This weekend showed the 50th LANiversary of the Insomnia gaming festival, and our WASDuk roving reporters were on hand to detail all the action as it unfolded.
Upon entering, the most immediate difference between this and other gaming festivals is the wide diversity of attendees. Everyone, from toddlers to pensioners on mobility scooters, seemed to be there to enjoy their common interest in gaming. Of course, being a PC-focused festival, there are also plenty of “stereotypical gamers”, too with startlingly expensive-looking ‘battle stations’. Not to mention the obligatory bronies. One thing that really struck home was the friendliness of the event. Most everyone we talked to were very happy to stop and chat about the festival and about their interests to anyone who took the time to ask.
The hall is split into different zones for the remainder of the event. There are separate sections of the Indie games, demonstrations of the new (even newer to us Brits) Xbox One, table-top RPGs and a large section for retro gaming, with a number of different consoles from ages past for visitors to sit around and have a bash at. This became our personal favourite area, as the old school TV sets and classics really got the nostalgia flowing.
The table-top area is dominated by card games and card game vendors, and there are loads of different games on offer to the connoisseur of traditional games. From countless versions of Monopoly, to less mainstream titles like Once Upon a Time and Braggart, there really is something here for everyone. It’s a great place to stop and bash out a few rounds of Braggart when you get tired of all the vidya.
Unsurprisingly, the busiest of the zones was the Minecraft setup, which was (also unsurprisingly) mostly populated by under 16’s. They’d brought along themed desktops, for the event. It was probably the quietest of the zones, players busily concentrating on smelting and fishing in a large multi-player environment.
In an adjacent hall, the LAN tournament itself was being held; and with a grand prize of £10,000 up for grabs the event was being taken very seriously, indeed. Some of them had been there since the previous day cramming on League of Legends, and it smelled faintly of what we could only assume to be determination, though a stewardess did later tell us that she’d been ferrying bottles of piss away from the computers from time to time. Not the best image to have stuck in your head, but this IS £10,000 we are talking about. The atmosphere of the LAN tournament was reverent, while amid the silence, one could now and again hear an elated cry of “YES!” from one side of the room followed shortly by a dejected, but almost-certainly related “NO!” from the other. All around, players were either frantically googling tactics, or sitting, staring forlornly at the screen in defeat. The players had brought their own rigs from home and we were very, very impressed with the artistry of it all, cases brimming with LED coolers and LCD screens that we dare not try to touch.
There were some cosplayers flitting around the LAN hall, too, in readiness for the cosplay masquerade competition later in the day. One in particular, Yuka, was judging the event dressed as Riven from LoL, and her costume was simply amazing. She spent some time telling us about how she loved cosplay because of the sense of community and how she had represented the UK at the European cosplay gathering and world cosplay summit in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
There were tons of vendors selling all kinds of merchandise, and we got into a conversation at one of their stalls with a very sweet 14yr old who was quite happy to chat to me for a while about his new-found love of Assassin’s Creed. He was even happy to explain, in-depth, his own designs for a hidden blade, activated by the twitch of an index finger. This time last year, he was playing Minecraft with the others.
As all must be, we were bitten by the merchandise bug fairly early on, and walked away with a few little bits and pieces. As you would expect, they were selling everything from action figures to t-shirts, and we couldn’t heIp but walk away with some Skyrim merch and some Game of Thrones pop heroes. The lack of actual video games for sale was disappointing, but it was a short stop to a game store to pick up some titles that had been recommended at the event.
All in all I enjoyed the day immensely and for someone who is as new to gaming as I am it was a great learning experience. I will reiterate that everyone was super friendly and engaging and the event was expertly planned out. I would highly recommend someone of any gaming level to check out an Insomnia event and I know I will be buying tickets again next year!
For those of new to gaming, festivals or going outside, we had no trouble, thanks to the super-friendly attendees and staff, and can only applaud the event organisers for planning everything so expertly. I would highly recommend it to gaming veterans and casual gamers alike, and will be sure to get tickets for the next of the tri-annual Insomnia gaming festivals.
The insomnia gaming festival 50th LANiversary is being held from the 29th Nov – 2nd Dec 2013, but check out their website for news on latest events!
When she’s not killing robot zombies in a futuristic wasteland, WASDuk Expeditionary Force Second Class Louise Windsor reports on feminist issues in gaming and whatever the ‘real world’ is.