On a street in Edinburgh’s City centre, in a premise between a veterinary surgeon and a hairdressers, bloody battles are fought out, daring raids against rival gangs are plotted and the fates of hundreds are decided on a whim.
Before you reach for the telephone to call the emergency services however, bear in mind that this is The Ministry of Gaming. It’s an online computer game & internet cafe with a loyal and devoted clientele of intelligent, interesting and friendly gamers whose hobby allows them to socialise with like-minded people across the world and spend quality time using some serious PC processing power and technology in a safe, well-run establishment.
I was shown around The Ministry of Gaming by proprietor Dave.
“There’s a true sense of community here,” he says, pointing at the people engrossed in their screens and at the branded t-shirts on the walls. “World of Warcraft is our most popular game: we have several ‘Guilds’ operating out of the shop that come in here regularly to play it. Our staff are very respected in their knowledge of online computer games of all genres.”
He calls over one of the World of Warcraft players, a bright and personable young student.
“We love getting together in real life,” she says, referring to her World of Warcraft clanmates. “Whether playing or not, it’s great to be together with people you share something with.”
As she returns to her PC, Dave details a little more about his business.
“We’ve got 28 top-range gaming PCs,” he says, “with our own dedicated Internet connection deployed across our local area network. We’ve also got 3 online and networked Xbox 360s, and a Wii for the tournament nights we often have.”
A board next to the counter lists upcoming events: everything from football game tournaments to sessions with Guitar Hero. The emphasis is on fun and community, although new technology is something the business has to always keep on top of.
“We’re constantly upgrading our PC kit,” says Dave. “We’ve got a two-out, two-in policy, meaning we always have the latest builds on premise for games that really need them. We sell the older stock on second-hand.”
Leading me downstairs away from the glow of the screens, he shows me a small room with a felt-covered table. “This our tabletop gaming space,” he explains. “We sell some of the Games Workshop stuff upstairs and their games – like Warhammer 40,000 – have quite a following.”
Back in the main section The Ministry of Gaming, I ask about the clientele.
“A lot of our customers are students and young professionals – programmers and IT network people,” he says. “And most of them are playing MMOs.” (massively multiplayer online games, like World of Warcraft)
“We get a steady stream of people wanting to use our dedicated internet machines for checking email and browsing; we had people who were almost based here during the Festival using our PCs.”
“I remember one guy who came in here regularly during the Festival – I’m sure I recognised him from US TV dramas. Anyway, he took two machines and was running Eve Online (a complex online game of space strategy and intrigue) on both of them. Turns out, in the game he was using one character to lure people into traps; and the other account to benefit from the bounty – he was a double agent!”
Dave goes on to tell me a little about the company’s history. The Ministry of Gaming was born in late 2006, and – like many businesses – was impacted by the recession. Things are picking up again however and the MoG’s loyal customers have helped with that.
In the future, he’s considering expanding the premises; extending the space at the rear and installing a dedicated XBox 360 space. The all-nighters and game-specific challenges will continue, and Dave is keen to strengthen relationships with other gaming cafes in Belfast and Glasgow.
Due to celebrate its official 3rd birthday in March, The Ministry of Gaming is a busy, yet relaxed and friendly place. Even if you’re not familiar with the gaming scene, what they have done in a relatively short space of time – create a place for gamers to meet and play with a true sense of community – is impressive.
So, even if you’re a n00b or a veteran seeking to p0wn your latest rival, the Ministry of Gaming will welcome you – with friendly customers, expert staff and the latest kit to allow you to live out your electronic fantasies as you see fit.
Check out the Ministry of Gaming’s website for more information.