Not going to lie, I haven’t travelled the whole of the UK, and I may be a little biased as I love York (some would say too much…), but here is my pitch on why I feel the walled City of York is the geek capital of the UK!
York has a good range of shops for the discerning gamer, with places to meet and play games with like-minded people
OG Games – OG Games is one of two specialist board and card gaming stores in York. Established in 2015, OG Games brought York it’s first store with a dedicated gaming space. They have dedicated gaming nights four nights a week, the lineup which has rotated somewhat with demand, but currently it hosts X-Wing & Imperial Assault, Yu-Gi-Oh, Netrunner, Dice Masters, Star Wars Destiny, Friday Night Magic and Pokemon TGC. They stock a wider range than this, and do demo games for new products. They also do regular tournaments where you can win prizes from the publishers tournament kits. You can find more about their gaming events here. OG Games is located on a little alleyway between The Shambles and Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate.
Travelling Man – Travelling Man is the other specialist board and card gaming store, and is also a comic book store. In 2016, they moved to a bigger store and have expanded their stock massively. They also have a gaming space, and have held events in external venues before the move such as world boardgame day events and boardgames nights at the Ackhorne pub. They now have in-store gaming events and tournaments with tournament kits, an annual geek bizarre, and a community comic library is planned. They also have comic book signings and chances to meet the author. They have a number of different groups to co-ordinate their events, so the best way to stay up to date is to go in store or have a search on Facebook. Travelling Man are located on Goodramgate, a few doors down from their old store.
Sore Thumb Retro games – Sore Thumb used to be located on a market stall, but have successfully migrated to a shop on Gillygate. They have a HUGE range of retro games and consoles, as well as gaming memorabilia. The staff (and customers) know their stuff – I went in for a recommendation on multi-tap PS1 games and got so many recommendations from staff and assembled customers! Looking on trip adviser, people come from all over the North of England to stock up on their retro gaming fix. They buy and sell games, so it’s worth visiting regularly as the stock changes depending on what people have sold to them. They also do an annual event with a small entry fee where you can play on a range of consoles (which used to be in the Fleeting Arms on Gillygate but this has moved with the closure of Fleeting Arms.)
Give the Dog a Bone –GTDAB is a gift shop on Fossgate with a wide range, with lots of choice in geek and pop culture items such as bags, coasters and posters in franchises such as Super Mario Bros, Adventure Time, Breaking Bad, Star Wars etc. It’s a great place to pick up a stocking filler for the geeks in your life
The Shop That Must Not be Named – A sister shop from the people behind GTDAB, TSTMNBN sells only Harry Potter merchandise on The Shambles, the historic street which inspired Diagon Alley. Seeing a business opportunity that the success of this shop has enjoyed, a company that runs gift shops across the Country has bought two shops opposite each other on the Shambles and turned both of these into Harry Potter shops as well. Yeah, I don’t get why he needs two either… On a related note, the metal bridge in York station is the bridge in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where Hagrid talking to Harry at King’s Cross station was filmed.
As well as this, there are chain stores such as GAME, HMV, CEX and Waterstones where you can buy games and graphic novels from. Waterstones York has a larger selection of graphic novels, fantasy fiction and board games than a store of it’s size in most Cities. Like Whitby charity shops carry Gothic clothing, I was impressed with the large collection of graphic novels in Mind on Goodramgate. Oxfam bookstore on Low Petergate also has a good selection, and there’s usually something geeky in the window that grabs my eye (usually when I’m passing by and the shops closed!)
Belong – GAME have opened up one of their BELONG gaming arenas in York. They have PC’s, PS4’s and XBox Ones you an play on for an hourly charge. They have themed nights such as Overwatch night, and it looks like they are trying to get a community going.
Random Encounter – After visiting Dark Matter gaming cafe in Durham, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have one in York. Well, York nearly had three! Random Encounter is York’s first pop culture cafe, where you can get something to eat and drink as well as play boardgames, video games or read some manga. They have a wide ranging menu including vegetarian and vegan options, so there’s something for everyone. Awesomely, Random Encounter has opened next door to Sore Thumb on Gillygate (which is close to York St. John University, on what is seeming to become geek street!)
Another gaming cafe had launched a Kickstarter but has cancelled as the market is getting quite crowded, and rumour had it a different boardgames cafe was planned to open in October.
