Mike Jennings headed to Multiplay’s recent four-day gaming extravaganza at Birmingham’s NEC
We report back from Multiplay’s latest multiplayer gaming fest at the Birmingham NEC.
Insomnia is Britain’s biggest gaming festival, and its growth since it began in 1999 has been stratospheric. Starting as a tiny gathering in Swindon, it moved to Newbury Racecourse, and then upwards to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. These days, Insomnia festivals are so large that they’re held at the Birmingham NEC – Britain’s latest exhibition centre.
PC GAMER CENTRAL
The numbers involved are sensational. There’s a Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) gaming hall that holds 3,500 gamers and their PCs, and around 40,000 visitors stream through the doors across four days to see hundreds of exhibitors and try thousands of games.
The result was an incredible experience at August’s Insomnia61 festival. Walking through the densely populated LAN halls, we saw some PC gamers arrive with their desktop rigs on trolleys, while others sauntered to their tables with small form-factor PCs designed to make light work of LAN shows.
Groups of friends hung fairy lights and banners around their clusters of PCs, while others lugged carts of energy drinks, water and snacks to their berths for the four-day event. There were even VIP booths available, with space for two monitors, extra power and networking points, a comfier chair and priority access at the bar.
An entire hall was set aside, so the keenest gamers could camp on-site, and renowned UK builder Chillblast rocked up with hundreds of systems to rent for the weekend. It was also possible to buy new components from retailers at the show, and a help desk and fully stocked tuck shop were available to keep gamers and their PCs running smoothly.
There were dozens of tournaments, from low-key affairs to high-stakes events featuring professional teams, and the Player Stage sat in the middle of the BYOC hall to provide a world-class view of the biggest matchups in the UK Masters series. Meanwhile, Insomnia’s Casual Cups offer the perfect way for players to get started in competitive gaming. These tournaments encompass a huge range of games, don’t offer prize money and offer a pressure-free environment to learn competitive play and make new friends.
If you’re confident in your gaming ability, there are also Insomnia’s open tournaments, which cover a huge range of top-tier games, including Overwatch, Rocket League, Hearthstone, CS: GO and League of Legends. The prize pools in these events at Insomnia61 ranged from £500 up to £7,500, so there’s plenty of cash to be won if you have the skills.
Some of the world’s biggest tech companies also showed off their wares at Insomnia61. MSI debuted new Dragonbranded gaming laptops and held a PC speed-build contest, and Asus presented its vast range of PCs, laptops and components. Ebuyer had a huge stand filled with top-notch components, and Zotac’s competitions kept the crowds entertained after the firm partnered with gaming publisher nDreams.
Meanwhile, Gigabyte worked with CCL to show off its range of X299 hardware and Aorus gaming machines, and Logitech’s stand was built around a fullsized F1 car. Corsair wowed the crowds with incredible small form-factor builds, and GT Omega Racing produced a giantsized gaming chair that was perfect for taking eye-catching photos.
Britain’s best system builders brought their wares to Isomnia61 too, from Scan and Overclockers UK to CyberPower, PC Specialist, Cube and Chillblast. These companies arrived with huge stands filled with incredible PCs, often sporting custom water cooling and RGB lighting, while the most eye-catching rigs abandoned tempered glass in favour of outrageous shapes and angled metal.
The stands aren’t just for showing off expensive, high-concept machines either. The big retailers sold components, laptops and desktop computers, with special one-day discounts available, and most companies also held giveaways and contests.
The main exhibition hall was huge, which meant there was room for even more excitement. Insomnia61 also featured a robot arena, where fearsome battlebots clashed in spark-causing combat, and a stunning drone racing circuit featured high-octane racing for the entire weekend.
ALL THE GAMES
One corner of the vast exhibition hall was dedicated to retro gaming, with dozens of museum-worthy machines ready to play, and there was an indie gaming space that presented the most innovative titles coming to the PC. There was even a huge space for tabletop gaming, plus stands selling merchandise and the chance to meet and greet celebs, from YouTubers and streamers to pro players and gaming personalities. The main stage had its own hall at Insomnia61, where each day was launched by an exciting opening ceremony, featuring announcements, surprises and giveaways. There were comedy shows, physical challenges and highlights videos. Big gaming stars such as DanDTM and the Yogscast had their own main stage shows, and there was a huge pub quiz on the first night. There was even a cosplay championship, with hundreds of pounds available for the best costumes. There was an incredible amount to play, see and do at Insomnia61, and the festival’s current location couldn’t make it easier. There’s a reason why Insomnia has grown to become Britain’s biggest gaming festival. There isn’t a better place in Britain to see the best PC builds and hardware, while also featuring consoles, cosplay, tabletop gaming and robot battles. There also isn’t a better place to set up camp for four days and play games with your friends, with the opportunity to compete in tournaments and win serious money. Insomnia61 was a stunning showcase of what gaming has to offer, and we now can’t wait until Insomnia62.
The most eye-catching rigs abandoned tempered glass in favour of outrageous shapes and angled metal
One corner of the vast exhibition hall was dedicated to retro gaming, with loads of old machines ready to play Logitech’s stand was built around a full-sized McLaren F1 car
Around 40,000 visitors stream through the doors across four days to see hundreds of exhibitors and try thousands of games
British system builders such as Chillblast showed off their wares