The Insomnia62 Gaming Festival took place at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham from 30 March to 2 April. TenEighty was invited to attend the event and catch the weekend’s excitement.
Over the Easter weekend, tens of thousands of attendees converged on the NEC to see their favourite YouTubers and Twitch streamers, as well as take a look at newly-released games and a plethora of eSports tournaments.
As we walked into the hall, we were met with The Yogscast’s merch stand, with viewers purchasing event exclusive posters and queuing throughout the weekend to meet Hannah Rutherford, Lewis Brindley, Duncan Jones, and Hat Films.
Toward the other opposite side of the hall, Tom Cassell had a similar stand where viewers could buy event-exclusive wristbands, as well as meet Tom, take pictures with him, and have him sign merchandise. We also saw other creators, such as Robot Gaming and Gary of Gizzy Gazza, meeting fans throughout the weekend at an area dedicated to meet-ups and signings.
After exploring the creator stands, we and the other attendees were treated to many attractions. A variety of market stalls were placed throughout the hall, where retailers were selling everything from gaming merchandise and pop culture memorabilia to bean bags and Viking drinking horns.
There were also a lot of stalls selling cosplay supplies and props, with cosplay itself being a big part of the weekend. However, Insomnia took it to a whole new level, going beyond encouraging guests to attend dressed as their favourite characters. They held a Community Cosplay Championship on 31 March, where cosplayers competed for a £300 grand prize, as well as an invitation to Insomnia’s upcoming event this August. We managed to catch part of the more casual Community Cosplay Masquerade on 1 April, where cosplayers competed for a trophy and bragging rights, our favourite being the person who did a full comedy skit as a character from Sea of Thieves. We were mesmerised.
That wasn’t the only stage show, with a highlight of the weekend being the daily Insomnia Show, where guests chatted about upcoming projects with hosts Matt Richards and Sam Bailey. We attended a couple of these shows, where we saw Yammy_xox and Oli Parsons talk about Fortnite’s meteoric rise in popularity within the YouTube gaming community and how it relates to the rapid trend cycles seen on the site over the past few years, as well an upcoming hosting gig for Yammy at the end of the year.
Grant Hinds also made an appearance during one of the live shows, talking about how he deals with the one-sided nature of YouTube, as well as taking part in a live cooking segment. Caspar Lee joined Grant and the hosts on stage, fielding questions from Instagram. He spoke about how his parents were very supportive of him when he first started YouTube and how he loved growing up in South Africa. Also, he hopes Jonah Hill will play him in a movie (as Zac Efron is far too attractive) and, no, he won’t be doing the undercard fight at the next KSI boxing match!
The event also had a heavy focus on eSports, with brackets and series taking place all weekend. Attendees and teams played at various stands throughout the exhibit hall, with the main stages hosting the Arena Clash Overwatch series and the UK Masters League of Legends grand final on 31 March and 1 April respectively. The Call of Duty World League also took place over the weekend, with teams from the UK and the US competing for a $200,000 prize pool.
For those not competing professionally, there were still opportunities to take part, with PlayStation and Nintendo offering more casual competitions in games like Mario Kart and Fortnite. This was also a chance for festivalgoers to meet and play games with their favourite YouTubers and streamers, with Caspar dropping by at one point. GAME also came along with one of their Belong gaming zones, where attendees were allowed the chance to compete in a smaller scale tournament, in games such as Rocket League, FIFA, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, with a £100 store credit prize up for grabs.
— Insomnia Gaming Fest (@IGFestUK) April 1, 2018
Another big draw at these stands was the opportunity to play new games, like Sea of Thieves and Minecraft on Nintendo Switch. Naturally, these attracted massive queues, so if you weren’t up for waiting you could drop by the Virtual Reality booths run by PlayStation and HTC Vive, or even visit the indie games stand to see smaller (but equally as exciting) titles that new developers are releasing this year. The community and older games in the quieter Retro Zone, as well the marketplace of used games and merchandise, were also well worth checking out, even if including Call of Duty 4 in the Retro Zone made us acutely aware of how old we are…
There were also tabletop games, “Bring Your Own Computer” sections, and more modern games to play within the Retro Zone if you really wanted to invest some time over the weekend. (We may or may not have spent a majority of our time in this section, reliving our youth.)
Finally, one of the big highlights of the weekend was Insomnia’s own game show, Nerds and Noobs, which occurred on the main stage throughout the festival’s four days. YouTubers took part in challenges based around video games and board games, which included identifying characters’ voices from a singular line of audio and completing a game of Buckaroo. (Also know as The Devil’s Game.) The Yogscast’s Lewis, Paul Sykes, Duncan, and Mark Turpin were Saturday’s participants. After a heated show, it culminated in a dance-off between Paul and Lewis, but inevitably the audience were the victors. (Based on points alone, of course).