After missing Insomnia 70, I decided to check out Insomnia 71. If you’ve not read our previous coverage of Insomnia, it’s a gaming event held at the NEC in Birmingham, UK, with a large LAN party and indoor camping. But it also has a connected expo, which is what we’re checking out.
Stages, Events, and Guests
While visitors will likely be spending much of their time on the show floor, there were quite a few stage shows. These seemed to focus on content creators and voice actors, with a few well-known cosplayers too.
Pyrocynical had a talk on stage and a booth for a meet and greet on the show floor. There were several other Youtubers and streamers too, both as part of the show and just wandering around enjoying the show, talking to people, and creating content. There were quite a few people with press badges such as myself too, though I imagine we’re generally less recognizable.
Ben Starr (whose performance we praised as Clive in our review of Final Fantasy XVI) was there. Faye Mata (Petra in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes) and other voice actors took part in a segment too. There was also the opportunity to pay for a meet and greet with photos and autographs on the show floor.
One of the events was a cosplay masquerade. It was great to watch and there were some impressive costumes. That said, I didn’t see much cosplay at Insomnia 71 overall in comparison to previous times I’ve been and other expos.
There were some extra shows too, though they do come with a separate fee. For example, the World Famous Pub Quiz which raises money for Special Effect, and The Dark Room.
The Splatoon 3 European Championship 2023 UK & Ireland was hosted at Insomnia 71 too. There were plenty of eSports on display as well, with smaller events being held.
Brands and Stores
Onto the show floor itself, there was quite a lot to explore. Alongside many small stalls selling anime and gaming goods at premium prices to throw money at, there were plenty of games to play.
As well as the small stores, big brands like Intel, Razer, and Lenovo had areas to show off their tech, with PC stores like Scan and Overclockers alongside them to sell parts. They had a lot of PCs on display, including one with an amazing-looking Evangelion design.
There were areas to play on the PCs, with a variety of FPS and other titles. I sat down with a bunch of others and took part in a quick round of Golf With Your Friends with some other attendees.
Despite there being quite a few known titles to play due to the above, it didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of publisher support for the event. Nintendo was there due to Splatoon, Bandai Namco had Tekken 8 playable for the first time in the UK, and Team17 had Headbangers and Moving Out 2 (which was great co-op fun), but there wasn’t much else. It’s not like the old Insomnia with a lot more new and upcoming titles, like when Sony had Spiderman (PS4) featured for the first time in the UK.
Retro and Indie
While small, a retro game corner was available. However, I do have to question if I’m getting old, since they had PlayStation 2 and Xbox games there as retro, alongside arcade and Super Nintendo. I was happy to have the chance to play titles like Turtles in Time and Donkey Kong on the actual arcade machines, as I’m not old enough that arcade machines were around much when I was young.
Luckily, indie games were relatively well represented. There was both a general indie zone and the Tranzfuser zone, which is a program that supports graduates in developing games. Quite a few genres were represented here from racing to point-and-click. There was even one called Dongon, which had me acting as a vet to a giant turtle in virtual reality.
Unfortunately, the indie zone was yet again placed right by the speakers. This made it really difficult to hear what the developers were talking about at times and gave the impression that it’s a low priority for Insomnia.
One of the major benefits of attending expos is trying out a variety of technology, including VR. Insomnia 71 didn’t have a huge amount of this, but what it did have was impressive.
I’ve been wanting to try out the KAT VR Omni-Directional VR Treadmills for years, and I was surprised to find a couple were set up there. Perhaps a puzzle game wasn’t the most exciting one to test it with, but it gave me a good idea of the capabilities of the device. It’s quite immersive and a good workout to use. There was quite a line to try it out, but it was worth it. I’d love to have one for Skyrim VR and other games.
MeetSpace VR had a setup to test out wireless location-based VR with their own action games, such as a zombie wave defense. This was an extra charge of £10 for 15 minutes. It looked pretty interesting, though perhaps the charge put people off or I had bad timing. It seemed empty most times when I passed by. They have a variety of locations in the UK and speaking to the staff there, they told me they host a lot of teambuilding events and have VR escape rooms too.
There were a couple of other indie VR games around in the indie section too. One of them was using the Meta Quest Pro, so it was interesting to try that out.
Outside of virtual reality, there was Hado, which is an augmented reality game. In short, it’s a 3v3 AR sport where players throw energy balls at each other, dodge, and shield. I’ve played before and it’s fun.
Several racing rigs were on display too. I didn’t see any with VR too which was a pity, but getting to try out the wheel, pedals, gears, cockpit, and so on is still a unique experience.
The Royal Navy was tucked away in a corner. They had a laser tag area set up. It was good fun, if exhausting, to dodge between all the barriers and play. It’s just another thing that you’d usually have to go somewhere specific to play, so having it at Insomnia 71 and included in the price of entry was a nice bonus.
There was a store showing off and selling 3D printers. I had to resist the temptation to pick one up, yet again.
Acezone headphones were on display too. They had a setup where you could test them out and play a game that showed off the ability to clearly hear footsteps in FPS games and other details. They’re a fairly new brand that I hadn’t heard of before, but their headphones seemed impressive from a quick test.
Insomnia is definitely a great place to give a variety of different gaming technologies a try.
Insomnia 71 was a fun event. While it still doesn’t match up with the Insomnia events of old, there’s plenty to do for a day out. Checking out all the technology on display was a highlight and there were some interesting upcoming indie titles.
Many thanks go to Insomnia Gaming Festival for providing a press pass for this event.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.