Venture down the escalator at London’s Selfridges to the lower ground floor, and you’ll find yourself in a gamer’s paradise. The recently opened PlayHouse, a 200 sq m store curated by Smartech, brings together digital and physical experiences, with the ambition to open up the world of gaming for all.

Both experienced and first-time gamers are welcome here to try the latest must-haves from Xbox series X, PlayStation 5, and Spectacles by Snap. Retro arcade games are also on display – the pièce de résistance being a 12K Gold Arcade Machine from Polycade.

There are immersive VR experiences from Robocom, and for those who want to try out life in the fast lane – sessions on AMR-C01, the first luxury home racing simulator by Aston Martin, can be booked.

The Playhouse by Smartech space at Selfridges

Gaming as a way to connect

The new opening – a permanent fixture following a previous pop-up space – taps into the soaring popularity of video games during the pandemic, as people found distraction, and community, on the other side of the screen. In 2020, 62 per cent of UK adults played some form of video game, many of whom had never picked up a controller before.

Bringing this community together IRL is central to the ethos behind PlayHouse. ‘It’s clear that gaming became something that brought joy to people and families, and connection to one another,’  says Smartech co-founder and CEO Nathalie Bernce. ‘It has shown that many have found a new outlet for much-needed contact in isolation.’ 

Retro video games at the Playhouse by Smartech space at Selfridges

Products from 85 next gen makers will be showcased, creating a new platform for people to try and discover products before they buy. The launch takes place as part of a larger transformation of the technology department at the Oxford Street store, with a move towards experiential retail.

Designed to encourage and inspire play, the space has highly instagrammable features, including pastel-hued arches and interactive playbooths. Each month it will play host to coding workshops, a platform for promoting females in tech, with future planned events including a live artist personalisation station with Controller Modz and in-store gaming-PC building workshops powered by Battlerigs.

Aston Martin’s debut racing simulator debut racing simulator AMR-C01

It’s this blend of the physical and digital experiences that holds the key to the future of gaming, according to Bernce. ‘More than ever, people crave human connection, playful experiences and to discover new things.’ §