“Get ready for real life social gaming with GamePad!, bringing together great games, music, fashion and tasty treats for a fun day out in London!” Well, at least one of these things is true.

Today we visited the third event [GamePad!] hosted by mayamada. Located in a pop-up shop in Shepherd’s Bush, their intention was to bring together gamers and cosplayers to celebrate Japanese culture and, of course, their brand. You probably haven’t heard of mayamada, and neither had we. In the words of mayamada, they are “a story-based clothing brand influenced by anime and manga”. Founded in London, they mix clothing, comics and original characters to “promote and inspire creativity in others”, again, in their words. This did not come across at all.

Upon entering the pop-up shop, we were greeted by one of the hosts who promptly pointed out the gaming area and informed us of the “tasty treats” that awaited ticket holders. The shop floor was split into three sections: the mayamada merchandise, the games area and a mysterious garden shed. After spending an hour here, we never did find out what was in the shed, but we did get a look at the gaming area. To be fair, you couldn’t really miss it. People walking into the store were immediately confronted by a group of twenty-something people huddled over four monitors. The games included well-known Japanese hits: Ultra Street Fighter IV, Super Smash Bros 4, J-Stars Victory VS and… FIFA 15? Not only is FIFA 15 not representative of J-culture, Japan aren’t even in the bloody game! Ironically, FIFA’s presence reflected exactly what was wrong with the event. Rather than a celebration of J-culture, we witnessed a mishmash of themes that were shoehorned together. This was most likely done to appeal to a wider audience, although with the lack of attendance to begin with, we aren’t sure how “games, music, fashion and tasty treats” amount to a fun day out in London. It just seems kind of, well, random.

The problem with the games appeared to stem from the lack of setups. For each game there was only one setup (albeit with the maximum number of control pads supported). Immediately this caused issues as there were at least two spectators for every player. In addition, players seemed reluctant to leave their spot in fear that people behind them would take their space. We even spotted a player who had brought his arcade stick from home and had proceeded to set up camp in the Street Fighter area. People were left milling around having been forced to either spectate or play Connect Four and giant Jenga. The Connect Four pieces were left scattered across a table in the middle of the room, though at least it was close to the ‘action’. In comparison, the giant Jenga blocks were situated in the corner of the room, closer to the door but, on the plus side, at least they had chairs. The room contained a maximum of eleven chairs, three of which were assigned to Jenga. Perhaps if the chairs were given to the gamers, the spectators would’ve had a better view of the monitors. Watching the games as a spectator was awkward, at best. With the gamers having to stand in order to play the game, they formed a wall, blocking the screen. Overall, the atmosphere left us feeling bored. With nothing to do and nobody to talk to, we left after an hour (without receiving the much-anticipated cake).

Despite these negative points, we hope to see mayamada continue to host events in the future. They had great intensions, but it is clear they tried to do too much with too little. This event was made to promote their brand, and we are sure their target audience would be more receptive if they actually knew more about it. Anime games and cosplaying complement each other, which is half of what mayamada represents, so in theory this event should have been a success. The cake aspect of the event was unnecessary as the games are what drove people in. With a stronger emphasis on their brand, mayamada has the potential to captivate their audience.