And finally, in November 2017 a Kickstarter appeared for a Fantasy themed bar in York, the Quest Inn. The plan is to open in 2019, and you can read more about it here. In the meantime, The Royal Oak on Goodramgate has a private function room which is perfect if you need somewhere private to hold a geek event. And whilst not technically geeky, Thomas’ of York is a fantastic pub where some of my friends have gone to play their own boardgames before. It describes itself as ‘York’s Quirkiest Pub’, it also does amazing food and drink, has a variety of events on, is friendly and welcoming and also very supportive of the LGQBT community.
Clubs and Societies
York has loads of geeks with a varied range of interests, and there’s loads of clubs and societies where you can find people with like-minded interests:
Beyond Monopoly – A boardgames club where you can go and play- well, boardgames that aren’t just your standard fare. They meet four times a week and have a small entrance fee. They have a stock of games or you can bring your own.
York Wargames Society – York Wargames Society offers tabletop miniatures games as well as roleplay groups. Based at Guppy’s Enterprise Club just outside the City walls, they offer a space to game several times a week for a small membership and entrance fee. You can try your first two sessions for free to see if you like the club.
York Garrison Wargaming club- York Garrison is based in the Folk Hall at New Earswick, a self-contained village on the edge of York. They meet on a Wednesday night and one Saturday a month for longer sessions. The first session is free, and after that you can join for just £1 with a small fee payable for each session you go to. They play a range of wargames and miniatures games, and you can pre-arrange a game on their forum.
York University- York University at Heslington has a huge range of societies, including Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Mugglesoc (Harry Potter) which has it’s own Quidditch team, HAZsoc (fighting Zombies with Nerf guns), Fragsoc (PC gaming), Animee, Doctor Who, Douglas Adams and more. Most of them will let alumni (many ex-students stick around, possibly because of job prospects from places like York Science park) and non-students join as well, although you will have to contact the society directly rather than through the yusu.org website.
There is also a second Uni, York St. John’s, which has it’s main campus on Lord Mayor’s Walk (near Gillygate.) I’m not sure on the details of the societies and if non-students can join, but the societies page is here,
Pokemon Go – Although the popularity for the game has decreased since the game was released, York has a thriving and highly organised Pokemon Go community. There is a Facebook page people can join, and a Discord server where people can co-ordinate raids. It’s not uncommon during the day to see a large group of people with their phones out gathered round one of the towns many gyms when legendary Pokemon are about! No doubt they will be just as organised with Harry Potter Go when that is released.
York Geeks and Gamers – A group on Meetup.com that allows fellow geeks and gamers to socialise and play games, they do a variety of events including boardgames, RPGs, Pokemon Go events and socials. It’s free to join, and is specifically there to bring people together.
Vapnartak – one of the UK’s biggest and best wargaming shows, there are over 50 traders, a bring and buy, demo games you can try and tournaments for more experienced players. Held at York racecourse every February, you can find out more here
York Unleashed – again held at York racecourse, this time in August. If you’re reading this you probably know what a comic con is, and of course we have one in the geek capital, so I’ll just link to their Facebook page
York Geekfest – York Geekfest is a festival created by University of York students which is open to the public on the University campus. It started out quite small but they have been adding more each year. There are traders, shows you can watch, activities you can get involved in, art galleries, demonstrations and animee screenings. The first year was free but I believe it’s only a small fee to get in now. They’ve also had an after party at Fibbers in previous years for a small fee.
Yor-Kon comic con – 2017 saw a smaller homebrew comic-con at York Crescent community venue start up. Follow this page to see if they do another one next year
The Fleeting Quiz- Fleeting Quiz started at the Fleeting Arms community pub (which unfortunately shut down, as it was a nice place to chill out with a PS2 game and have a drink and was on Geek Street Gillygate) and now takes place in City Screen basement. They have different themes each month which are well attended. The more popular franchises take part over two nights due to demand!
York is a historic City, particularly rich in Viking and Roman history. There are lots of museums for history geeks- probably a whole blog post on it’s own, so for now I’ll leave you with the Visit York website
There’s also an annual York Viking weekend, but it’s more of a market and less on things to do and see
York has it’s own Science park near the University, and it’s fair share of tech companies with all the geeky jobs that go with them
With all this going on, it’s no surprise York has a high NPSM (nerds per square meter), and that you’ll bump into things like the car below that the residents have created. On our little street with about 60 houses there are two geek cars and a geek moped!
A car loaded with comic and pop culture stickers
In conclusion, with all of this I think York is the geek capital of the UK. Why not come for a visit and see what it has to offer?