by Nick Whitcroft
Sliding out of my bucket-seat and onto the train up to Coventry with my noble compatriot, Bradders, we laid out our plan of attack – buy more hats and play some FIFA. Fortunately, my skills as a navigator are known throughout the land and nothing would stand in our way… apart from maybe finding a door (the above image is very real).
I slept in a chair again. Fortunately it’s a nice chair – one of those snazzy DXRacer numbers because sometimes, when you spend all day in your office Aeron, when you come home what you really want is a snazzy red and black 180⁰ reclining monster to welcome you into your room with an unabashed sense of self-importance. By now you’ve probably worked out that I kind of like gadgets; or splurging money on things I totally need (thanks a lot, Kickstarter). It was this love of technology that had me so excited for Multiplay’s Insomnia55, to the point that sleep was something of an afterthought.
Marketing itself as ‘The UK’s Biggest Gaming Festival’ (yes, they have camping, folks), i55 is something of a novelty for those of us accustomed to the more typical convention scene – with the community at the heart of the event, it’s very much about the players here, and you’ll find yourself surrounded not only by the hottest upcoming releases and characteristically impressive cosplayers (Batman’s apparent romance with Lady Sonic was a breath of fresh air), but also tripping over a veritable smorgasbord of amazing rigs and Mountain Dew-fuelled fellow gamers sporting some of the handsomest rigs this side of the Pond.
Once inside, the main exhibition hall was bursting with tech. After venting a blend of enthusiasm and frustration to console-native Brad, in the form of a twenty minute lecture on the particulars of Cherry MX mechanical switch types, we finally compromised, settling on the conclusion that really he just needed a new mouse. Not to be deterred, thus commenced a herding from booth to booth, weighing up the slick simplicity of the Razer Deathadder vs. Logitech’s latest additions to their large-grip G series and my inevitably extolling the virtues of the Roccat Kone XTD, for which I have a large enough soft spot that I may have almost landed a job in their sales team if the looks my zealous monologue garnered from their attendants were anything to go on. Needless to say, Brad left empty-handed but suitably enlightened and I was satisfied my work was done. We might have bought something at Ebuyer stand – one of our favourite online stores – but they seemed to be a little preoccupied with getting their Windows license activated. We totally didn’t take photos…
Amongst the gaming itself, there was plenty more to take in: from Cooler Master’s customisable MasterCase workbench to Thermaltake’s wall-mounted P5 system, the array of vendors wares and latest showcases was enough to whet the appetite of anyone from the most budget-bound to ambitious of gamers. Whilst Brad almost left with a new Cube PC, I found myself drooling more than a little at the Overclockers UK stand – want 8K out of your rig; prepare to fork out £12k for the privilege, in the form of their new 4x Titan X-powered ‘Supernova’. I’ll get saving… Though CK Kohli of YOYOTech claims they’ve got something “phenomenal” of their own in the pipeline. And of course you’d have to be blind to miss Game’s not-so-subtle pirate ship, dominating the centre of the hall, captained by none other than UK CEO, Martyn Gibbs, at the helm.
As ever, so much of the technological advancement in the video game scene comes from a desire to get gamers closer to the action, whether that be in the form of helping builders get to the heart of their rig more easily (and flashily) – we’re looking at your H-Tower, In-Win – or helping truly immerse players in their game worlds. For the latter, we had the usual array of racing cockpits, but also a refreshingly interactive take on VR, in the form of Chillblast’s fan-made X-Wing combat simulator, powered by the Oculus Rift. After my shameful FIFA defeats at the hands of Brad earlier in the day, I was finally able to sink into a zen-like state and rack up what the exhibitor claimed was the best score he’d seen all day – I decided to quite whilst I was ahead. Perhaps one of the most novel sights of the day was BACKFACE’s 3D scanner and printer setup. Whilst we’re increasingly seeing ourselves imported into our gameworlds, in everything from our Xbox Live Avatars to EA’s Game Face technology, there’s still something singularly impressive (albeit mildly haunting) about seeing yourself so swiftly replicated in the physical world.
Needless to say, the mere day we were there to soak up the excitement of i55 provided only a taste of everything there was on show, but we’ll most certainly be back. For all you gamers and tech enthusiasts out there, get yourself along and be sure to look out for us in December.
Stay tuned to The Midnight Gamer for the latest and greatest from the gaming world! Insomnia55 might be behind us, but with EGX 2015 just around the corner, expect plenty more from the team here in the weeks to come.