Easter is synonymous with many things. Chocolate, Rabbits, and the Insomnia gaming convention. The convention returned this past Easter Bank Holiday Weekend to Birmingham’s NEC, providing another four days of enjoyment that gamers from around the country look forward to for months. Lets take a look back at the past weekend and see exactly what Insomnia 64 brought to the table this year.
As usual, Insomnia’s ticket pricing this year remained much the same as the previous years, with standard day tickets for the most popular days (Saturday and Sunday) costing about £26, and a little lower for the Friday and Monday, with day tickets giving you entrance to the convention from 10:30am until closing at 6pm. This is usually ample time to get through what the convention offers, and this time around was no different. Good queue management is a difficult thing to accomplish, but Insomnia this year saw a wide variety of attractions with relatively short queues, even on the busiest days. You definitely wouldn’t struggle to get around the convention and try out many of the things on offer. Whilst the most popular titles in Fortnite, Apex Legends etc make their apperance, there are also many indie games, along room for tabletop gaming and pre-release titles, meaning there is always something, regardless of which aspect of gaming you’re most into.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) & Camping both return, it wouldn’t be an Insomnia without them. Whilst this is definitely an intensive experience designed for the most hardcore of gaming fans, the response of those that purchase these tickets is always a great one. Late night shows also provide entertainment for the campers, from the famous Insomnia Pub Quiz to A Dark Room, a text-based puzzle game played in a room with hundreds of other gamers. If you’re the sort that spends most of their nights awake playing games, Insomnia’s Camping & BYOC options might be perfect for you.
Personally, I attended as a press pass holder and, over the course of four days, had ample time to explore every aspect of the convention that a typical day holder would want to see. I feel like I can comfortable say that, even if you were to only attend for a single day, you would have had a great time, and the perfect chance to explore everything the convention has to offer.
CONVENTION SIZE & VARIETY OF ATTRACTIONS
Insomnia 64, for me, hit a good balance of size and variety. It seems that Insomnia in the Easter season is generally smaller than their massive Summer conventions. This makes some sense, as I could see how the organizers would expect less people to attend over the Easter break, as opposed to the long Summer holidays in August.
Personally I think, whilst a smaller convention seems a tad disappointing at a glance, its all about the variety of attractions, and Insomnia 64 nailed that aspect. Whilst Fortnite previously dominated many of the large conventions, this time the show remained very varied, even with the massive surge in popularity of Apex Legends. Don’t get me wrong, Apex was prevalent, but it seems like variety was the name of the game this time. Overwatch, Mortal Kombat 11, Days Gone, Retro, Indie, there was quite literally a little bit of everything, and it was a great sight to see. The convention hit a perfect balance of the new, the old, and the popular without over-saturating any of those factors.
Firstly, and probably the most initially interesting, is the presence of pre-release titles like Mortal Kombat 11 and Days Gone, which you can read our first impressions for here.
There’s something intriguing about playing pre-release games at conventions. Often held in closed booths with strict no photography policies, it feels like you’re getting a secret little preview of the games to come, even if the title is only releasing a week or two after the convention. Days Gone and Mortal Kombat 11’s booths saw heavy traffic throughout the weekend, and for obvious reasons. Mortal Kombat’s booth held a massive space with popular character Scorpion’s face glaring at passers by. Days Gone had an extraordinary booth, designed as a post-apocalyptic shelter complete with sheet metal, plywood boards, and decaying corpses. These sorts of huge displays add to the whole mystique of trying pre-release games, and its no wonder these titles drew such massive crowds over the convention’s long weekend.
An early access build of Dreams for the PS4 was also available, though didn’t really see the same massive amount of interest as the other pre-release titles did. Personally, I’d put this down to the sort of game Dreams is. From the pre-release material and speaking to Sony staff at the event, it seems the game is designed as more of a platform to create your own custom levels and games as opposed to a game with pre-defined gameplay parameters. Whilst I think the game itself is very interesting, I don’t think this game is the perfect fit to show at Insomnia without the wealth of community creations that will flood the game upon release.
