Insomnia Scotland Or A Noob’s First Convention
Iain McCracken takes in the sights at Insomnia Scotland
Let’s get a few things out of the way first.
I want to say a big thank-you to Multiplay for giving me the chance to cover the event. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take many photographs during the event as my camera’s battery was completely kaput. I did try to contact Multiplay’s press department to see if they had any stock shots they could allow me to use but unfortunately never received a reply.
Note to self, check your equipment BEFORE you’re about to leave for the day.
So what the hell is Insomnia?
To give you a bit of history, Insomnia (or as it was known for a while the I-series) started off back in 1999 as a LAN party of around 300 people that not only became something much bigger in later years but also gave birth to Multiplay itself. I-58 coming up in August at it’s new home at the NEC in Birmingham would be expected to draw crowds numbering in the thousands with the LAN still being a major part of the event but bringing with it an expo area, merchandising stalls and panels and shows from many major YouTube and Twitch stars.
Right, now you know what to expect from a standard Insomnia Festival, what about the first Scottish one? What did I get up to?
Let’s find out…
Saturday 30th May 2016
This is way too early for me to be up on a Saturday. Who’s idea was this anyway? Urgh. Right. Coffee, shower, then I can think.
Right. Now I’m all set to face the world. Check all my equipment. Notebook? Yep. Pens? Yep. Camera? Yep. Turn it on… umm… Take the battery out and plug it in… Seems to be charging.. OK. More coffee and I’ll try it again.
Check the battery again. Nothing… Bugger. OK. Take the charger with me? Sure.There’ll be somewhere where I can charge it there and test again. Gotta go…
Bus arrives and I’m off to the races…
Good Grief, Look at that queue. Okay, Reckon I can try the camera again to get some shots of it.. No luck. Phone camera? I’ll give it a go…
Doors open and the mass of people is now moving…
And we’re in. Time to check out the full timetable and decide which bits I want to go to see. There’s two stages with stuff on all day so I need to make some decisions now.
What to do and when
At least the opening ceremony is the only thing on at 11. So I guess I know where I’m going first…
The opening ceremony is really something to behold. You can clearly tell they’ve put plenty of effort into it. Introducing the special guests and then letting Hat Films join some audience members for some rocket league madness that culminated in a young man (who’s name I now forget) winning two weekend tickets to August’s Insomnia 58 down in Birmingham.
It also allows them to introduce all the youtube personalities that will be attending and giving panels during the event.
“Which YouTube personalities came to the first ever Insomnia Scotland?” I hear you ask. Well I’ll list them out for you in no particular order.
|Razzbowski||Suzy-Lu||The Prenti||Silent Core||Leahloveschief|
|Waglington||Mini Muka||Nilesy||O. Ryan (8BG)||Ryan (8BG)|
So what to look at first?
BBC Build It Scotland
This show was one that really sparked my interest. The idea of using games as an educational tool is one that I have been very interested in thanks in most part to many of my friends and family being teachers who have no interest or knowledge of gaming and the culture that surrounds it. If any of my readers here are teachers or have children between the ages of 7 and 14 the I urge you to check out the following link…
I would add that while the programme is running at the time of writing the final submission date is Friday 14th October 2016.
So what actually is it?
Build it Scotland is a programme being run jointly between BBC Scotland and Immersive Minds, a company that specialises in digital learning through the use of games.
The main aim of the programme is to teach 7-14 year olds some of the basic skills used in jobs such as architecture, materials science, and even games design. How? By getting them to build their favourite landmarks from their local area (or beyond) and having them placed on a massive map of scotland built in minecraft specially for this purpose. This map will then be made freely available to any and all as a snapshot of our digital heritage.
I think it’s a great idea.
However, rather than make this article all about one presentation on one stage I’m simply going to implore any and all of you to go and investigate this for yourselves. Even if only 10 people read this article then i can almost guarantee that at least 8 of you will have or know children that play minecraft regularly. I know at least one kid who spends hours and hours researching different architectural styles looking for something that catches his eye, simply so he can then go and try and build it in Minecraft and I’ll bet at least some of you know kids like this too.
However, time’s a-wasting so let’s move on to the next item on my little list.
The Exhibition Hall
This was probably my favourite part of the whole weekend. It was a hall filled with shops, a retro zone full of games like the original Mario Kart, I was planning to spend just a few minutes in here before heading back to another presentation but that was before I saw they had Oculus Rift on display. I ended up waiting for two hours to try it out but damn it was worth it. Wish the HTC Vive was on show as well but i guess you can’t have everything right?
I also spent some time talking to a few of the indie developers that were showcasing their games in the exhibition hall. One in particular caught my eye and I even managed to get a key to stream the dev demo of City Of The Shroud from Abyssal games.
Things like this are why I love the idea of conventions. The chance for developers to show off early versions of their game and get the public (and press) excited about how it’s coming along and the possibilities it brings.
Alongside this there were the usual stalls selling all manner of things including one from Overclockers selling whole PCs. I guess if you had a BYOC ticket (which gave you access to the LAN area which we’ll talk about in a bit) you could arrive empty handed and leave with a new PC… Thank God I spent just over £1300 on a new PC at Christmas or I’d probably have spent a long time drooling over the ones on display. Everything from a £400 basic system right up to top of the line ones starting at almost £2000. You also had your usual sets of merchandising from companies like Razer, Funky Collectibles, RetroActive and more. All in all a nice wide range of things to buy.
The Bring Your Own Computer hall is where the insomnia Festival’s roots shine through. It’s always been about getting a bunch of your mates together for a huge LAN party and getting to take part in competitions with thousands of pounds worth of prize money.
Hat Films VS Scoland
The last thing I managed to fit into my day was a visit to the final show on the main stage. It pitted the two Hat Films guys against a random selection of people from the audience for 2v2 games of Rocket League. (Needless to say we kicked their asses…)
All in all I’d say it was a very successful showing for Insomnia’s first visit to Scotland and I hope to see it become a yearly event. You could say it was quite muted when compared to Insomnia’s usual outings but given the fact that they’re brave enough to try something new and expand it out to what is, essentially, a new country makes me happy. It shows that once again they are doing well enough to take a gamble. Will that gamble pay off? I guess that will depend on how well it did in terms of ticket sales and sponsorship (everything always depends on the money). Still if they decide to come back I’d definitely try for the BYOC ticket. At around £85 it may seem a little above the price range of some but when you realise that it’s a 4 day pass with a camping area set up in the venue you begin to compare it to tickets to festivals such as T in the Park where tickets for the whole weekend cost from £184 each. Less than half the price and a lot less mud seems good to me, but perhaps I’m just getting too old.