by Bradley McManus
Insomnia is the UK's biggest gaming festival! What actually goes on behind the many different doors at Coventry? Part one of our write up looks at the event itself.
Travelling to Coventry from East Kent is a substantial journey. Leaving home at 5:45am got me to the Ricoh Arena just before 10am via 3 trains, a taxi and fair bit of walking. I could have made it quicker, but the concept of paying £148 for a peak-time return train seemed a little insane.
I would do it again. The lure of a room so full of technology that you can actually smell it is something so rare that I would consider it a man-made phenomenon. Insomnia is an all PC focused event full of high end systems builders and pieces of art that most people would simply call a "computer".
There are still some big games there. Pre-releases such as Fifa 16, Homefront Revolution (which will get it's own article later this week), Battleborn & Gears Ultimate Edition but that's about it. Nintendo had a strong presence with a set of already released games and you could wander around and find the likes of Rocket League, Destiny, Counter Strike, The Witcher, Drive Club - the list goes on. This is an event for impressing people with hardware and to make big sales, not to show you games coming soon.
Insomnia also has YouTubers attending who have now reached such a size that they actually offer some of the largest areas covered by stands. Several of the Yogscast were in attendance as were The Sidemen. ProSyndicate also made random appearances in a less structured manner which went down very well with the crowd full of some pretty hardcore fans. The presence of YouTubers shows the state of the industry and how vital the content creators are. Fans of all ages embraced the occasion and were often wearing the colours of their team (appropriate, given the venue was the home ground of Coventry FC & Wasps RFC). There is a massive merchandise opportunity for these brands at events like Insomnia where combining the purchase with the very real chance to meet their heroes is something irresistible. Everyone’s a winner. There are very few places you can meet a these guys so you will often find people queuing to meet them over actually playing the games.
So here I am, surrounded by Beast Caps & Diggy Diggy Hole Tee’s at and event catering to pretty intense gamers who haul their systems across the country to literally play all weekend at a reserved table. Throw in a retro area, indie showcase, boardgame tutorials, gaming theatre, competitions and a cosplay stand (phew). Never have I seen a gaming festival with such an audacious attempt to please everyone.
Without a doubt Insomnia’s biggest strength is something I have yet to fully immerse myself in, the BYOC (bring your own console/computer) experience. When explaining to my wife about this it really was quite difficult to quantify. Why would someone take their system away to a stuffy hall when they could quite easily complete these tasks at home in considerably more comfort?
Truth be told, I’m not certain as I haven’t done it but I can give it a fair guess.
In the same way you can watch Glastonbury on TV, it doesn’t quite compare with being there and living it. Yes, we all hear the same music but it’s just not the same. Many gamers and clans actually live far apart, some of whom have never actually met in real life. Events like this allow an otherwise impossible meeting to happen. I know some of you will be reading this and thinking that they could easily arrange a day out and go for a pint like any normal friend, but it’s not the same - just trust me on that one. When making friends online, it’s usually through the medium of a specific game which becomes your common ground. Take that away and it is the same as taking the ground from beneath your feet, you feel isolated and completely unsure of what to do. I’ve been there and experienced it, it’s really freaking weird. Insomnia gives us the chance to meet in a familiar environment and embrace our hobby with likeminded individuals. Being a computer geek is often isolating and events like Insomnia are something to be truly celebrated. Life often gets in the way of videogames and here is an opportunity to embrace it.
After attending EGX and similar events, to see Insomnia being called “The UK’s biggest” was very confusing – I would imagine that EGX has the biggest number of attendees for example. They manage to say this because it is a festival, not an expo. The festival experience is something I absolutely need to do and will be doing at the next Insomnia.
A jack-of-all-trades festival, it tries hard to cover all bases and to a fair extent it achieves this. Insomnia very much celebrates the ethos of the gamer, no matter their age, experience or platform. A chance for the PC Master Race to settle in and quite intensely game the night away. A chance for the kids to meet their YouTube heroes. A chance to regress and beat your colleagues on a PS1 copy of Pro Evo with a broken controller (yes, this really happened). And a chance speak to indie developers about their games directly and do some live debugging.
Don’t turn up expecting Call of Duty & the latest Assassin’s Creed. Come for the games, stay for the gamers. Well done Insomnia, I look forward to many more.
The venue has moved to the NEC in Birmingham so it's a lot more convenient for being arriving by train.
See you in December - information & tickets can be bought online from Mutiplay at their official site.