hear him right? Did he refer to gaming as a sport? It might not be as weird a claim as it at first seems. Tournaments can attract big money (the total prizes at 2006’s World Cyber Games came in at a staggering $462,000), the best players are sponsored and, obviously, the biggest companies in the world, such as Microsoft and Sony, are keen to promote players and tournaments. And let’s not forget the lightening reflexes and dedicated practice it takes to be the best of the best.
These are high end machines (‘Dell XPS700 gaming machines all integrated across an optimised Gigabit local area network’) linked to 19in flat-screen monitors - a far superior set up to those in the average household. ‘In the past people have played console games because they are scared of PCs,’ explains Seymour. ‘A lot more goes into setting up a PC game and configuring it and it’s a lot more expensive. But if you come down here you can experience the ultimate in PC gaming.’ And he’s right, they play like a dream. This isn’t an intimidating set up and the staff are friendly and happy to take newbies through their paces. Even if you grew up on consoles it only takes your fingers a quick session to realign themselves to the keys and mouse set up rather than the usual joypad.
Ministry of Gaming is offering visitors free 30-minute trials as part of a launch event on Sat 28 and Sun 29 April. ‘People will be able to come in, sit at a machine and try out some games,’ says Seymour. ‘The staff will give a few pointers, we’ll have a lot of tournaments and people will be competing against each other on the big screen. So what we’re trying to do on a grand scale is introduce people to a concept of community gaming and show them what great fun it is.’
The Ministry of Gaming, 22 Bread Street, Edinburgh, 0131 228 3452, www.tmog.co.uk. Launch event is on Sat 28 and Sun 29 April.
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