How do you start the new year off with a bang? By going on an adventure through the bright lights of the arcade, to a pit stop to enjoy some chocolates, and a throne fit for royalty.
The day stretched before us, as we took in the frozen floral arrangement glistening on the duckpond as we walked by. Today was a day we’d been looking forward to for a while, which was all we’d been talking about that morning as a group of grumpy seagulls called out to us.
I had to admit, I was excited for the day. It was a perfect opportunity to get away from the stress that I had been under the last couple of weeks with lots of family commitments and changing my job – I needed to blow off some steam.
We decided to start our adventure off by getting lost in the bright lights and sounds of the arcade. All my favourite games were there from Space Invaders to 2p Machines, and Air Hockey. This felt like a right treasure trove and how an arcade should be; a perfect blend of childhood games and modern contemporaries – something I wished NQ64 had more of.
Now I love arcade games, and I am a little competitive, so there was always going to be some banter and trash-talk traded between me and my partner; I did have to eat my words, however, as he beat me to the post at Mario Kart. My time did come though as I managed to beat him at three rounds of Air Hockey, and so arguably, my best (and favourite) game. I don’t think we’ve laughed so much!
No trip to an arcade would be complete without a go on the Claw Machines. These are often a catch-22 for me. It’s fun to win a prize, but lining it up and making sure it isn’t cheating makes it frustrating. I did eventually walk away with a Powerpuff Girl, courtesy of my partner – who has the patience of a saint and some serious skills.
It was time to cash out with our tokens, and take a pitstop to enjoy some chocolate. Lindt’s range of chocolates and their pick’n’mix option meant we could pick all the flavours we wanted to try and take them with us. The only one I decided to swerve was the coffee flavour – need I say why?
Having secured our chocolates for home, we headed on over to the National Conference Centre to take our role in our Game of Thrones experience.
Though I may have put my foot in it almost immediately by spoiling a birthday surprise! It sounds bad, but there was nothing to suggest that we were in the right place so I decided to ask a few passersby who seemed like they were waiting to. Safe to say the shock of one of the women there meant I had let the cat out of the bag. I’ve never been so embarrassed.
After removing my foot from my mouth, it was nice to see a few others who were excited about it too. It created a nice atmosphere. That said, my biggest pet peeve is queue jumpers and people who decide that their experience is worth more than everyone else’s. We’re all there for the same reason so it annoys me that you’d want to spoil that for others; and of course, there was a group of lads giving it their best effort here.
Completely bypassing the throng of people waiting to be called in, they waltzed straight into the exhibition, keyblade (a weapon from Kingdom Hearts) in hand; before promptly coming back outside to wait with the rest of us. A part of me already dreading how they’d be once we were inside.
It didn’t take long for them to forget them as we were ushered straight into the Night’s Watch to learn how to handle a (foam) sword. I wasn’t too bad either! I could hold my own against an attack, to go on the offensive, however, needed a bit more work – although I reckon I could rock the headless look.
We did, eventually, get a ‘pass’ from our rather entertaining swordmaster, and floated around to have a look at some of the props on display, like the giant dragon skull and a few of the swords from the show. We even managed to get a look at the Hound’s helmet, which I found both intricate and a little meancing too. It was lovely to see the care that went into crafting each one.
It was just a shame there wasn’t more attention given to them. They were held in glass cabinets and put to the side of the queues for the throne and the Night’s Watch. It almost felt like they were an afterthought. Something to look at whilst you were waiting, rather than a part of the experience.
I would have loved to have read about the work that went into creating them or perhaps more information about their role/meaning within the series (especially, for those who have only seen the show rather than reading the books).
They tended to fade into the background, particularly when you had costumed performers mingling amongst the crowd. Proving to be a good distraction for those waiting in queues, as well as from the props.
I mean you would soon forget about a helmet too if you had a stare-off with the Night King, who certainly knows how to give you a frosty atmosphere. While, The Mountain is a lot friendlier in person (not that Oberyn Martell would agree); as he stood and chatted to us for a few minutes about his armour, which was as heavy as it was detailed.
But there was a hidden gem in this exhibit that I felt got overlooked a lot more than it should. That was the table at which Eugene Simon, who played Lancel Lannister on the show, sat at. So many people walked past him and barely glanced in his direction; and those people certainly missed a trick.
Eugene was lovely, and we had a great chat about his time on the show, as he was happy to answer any questions we had. From his kind words about co-stars like Peter Dinklage to his genuine respect for the show as he filmed in freezing conditions for the ‘Battle of Blackwater’. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the show and I wished we had a talk by him so I could find out more as I felt like I had a million questions after meeting him!
We said goodbye to Eugene, and headed off to our crowning glory, as we took our place upon the throne and got to do our best ‘Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms’ moment. Did I mention how badass I can look with a crown and a sword? It was a great experience to be able to sit upon the Iron Throne was a definite, ‘I can’t believe I did that’ moment.
The only thing I was a little disappointed over was that we didn’t get the option to have a picture with a sword and a dragon egg, or the opportunity to have a few scenes with photos for props (think FriendsFest or Harry Potter studio tour). It felt like they missed a massive opportunity.
By keeping it a small event, by packing everything into a tiny hall, it felt like it compromised itself. This could have had a lot more potential. If they’d have allowed for a bigger space, they could have paid more focus to the props and Eugene; as well as set up a few more photo opportunities to give you a bit more time with the costumed performers and allow you to get more out of your experience.
That said, we did really enjoy the experience and would definitely recommend this to any Game of Thrones fan out there, it just needed a few changes to really make it on a level we’re used to seeing from other franchises offering a similar experience to their fans.
For more information on each venue and experience, please check their websites, as linked in this review. All images and opinions are my own, or taken as part of the event, and do not reflect other’s experiences.
Bend the knee.