Insomnia61 in August last was my first time at the event which promotes itself as ‘the UK’s biggest gaming festival’. Having the stepson in tow meant we sadly couldn’t participate in the BYOC and camping part of the weekend because he’s too young, but I certainly felt that festival vibe. We tried out a number of indie games (with Nature’s Zombie Apocalypse going down well with the boys); checked out the merchandise (and fortunately didn’t bankrupt ourselves); and saw a show featuring one of Ethan’s favourite YouTubers.
The day turned out to be more fun for him than my other-half and I because we don’t watch a lot of YouTube and therefore had no idea who the majority of the ‘special guests’ were. We also saw a few things that made us feel us feel a little uncomfortable in terms of the games these celebrities were playing and how frequently they tried to push branded merchandise to an audience consisting of mostly under-tens. On the positive side though, Ethan finally saw his idol as a real person and a gamer who makes mistakes like the rest of us.
We therefore headed off to Insomnia63 last weekend feeling slightly apprehensive but interested to see whether the atmosphere and behaviour had changed in light of recent controversies. Particularly curious was the fact that Alfie Deyes was there despite him landing in hot water earlier this year, but unfortunately he was only around on the Friday so we didn’t get to see what impact this had. As for the other special guests in attendance… yep, still no clue who they were.
ROAD-TRIP! We're on our way to @IGFestUK in Birmingham, let us know if you're going to to be there! 🎮—
Later Levels (@LaterLevels) August 25, 2018
The thing that struck us though was just how young they all were. And I’m not talking about the fact that Pete and I are getting older or are positively ancient compared to a lot of gamers nowadays. The meet-and-greet stands we passed seemed to be manned by kids who were barely into their teens and should probably be sorting out homework ready for a return to school in September. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this; while YouTube has opened a lot of new career paths, I can’t help but worry about its possible negative impact.
Anyway, Ethan wasn’t interested in any of the guests this year and wanted to focus on playing video games. TerraTech by Payload Studios, an open-world design-and-build title which has been doing the rounds at expos for several years now, caught his attention this time and we must have spent at least an hour in total playing it. We also tried Cat Quest II by The Gentlebros, along with Jarheads by Gareth Williams and Yukatan by Hairy Heart Games.
But that was it: other than a quick go on the original The Typing of the Dead (I couldn’t resist), watching a football match played by drones and buying a bit of merch this was all we did for the entire day. The thing we’ve come to realise about Insomnia is that if you’re not interested in the YouTubers and have an under-16 with you so therefore participate in the BYOC and indoor-camping bit of the event – or aren’t interested in playing Fortnite (more about that later this week) – there isn’t an awful lot to do.
Next on the calendar is EGX towards the end of September and after a couple of somewhat disappointing expos, I’m looking forward to it. Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to be there on the Thursday so I can keep an eye out for you and say hello.
Insomnia63 photo gallery