Insomnia is an event that is hard not to hear about nowadays. With the increasing popularity of the events, it seems that many social spheres start to gravitate towards this event, with the appearance of many massively popular Youtubers at these events becoming a massive draw for potential attendees. Whilst Insomnia is definitely more geared towards the gaming culture, it does a good job of diversifying what it has to offer. Lets see what was on offer at Insomnia 61.
Ticket Pricing is always an important factor in events like these. Insomnia's ticket prices are reasonably more expensive than some similar pop culture festivals, but there is good reason for this. A typical day ticket will cost you about £25, but gives you access to all general access areas of i61, which in this case spanned over a massive 4 halls, all of which were packed with stalls, games and more. The extra price really isn't an issue when you realize just how much is on offer here, and the basic day ticket allows entry at 10:30am until 6PM, giving you an ample 7 and 1/2 hours to explore the convention.
There are indeed other tickets available, but I'm unfortunately unsure on the pricing of these, seeing as I had press entry. There are tickets for weekend access, which give you of course, access to the two days of the event that take place on the weekend. These are usually the two busiest days, so you can expect somewhat longer queuing times, but the atmosphere is indeed better on these days. You can also purchase a BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) Ticket, which offers access to the BYOC section, a massive LAN party where hundreds of gamers can bring their own PCs or consoles and play together, again with a massive focus on atmosphere. BYOC Check-In times are more lenient than the day/weekend access tickets, allowing entrance to the event at 9am, with check-in closing daily at 11PM. You can buy yourself even earlier access with an EAS ticket, which can only be added to BYOC or Weekend Festival tickets. These allow entry into the LAN hall from 6pm on Thursday evening.
So with all this talk of early check-ins and bringing your own computer, it makes sense to mention the biggest aspect of Insomnia, and also the pseudo-namesake of the event: Camping. Insomnia events offer a camping space for BYOC ticket holders, meaning that gamers can happily spend all night gaming with friends and strangers alike, and then retreat to their tents to rest before another day of intense gameplay.
There is also the possibility to meet some very popular Youtubers, and thus meet & greet tickets will also allow you the opportunity to meet them. This year, it seemed there were only meet & greet tickets for DanTDM, a popular Youtuber that was doing limited meet & greet sessions on the Saturday and Sunday
Again, as a press pass holder I unfortunately cannot comment on the price of BYOC, Weekend Access or Weekend Festival tickets, but I highly encourage making an educated decision on exactly what Insomnia offers for different ticket holders.
Convention Size & Variety of attractions
Insomnia 61 is enormous. We've already touched a little bit on the size of the convention in the Ticket Pricing section, but the sheer size of i61 cannot be overstated. Stretching across 5 halls, you'll find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to variety. Whilst there are a few stalls that offer similar products, they are indeed different enough to justify there being multiple vendors. Candy, Japanese Food, Drones, Hardware, Desks, Viking Drink Horns, there is quite literally a stall for anyone and everyone at Insomnia 61.
Aside from vendors and stalls, gaming is of course a massive focus at Insomnia 61. Almost all of the big names have notable booths at i61, and the fierce competition this creates is clearly for the best, with every single brand name booth vying to be bigger and better than the others, offering a lot for the customer. Razer offered a pure gaming experience, providing a chance to play the latest Steam Early Access success, Shotgun Farmers on Razer's latest line of top of the line gaming peripherals. Player Unknown's Battlegrounds also made an appearance, being playable on notebook computers. MSI, Corsair, CoolerMaster etc also made their presence felt, offering not only a premium gaming experience for those lucky enough to get a spot on their uber-powerful rigs, but also appealing to the tech-porn crowd, showing off some ridiculous computers. A highlight was of course, The Transformer, a ridiculously powerful, liquid-cooled computer with a case made of automated metal sheets that open on command. The Transformer would unfortunately run you up about £7.7k, but the cool factor is definitely there.
Whilst gaming and vendors are the biggest part of Insomnia 61, Meet & Greets are also a huge attraction. i61 saw the appearance of massive names such as TheSyndicateProject, Ali-A, DanTDM and more at their own dedicated booths, along with smaller Youtubers such as Chubbs, Ellbob, ImAllexx etc occupying spots at the Fanfiber booth, a stall offering merchandise for smaller Youtubers. Meeting some of the bigger names at Insomnia events can sometimes incur an extra cost as mentioned above, but at this event only DanTDM seemed to have paid meet & greet sessions.
Gaming – What Is On Offer?
Now, with Insomnia 61 being a gaming convention, we should take a closer look at exactly what is on offer when it comes to gaming. The short answer? There was a lot.