Then of course, you have the popular titles you expect to see. Apex Legends made its Insomnia debut after its recent rise to massive popularity, being popular at the Republic of Gamers booth, along with competitive tournaments of the game being ran by Belong Esports. Fortnite, which had dominated many past conventions, this time took a back seat to Respawn Entertainment’s new success. Nevertheless, Fortnite was indeed available to play at Insomnia 64. In fact, one of the more interesting Fortnite attractions was the massive booth which gathered roughly 100 players together to fight against one another in their own private lobby. Honestly, as someone who isn’t really a fan of Fortnite, I’ve always wondered why Insomnia hadn’t done this before, and seeing it done in this way was interesting even as a non-fan. Overwatch was also present at the Razer booth, and whilst it was only a smaller attraction considering how large the community for the game still is, it drew gamers to the booth, often making the Razer booth especially crowded.
Some other titles available to play at Insomnia were Smash Bros Ultimate, Splatoon, Battlefield V, Superhot VR, Beat Saber, Mortal Kombat 1, Halo 2, Left 4 Dead, older Call of Duty titles, House of the Dead and plenty more that would require a massive list to detail. There was quite literally something for everyone to play and enjoy, regardless of what you enjoy. As usual, the Indie Zone also had plenty of games and saw heavy interest from the convention goers. The Indie Zone is always a great place to chat to new game developers and meet probably some of the most passionate people you will ever meet, along with getting to play early builds of new and interesting games that you most likely would never have heard of before. The Retro Zone also played host to over a hundred screens filled with games from every era, from the Nintendo 64 to the Gamecube, the original Xbox to the PS2, Dreamcast to the Sega Genesis and everything inbetween. With plenty of games to play and a nearby store selling food, drinks and retro games, The Retro Zone is a great place to sit and play some games either with friends, alone, or with strangers.
MEET & GREETS
Of course, a big part of the Insomnia Experience is the opportunity to meet your favourite Youtube creators. From massive creators like Tom Syndicate and LD Shadowlady, to some of the recent rising stars of the platform like WillNE, Pyrocynical, and ImAllexx, and of course the many smaller creators that attend the event that you can find on the convention floor, or that organize their own meetups outside the event halls. Gaming & Youtube are almost synonymous with eachother, and the platform has been critical in giving rise to some of the most popular influencers since the dawn of the internet. If you’re a fan of any of the many creators that regularly attend Insomnia, its a great place to get to meet some of your favourite Youtube stars.
It wouldn’t be Insomnia without the various stores in the marketplace. Many things are available to purchase in the labyrinth of small stalls within the marketplace. Looking for some new gaming peripherals? Perhaps some artwork of your favourite TV Show or Anime? Clothing? Memorabilia? Replica Swords? All of these and much more are available within the marketplace. Personally, this is one of my favourite places in Insomnia. Some of the things available here are truly unique things that you’d struggle to find elsewhere, and whilst some items are fairly expensive, especially some of the clothing and art options, Insomnia is a great place to browse if you’re looking for something new for your collection. Regarding the prices though, they’re reasonably fair. £20 for a small canvas painting might sound a little bit high, but when you consider that each canvas is handpainted and in very short supply, the price becomes a lot more reasonable. Honestly, the Insomnia marketplace is always a fascinating places and I would struggle to believe that any person couldn’t find at least a few things that interest them.
eSports were again also a big feature at Insomnia 64, with the Arena stage playing host to Street Fighter, Overwatch, and more. The Nintendo Switch stage also saw large crowds gather to watch an ongoing Smash Bros Ultimate tournament, played by some of the best players in the world. Insomnia is also the host to one of the largest Team Fortress 2 competitive events, along with tournaments for Rocket League, CS:GO and more, though availability of these events depend upon the time of year that you go to visit Insomnia, as some tournaments are only once a year. Outside of the major eSports stage, as previously mentioned, convention goers could sign up for Fifa and Apex Legends tournaments through Belong eSports, adding an attraction for those hardcore gamers that have high aspirations within the eSports scene.
In closing, Insomnia 64 was marvellous. Whilst the actual convention size was smaller than the previous convention, good queue management and a massive variety of attractions helped to make the convention feel fresh, and avoid over-saturation of certain attractions that were a slight detriment to the previous events. Yet again, Insomnia seems to improve on their already tried and tested formula every year and never fails to deliver a great convention and, most importantly, a brilliant atmosphere that everyone can enjoy. From casuals to hardcore gamers, anime fans to TV show obsessives, there is absolutely something for everyone at Insomnia, and this time was absolutely no different.
Insomnia 65 takes place over the August bank holiday this year, and you can bet that we’ll be there to cover what will undoubtedly be another great event.
You can see all the photos I took at Insomnia 64 here.