In­som­nia 61

Mike Jen­nings headed to Mul­ti­play’s re­cent four-day gam­ing ex­trav­a­ganza at Birm­ing­ham’s NEC

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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.

EX­HIBITS

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

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