Insomnia 69 Gaming Festival

Last weekend, I was finally able to return to the Insomnia Gaming Festival, which I last attended in 2019. Given just how much had happened in the interim, I was curious about whether the festival would be how I remembered it, or whether it would have been forced to take a new form.

My friend Danny has also written about the weekend. We bounced a lot of ideas off each other while we were there, so in many cases we’ve come to similar conclusions, but I’d recommend reading his post as its much funnier than mine!


The first thing I noticed was about Insomnia was that the event seemed smaller this year. We arrived at the entrance hall only a few minutes before the 10:30am start time yet were still near the front of the line. Similarly, while we had previously queued in front of a large stage, this time we were presented with a corridor made of barriers and a single screen that played the same 2-minute intro video for the entire weekend. While the usual staples of playable games, tabletop games, merch stands and exhibitors were all present, there were less of them than in 2019. In fact, Friday was much quieter than I expected.

Initially, some of our group were disappointed by the smaller scale and lack of upcoming games or AAA games, given that at previous shows we had been able to play games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and The Division 2 before they were released. I wasn’t particularly annoyed, as the main reason why I go to Insomnia is to spend time with friends who I only physically see at Insomnia, but I definitely hadn’t found the festival as impressive as I had found it in 2018 or 2019. Fortunately, the Pub Quiz later provided some context that assuaged my worries and changed my view of the weekend.

Continue reading “Insomnia 69 Gaming Festival”

EGX 2018

After enjoying my visit to Insomnia63 last month, I was looking forwards to visiting similar events in future. However, I wasn’t expecting the chance to attend another one quite so quickly. On Sunday I went to the final day of EGX 2018, alongside two of my friends. Danny, aka Adoboros, has also written up his thoughts on EGX here if you want to read them.

The Arena

As Insomnia took place so recently, and in the same building as EGX, I instantly noticed the visual contrast between the two events. While EGX had a similar number amount of stands, it appeared less visually cluttered and more organised. Its fairly dimmed lighting made navigation easier by allowing colourful stands and lights to stand out. From an audio perspective, EGX also had fairly good sound balancing, where loud displays didn’t spill over into quieter displays too often.

Finally, the ratio of game displays to merchandise displays was weighted far more in favour of gaming at EGX. Merchandise was given a fair space, but games were front and centre.

The Games

I can’t go to a games expo and not mention the games, so here we go. The first game I tried was Soul Calibur 6. I’ve previously enjoyed Soul Calibur 2, 4, and 5, so I had a fairly good idea of the newest instalment might be like. SC6 delivered everything you would expect from a 3D fighter – fluidly-animated character models battling in beautifully rendered backgrounds, accompanied by flashy weapon effects. It slightly refined and polished every part of SC5 …. However, that’s all it did. To me, SC6 felt like an update rather than a new game. The only gameplay difference I saw was an increased use of dramatic slow-motion hits and special attacks which took away my camera control. For me, that was a negative change. It increased spectacle and drama, but at the expense of player control.

Then, I played Team Sonic Racing. The core aspects of arcade racing, drifting to gain boost, and using item pickups to take out opponents were all present, and they felt just as satisfying as they did in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The ability to trade items also seemed helpful. With my play time limited to one race, I couldn’t get much information about the team interactions, or how much strategic play the team ultimate mechanic may offer.TSR is enjoyable, and I appreciate that Sumo Digital are building a more co-operative racing game, given that previous attempts at this style, like Onrush, have struggled.

Continue reading “EGX 2018”

Insomnia 63 Gaming Festival

This weekend I had the brand new experience of going to the Insomnia Gaming Festival. Having never been to any gaming events or tournaments, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had a full weekend ticket, so I was there from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon.

As families often attend over just Saturday and Sunday, Friday was a fairly quiet introduction to the festival environment. We were able to get our bearings and explore the arena, and we could try all but the largest activities without queuing.

Layout and Content

The front of the arena hall was dominated by upcoming AAA games such as The Division 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, FIFA 19, and Marvel’s Spider-Man. A large Nintendo Switch zone, with playable pre-release and already-released games plus live stage shows, was hugely popular all weekend. A major sponsor was Belong by GAME: they provided a gaming space of ~80 PCs, which were used for pre-booked team tournaments and impromptu public tournaments.

Part of the Belong gaming space.

Much of the arena was reserved for people with bring-your-own-console tickets, rather than for publicly-accessible gaming. However, there was a retro gaming space with arcade and pinball machines,  older consoles such as the PS1, original Xbox, Gamecube, and Dreamcast, plus Japanese music games with peripherals I’ve never seen before. Other activities included a tabletop gaming zone, a laser maze, and an emerging sport called Flightball which was essentially Rocket League with drones.

PC parts manufactures such as Corsair and Razer were also present, but one glaring exception was Microsoft. There were no Xbox One consoles and no Xbox or Microsoft stands anywhere in the festival. The most visible game was Fortnite, to a surprising degree. A dedicated Fortnite zone was always busy, as was the small Battle Royale zone, yet every other playable space also contained Fortnite setups. Also, an entire merchandise stall was dedicated to plushy llamas.

Continue reading “Insomnia 63 Gaming Festival”