Stratford Rising: Once Upon a Console- by Anjum Razaq

Last weekend I went to the Stratford Rising Festival which was held in Theatre Square, Stratford. The festival was a showcase celebrating the creativity of the various cultural organisations positioned in the heart of old town Stratford, showing how  the Olympic legacy has impacted beyond the  Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

The 2 day event included:

  • A giant slide
  • Traditional folk and street dance performances
  • Cinema screenings of cult classics Jumanji  and Labyrinth 
  • Face painting with children’s book authors and the Discover centre

However the main reason I went was because of the retro gaming and big screen Mario Kart 64 tournament. A friend of mine had forwarded me details of the event through facebook and I was hooked. As a keen gamer it has always been a dream of mine (and I’m guessing most other gamers) to play games on a huge cinema screen. I have a projector at home but to play a retro game on the Stratford Picture House big screen in Dolby surround was a dream come true. Recruiting a few friends (non-gamers) and my cousin we headed down and took part in the event.

The atmosphere was joyous and taking part in the tournament was fun. People competing in the tournament ranged from a young girl of about 6 to grown men in their late 30’s. There was a great sense of camaraderie as gamers supported each other and offered advice and strategies. I got through to the quarter finals but my cousin made it through all the way to the final, despite never having played the game before! He came 4th but had enjoyed the event nonetheless.

Competing in the quarter finals!

I spoke to one of the organisers of the Mario Kart Tournament, Alastair from ‘Once Upon A Console’.  He stated that the aim of the event was to bring different generation together to enjoy gaming;

It’s great to see parent playing along with their kids, maybe playing the games they played when they were kids themselves. ‘Once Upon a Console’ aims to show that playability is king, it doesn’t matter if things aren’t in HD, all that matters is the playability and retro games are definitely high in playability.

On their official facebook page ‘Once Upon A Console’ outline their mission:

Remember when video games were special? A time before commuters replaced newspapers with Angry Birds. A time before farmers replaced farming with farmville. A time before Mario and Sonic became mates. A time before wireless controllers. A time before hollow victories against faceless players the other side of the world wide web. A time before the world wide web.
A time when all that mattered was coins, combos & cartridges. A time when you played multiplayer with your friends in the same room and it was the highlight of your week! 
Once Upon A Console brings all this back & more.

'Once Upon a Console' organises monthly gaming night at ‘The Hackney Attic’  above Hackney Picturehouse and ‘Upstairs At The Ritzy’.

Alastair mentioned that ‘Once Upon A Console’ can be hired for events or collaborations, they can bring a wide variety of computers, games and CRT televisions as well as given presentations on the history and evolution of gaming. As an ICT/ Computing teacher I think retro gaming would be a great way to introduce the children to coding. The new units on programming require coding and retro games would be a wonderful way to introduce children to simple games they can replicate or improve on.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Stratford Rising event and I know many other people did too, I just thought I’d share my experience!

Hanging outside the entrance to the tournament