Triple-A title releases were definitely a big focus at i61. Titles like Gran Turismo and the private Call of Duty: WW2 Beta were available to play by the general public, with upcoming releases like Super Mario Odyssey, South Park: Fractured But Whole & Farcry 5 drawing massive crowds every day. As previously mentioned, Shotgun Farmers & PUBG drew large crowds at the Razer booth, with the insanely popular Overwatch taking pride of place at many booths.
PS4 also had a large section, showing off SUPERHOT VR and Team Bravo, two upcoming titles for the PSVR peripheral and PS4 Pro Console. Speaking of the Pro, many games were available to play on massive TV sets with this powerful console, including the new Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. PS4's booth was definitely a show of strength for the brand. Xbox's absence from i61 was odd, with the release of the Xbox One X coming in just a few months, it would have made sense for Xbox to be there competing with the PS4, but it didn't detract from the success of any of the other attractions.
There was definitely a focus on tournaments at Insomnia 61. Beyond Entertainment offered tournaments in a variety of games from Fifa 17 to Rocket League to Overwatch, whilst the UK Masters Summer '17 tournaments played out opposite on a massive stage, featuring League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 LAN Finals and the Old School Runescape Wilderness Wars, among many other games played out on the main eSports stage.
Indie Games also held a considerable amount of space at i61, with both recently released and pre-development titles on showcase for the general public to play. Many titles in the Indie section looked promising in both concept and gameplay, whilst also being of a wide enough variety that there was something for most people to enjoy. I personally spoke with one of the developers for Stuffed, a co-op shooter focused on simple yet enjoyable gameplay. For a game that was still in alpha and had only four developers on the team, the game looked very promising, and it wouldn't be surprising to see it as one of the next successes on Steam Early Access when it eventually makes the move there. If you'd like to find out more about Stuffed and play the alpha for free, you can find their website here.
Retro Gaming was also a big part of i61, and was often absolutely packed full of people. There's nothing quite like seeing old TV's lined up on a long table, all hooked up to the original Xbox system. Halo 2 was being played on these sets, and was easily the most popular title in the Retro section. I'm no fan of Halo myself, but even I sat down and had a few games. Its very hard to pass up the opportunity to play an old classic, especially in a LAN setting where your opponents are quite literally sat across from you. Not only that, but the atmosphere in the entire retro section was amazing. Its not uncommon to see 6 people stood around one TV set, all playing Smash Bros. Systems in the Retro section ranged from the Gamecube, PS1, NES, all the way up to the Wii U and Xbox 360. It feels odd seeing Modern Warfare 2 being played in the Retro section, until you realize it released 8 years ago and you're not actually a child anymore.
Arcade Machines were also an attraction in this section, though not as popular as the free consoles on offer. Pinball Machines for KISS and ACDC really did show their age, though had clearly been kept in brilliant condition, looking almost brand new. The Cornerstone of the Retro section was the Retro Gaming Store, selling a wide variety of games for the Gameboy Advance, PS1, PS2, Dreamcast, SNES and more. This store was also selling gaming lanyards, badges, and some light refreshments, a great place to grab a quick drink between games.
The Retro Section, like the BYOC section, is where you can really soak up the atmosphere of i61. Everyone is there simply to have fun and enjoy themselves, and play games with people. Seeing so many people all together in one place playing games is definitely different, especially in 2017 where everything is so digital both socially and in gaming, but this is one of the places where you can experience what it used to be like before the advent of super-fast internet, and the sheer fun of it cannot be expressed with just words.
So to answer the pressing question of this article, how was it? Insomnia 61 was, for me, amazing. I knew I'd probably enjoy my time there, but I didn't quite expect there to be so much on offer, with such a wide variety of things to buy, watch, and do. Both attendees and staff of Insomnia 61 are extremely friendly and welcoming, something that regular convention-goers will be accustomed to, but also a nice way to welcome those who perhaps have made Insomnia 61 their first convention.
From animation to board games, foreign foods to meeting your favourite personalities, there is quite literally something for everybody at Insomnia 61, which is clear from the diversity in both ages and genders of attendees.
Tickets are of decent value. £25 for day entry may seem a bit steep, but for the extensive attractions on offer, I think its a fair price. BYOC and camping seems like the premium Insomnia experience, and though I can't speak on the price, I suspect the experience is well worth the cost of the ticket. You can expect to spend a decent amount of money inside the convention; food is of course expensive, and there are many things you can buy at Insomnia 61 that you may not be able to find elsewhere, but hey, you don't go to a convention to not spend money, do you?
Overall, Insomnia 61 was a brilliant experience and I would recommend it to anyone. I will be attending Insomnia 62 in the 2018 Easter Bank Holiday, just over 211 days away, and I can't wait.
To see a selection of phtoos I took at Insomnia 61, click here.