Catalyst Arts Gaming, an event put on by the organisation for the Belfast Festival.
So there we were on a rainy Saturday being introduced to an art gallery full of games we could play. There were retro video games and classic board games. On our left, Giant Draughts (checkers), Chess, Scrabble and other games. To our right several games consoles (a Sega Megadrive 16bit, N64, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2 and Gamecube) set up on individual TVs. Behind them a Foosball table and on the walls; game posters and game themed paintings.
The place was quite quiet, just a couple of other people around so we pretty much had a full choice of what to do. Our first choice was the Foosball table. Table football/foosball or whatever you want to call it can get quite frantic and as soon as we had started we were both struggling to keep one hand on the goalie and like crazed organists waiving our other hand back and fourth between the remaining handles. We tried our best to keep that little ball heading away from our goal but it was a futile endeavour. Lucky for me though I finished victorious, muwhahahaha.
Once our game was at it's end we moved on to the video games. On the Megadrive is was a game of 2 player Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I have to explain at this point my wife Norngirl has completed Sonic on the Sega Game Gear several times so before the excuses continue - Yes I lost.
In my defence I'm a Nintendo child having played on my cousins as a kid from an early age then eventually I was lucky enough to get a Nintendo Entertainment System as a joint birthday and Christmas present when I was about 8. After that my next console came when I saved up my pocket money for a few months and with Birthday money to top it up I was able to buy myself a 2nd hand SNES - that was about 1997 when they were starting to wind down making games for it. I love the SNES, it's my favourite console and ever since that day I've collected 2nd hand games for all Nintendo Consoles, so I am indeed a Nintendo nerd and totally addicted. Sadly, I only ever played Sega at friends houses so never found my way around the 3 main buttons of a mega-drive controller, an odd number of buttons in a line on a control pad just doesn't seem right to my fingers. At one point as Knuckles was already checking into an overnight hotel recuperating for the challenges of the next level, I had Sonic stuck in some pinball purgatory and ended up timing out to his golden ring dropping death.
Moving on and sadly Goldeneye on the N64 wasn't up and running at the time and I didn't want to start messing with it or know if it was the console or the cart or the TV but at any rate I didn't have my tools with me if the console or cart needed a clean (If you collect things that are old and dirty you get used to this). So we moved onto the other consoles.
I headed for Tekken 2 on the PS1 whilst Norngirl tried Space Invaders on the PS2. We tried the other games, one was a Warner Bros game, maybe Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck or on something on the Gamecube. The other a game on the Dreamcast that I'd never seen before, some shoot-em-up at any rate.
After losing our numerous lives in many amusing ways, from being popped by orbs of energy to falling into the abyss that always seems to be a never ending pit at the bottom of a screen, we headed to the oversized floor draughts (Checkers) and had a quick game. I ended up winning though a little unfairly given Norngirl wasn't too clued up about the rules before we began to play. Understandable too given we don't own a board and she hadn't played for a longer time than many of the consoles in the room had been in existence.
Winning or losing we had a good time and were very glad we went along. As a display I would have loved a SNES or a NES there, there was oddly a SNES game on the table so maybe they have one? I dunno. but whichever it was still pretty awesome to have such a venue set up to play games. The lady who had shown us up on the way in kindly gave us a quick overview of the Art Gallery and explained that normally it is contemporary art on the walls and they planning on a move down to a lower floor which will undoubtedly given the amount of stairs improve access.
I didn't know this at the time as we only heard about this free event through word of mouth but it turns out that Catalyst Arts have been providing a cultural outlet in the city for 16 years and per their website they are a non-profit, members-based organisation, good stuff.
If you might be interested in heading along to play some games, do head down to the 2nd floor of 5 College Court Tuesday to Saturday between 11am-5pm next week (it finishes on the 30th October) and press the buzzer if the door isn't open. Good times and more buttons await those who do :)