Delight for families and old-school gamers as retro fest debuts at Portsmouth Guildhall 

IMAGINE a place where you can relive childhood memories of hours spent smashing high scores, battling bosses and gaming with your friends. 

That dream was a reality for the hundreds of revellers who descended on Portsmouth Guildhall for the debut Retro Games Fest today. 

The venue was transformed into a haven of all things old-school as countless classic consoles and board games were lined up in the main auditorium – waiting to immerse players in years worth of nostalgia. 

Thanks to a display of kit from Old Portsmouth cafe Game Over, the Guildhall stage was bustling all day, with rows of retro systems running the likes of Pac-Man, Pong, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter – among hundreds of other titles. 

Peter Howell, from Fareham, used the set-up to introduce his son, three-year-old Oscar, to the classic that is Sonic the Hedgehog. 

The 30-year-old said: ‘There is a brilliant range of stuff here and it’s a great chance to get the little ones playing without breaking the bank. 

Peter Howell, his son Oscar, and fellow gamers at the festival

Peter Howell, his son Oscar, and fellow gamers at the festival

‘I teach games design at the University of Portsmouth and these are the sorts of systems I grew up on – here it seems like they’re being accepted as much as any other segment of popular culture, which is brilliant. 

‘In my opinion, there’s probably nothing that beats the classics and even though he does get the chance to play newer games at home, Oscar loves playing retro games the most.’ 

Down a level on the main floor, board games of all varieties stole the show – as families enjoyed a timeless staple of tabletop entertainment. 

Husband and wife James and Stephanie Gill, from Portsmouth, roamed the venue throughout the afternoon – getting stuck into a number of favourites, including chess. 

‘Considering this is the first festival, we thought it could be hit-and-miss – but the choice is brilliant and there is something for everything,’ said Mrs Gill, 25. 

‘When we were younger we didn’t have all the fancy games kids have today, so on a Sunday we’d play games like this, which I like because they’re far more sociable.’ 

Elsewhere, revellers got the chance to enjoy a virtual reality set-up from Portsmouth firm Novatech – as well as stalls from city store Dice, selling gaming merchandise. 

Festival organiser Katherine Scott, who is the commercial manager at Portsmouth Guildhall, hailed the event a success – made possible thanks to a ‘stunning reception’ to Comic-Con at the Guildhall in May. 

She said: ‘I’m really pleased with the turnout today as this event was always intending to be experimental, a test run. 

‘We’re already looking at next year and if this continues we could even introduce gaming championships where people can come along and compete.’ 

Running two sessions today, from 11am until 5pm and 6pm until 11pm, cash collected from ticket admissions will go toward the Guildhall’s redevelopment of its Harlequin room. 

The ‘underutilised’ space will become an arts hub for the local community, staging workshops on music, theatre, dance, and more.