Play! - food and gaming in the centre of York

Seeking to combine two social pastimes in one central hub, Play! is looking to launch in York later this year. We took time out to meet with one of the duo at its helm.

Hi there – thanks for taking the time to talk to us, please can you introduce yourself?

Hello! My name is Tim Henton and I am the co-founder of Play! which is an upcoming gaming cafe in the beautiful city of York.

Where did the inspiration for a gaming café in York come from?

It's an idea that's been floating around in my head for a few years now - whenever people asked me what my dream job would be, I always said it would be to combine my joint passion for video/boardgames and cooking by working in a gaming cafe.

My partner Kirsty and I had visited Geek Retreat in Newcastle and the NVA in Nottingham and really wished there was somewhere similar locally that we could work for. Then about a year ago we decided that if we really want this to happen, maybe we should just start it ourselves.

How does playing games in a social environment like a café differ from playing at home?

We both feel that, ironically, modern multiplayer gaming at home has become a very antisocial pastime. The publishers and console developers have really pushed for online play over the last couple of console generations, meaning that sitting in your living room and having fun with your friends, passing the controllers around has become a bit of a dying art, which is a real shame.

The core concept for Play! is to provide a place that facilitates a return to social gaming together with your friends, or even making new friends in the process. I guess the best difference between gaming at home or in a social space is that in the cafe you're more likely to meet new people.

How would you like to see Play! differentiate themselves in a busy York social and food scene?

We were very aware when we first started forming the core concept of Play! that York is an incredibly saturated city when it comes to places to eat and drink. A week doesn't go by when we don't hear about yet another cafe closing its doors. I think that by providing a kind of social hub as well as refreshments is what will really set us apart from other venues in the city - there really is nothing like what we have planned in York currently. We haven't even opened yet but we have already tried really hard to create a strong sense of community and openness from ourselves that people can get behind.

We started with a market research survey on Survey Monkey to help us shape our own ideas for Play! and make sure they matched up with what the local gaming scene is looking for, and by reaching out on Kickstarter for funding, we are hoping to build a strong community of regular members.

Can you give us a taste of which coinops you'd like to install?

My mum is a massive Space Invaders fan- I think it must be where my love of gaming comes from! She used to play on one of the old tabletop machines at her local pub in the seventies and she can still wipe the floor with me if I try and play her at it! A space invaders table is right at the top of our list!

In terms of other machines, it is all dependent on how much we make on our Kickstarter. We want to be as varied as possible with the funds available. Pinball, a light gun shooter, foosball, a racer? If we hit our target of £11,000 we have budgeted for 2-3 coin-ops but if we go over target​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​, this is when we can start really thinking about the fun we can have!

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Which games do you think will be the most played from your shelves?

The classics! Monopoly, chess, Scrabble, Cluedo. The ones that people know inside out and can just pick up and play. Then there's the modern classics like Ticket To Ride, Catan, Dobble etc.

We reckon a lot of our staff training will consist of us all sitting down to play board games regularly so that the staff are able to recommend games to the customers and try to get people trying something new.

What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities with a gaming café?

At this moment in time, the biggest challenge will be finding the right venue. Being a tourist hotspot, the premises rents inside the city walls are pretty high and the turnaround on properties is pretty quick so you have to get in there at the right time!

Also we need to find a venue that's big enough to house all of the equipment we will be providing and still have room for customers! We have started contacting estate agents this week so the ball is definitely rolling on this. We want to be as close to the centre as possible because we want to be a venue that anyone can come and use.

How's the Kickstarter going?

Better than we had hoped! At the time of writing, we are nearly a third of the way to our campaign goal of £11,000 and we still have 34 days left! Obviously we still have a long way to go yet but it's humbling that so many people are getting behind our idea and are willing to come on this journey with us. We just can't wait to meet everyone and get all the membership and other perks out there!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Just a massive thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, whether it's by pledging on Kickstarter, or by promoting us on social media. York's gaming community is fantastic and we can't wait to play our part in it.

If you'd like to be a backer and help Tim and Kirsty achieve their goal bringing Play! to York you can find further information on their Kickstarter page.