Recently I had the privilege of meeting up with a great bunch of people who make up the band of travelling DS gamers, DS: London. I got the chance to ask one of the organisers (Joe Lee – a.k.a. thiswayup) a few questions at the same time as playing some hardcore DS.
DS: London is bringing the multiplayer gaming scene from the dark & dingy bedroom, to the outside world of 'RL'. In March '06, almost two years ago now, Rich (the events creator) had the idea to create an event where people with the common interest of playing DS would get together and play. 2 years, and now 50 meets, on, DS: London is growing bigger with each meet they organise.
The group is set up purely through a community gathering portal called Meetup.com, a site where people with a common interest are brought together to share that interest. It starts with a person creating a 'Meetup Group' on the site. The organisers of the group organise an event on their new micro-site, then members of said group can RSVP the event in question, and when the event happens a group of people are brought together through their common interest.
When the guys started the group they struggled to get 3-4 people together. It was even coming to the point where some events had to be cancelled because there just weren't enough people. However, these days they are getting at least 15-20 people coming down to each meet. In addition, on more than the rare occurrence they are breaking the 30+ barrier!
The meet I went down to was a very important one for the group as it was the 50th meet they had organised to date! A very impressive milestone for a group of gamers I'd say. This is not the group's proudest moment so far though. During the 'London Games Festival 2007', DS: London got involved and got a special meet listed as a fringe event for the festival. With the media exposure the event got, DS: London were able to pull in a whole bunch of new people. The groups normal venue is a pub called the Yorkshire Grey. With 15 or so people the event takes up about a quarter of this pub, so with the LGF'07 Event, it was so big that they actually packed out the whole Yorkshire Grey pub!
This was the group's biggest event to date. There have been numerous other times where the numbers have been close to that day. For example, they ran a special 'Charity Tournament' at one event. At that event they added a competitive edge to the day, and gave out prizes to the top players. Putting the effort into running a tournament day resulted in a larger turn out and ended up raising a lot of money for charity.
Something I didn't notice when I was at the 50th Meet was that all of the turnouts for the event were 18+. This probably should've been obvious seeing as we were in a pub. The reason for this was because their worst event experience (forgetting the cancellations) came when one member brought along his 12 year old cousin. Even though it's nice to play games with people of all ages, the group act in a very mature gamer manner when they meet. This, by the sounds of it, was not suited to the actions of a 12 year old child. It is now one of the reasons the group always meet in a pub, so they can filter this problem out. This is also helped by the fact that you have to be 18+ to join and use Meetup.com.
Let's talk about the games for a sec. The games which are played the most at DS: London events are Mario Kart, Bomberman and Tetris DS. These are played most simply because they are just such good multiplayer games with great replay ability. Joe tells me that these are played about 75% of the time. Other games that make it onto the list are 42 All Time Classics, Golden Eye, Zelda, and Advance Wars.
There are few good multiplayer games being lined up for the DS. A couple of Pool games, FIFA Street, and the big one, Mario & Sonic at the Olympics. A couple of other games the group will be looking forward to playing are Phoenix Wright, the new Advance Wars, and Exit DS. All look to be great DS Multiplayer games that will be enjoyed at DS: London.
The next meet for the DS: London guys is a particularly special one, even more special than the 50th Meet, so special that they are having to change venue to larger pub because of the size of the event. At the next meet the DS: London group will be joined by the Frag Dolls UK group. They two groups have met before at a couple of meets, and this one promises to be even better than the last. Joe says that meeting up with the Frag Dolls is really good fun, and a great way to get a large group of gamers in the same room together. The meets normally go down the route of a lot of chat about games, getting nostalgic, and drinking a few beers. It always turns out to be a blast. The DS gaming at these special events always turns out to be a by product of what else is going on.
I finished off my questions by noting that 50 Meets had past now, and if they had any specific plans for the future with DS: London. Joe responded with:
"We'll probably do more of the same with a couple of charity tournaments, change of venue (as we kind of growing), more sister Meetup groups then maybe we can do some kind of travelling Meetup thing. The DS is such a great open platform that anyone can join in the fun, both the so called hardcore and casual gamer alike. So we would probably do more collaboration with other groups and websites. We probably might actually get our back-sides into gear and put up our own proper website."
He also wanted to add:
"I think it is important to point out the basis of our meet is also part social group as oppose to being purely group of nerdy people playing games. One of the reason's I think this group has managed to survive so long is that the people who attend are from a good cross section of different people who are up for a bit of gaming and a bit of chat."
In my opinion, the DS: London event I went to was a lot of fun! Good gaming and great banter. I will now be a regular member of this Meetup. I suggest to anyone with a DS, who lives close enough to the Center of London, and wants to socialise with some great people, to come down and join in!
The next DS: London meet is on Saturday, January 26 at 17:00 GMT. The venue is 'The Horse and Groom, 126 Great Portland St, London'. It will be the special meet with the Frag Dolls UK team, and promises to be a lot of fun. I'll be going, so if anyone would like to join feel free to get in contact with me or visit the DS: London Homepage.