The days of returning home from school to play Crash Bandicoot, eat beans on toast and head to bed are over and London's attempt to recreate it are unconvincing. Bars might have a deck of cards, a dying Connect 4 with one of its legs bandaged up and perhaps if we're lucky, the more literary of hangouts might leave out a Scrabble. But it's a thoroughly analogue affair, where digital games are banished as objects which distract from 'proper' interaction. To encourage friendly participation and buck the trend, Islington-based bar, Meltdown champion digital gaming with tournaments and friendly play. Just don't unplug the game before the next checkpoint.
The bar's situated five minutes walk away from Caledonian Road station and sits inside what was once an old pub. It's now an 'esports bar', a cheeky wink to how, at Meltdown, Pro Evo trumps 5-a-side. You'll see the neon 'M on the outside buzzing away amid Cally Roads kebab shop signs, as neon is to Meltdown what water is to fish: they need it, love it and must have it. Computers, all of which are surrounded by gamers (some in specialist gaming chairs) tapping away, fill the room. Large TV screens are mounted on the walls streaming game information. The bar is at the back of the room and is lit (you'll be surprised to know) with another green neon sign, the kind of green you'd find on the old packets of toxic waste, that too-sour-to-be-fun sweet.
Music: Ambient, Lounge
Dress Code: None
Train Station: Caledonian Road & Barnsbury
Address: Meltdown, 342 Caledonian Road, London, N1 1BB
There's plenty of levels to play for here. Easy mode takes you through house spirits at £3. Monster Energy is a partner in the whole shindig so you won't be surprised to see plenty of energy fuelled drinks clutched in hands of many a patron. The cocktails take the neon look (plenty of Midori, grenadine and curacao here!) and set it alight, literally, because, as you know, fire is cool and gamers like fire. Beers range from Carlsberg at £3 a pint to Peroni at £4.80. Rock music plays in the background, much of which is drowned out by the breathtaking multitasking ability of the players who speak, play, laugh and drink, often at the same time. Impressive.
Refreshingly, Meltdown is miles from your highly strung, fashion conscious bar. Here, what you look like is unimportant. And what fun it is! Who are you likely to find here? Well, unsurprisingly... gamers. Although not exclusively. In fact, it's not quite the intimidating, saloon bar entrance you might expect. There's no pushing open of batwing doors to be met with judgemental eyes or standoffs from people clutching controllers. The folks at Meltdown more than welcome new blood and a fresh challenge, so you're inviting to pull up a chair. Or rather, roll one over. If you're looking for a bar a bit out of the ordinary and fancy meeting gamers whose passion is play over posing, then march down to Meltdown.
You know that sense of real satisfaction that comes from reaching the next checkpoint in a game or levelling up Wartortle to Blastoise? There's a similar sense of satisfaction in reaching Meltdown, a place that's game if you are and willing to become a save point in your life as you work towards the weekend. If Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj ever left The Cheesecake Factory, they'd do well to get here. And so would you, for this is your destiny, young gameboy-er.