For most people in the UK, the last weekend of August was a normal bank holiday, a time designed to make people feel better about themselves by allowing them to binge watch Jeremy Kyle all day. However, for some people, the last weekend of August was a call to arms. The beacons were lit at the Ricoh Arena in the land of Coventry, drawing gamers far and wide, from all corners of an area within reasonable driving distance of the Midlands.
This hailed the beginning of the 55th Insomnia Gaming Festival, a LAN of epic proportions, and by that I mean much smaller than Dreamhack but still of a respectable size. What follows is a (slightly exaggerated) taste of what it is like to be cooped up in a room with hundreds of sweaty men for an entire weekend.
Firstly, making use of the Early Arrival Service is essential. For one thing, it lets everyone know that you’re not a scrub. If you are found to be a scrub – and you will be found because we can smell it on you – you will be shunned as someone who is just too casual to function. Secondly, it gives you time to make up for the beyond awful seat picking service by stealing your ideal seats. Don’t worry, no one will say anything because they won’t dare approach you when you put your headphones on and get into a tense game of CS:GO, lest they feel your rage as you fail that clutch play.
“If you are found to be a scrub – and you will be found because we can smell it on you – you will be shunned as someone who is just too casual to function”
Next you have to get all your equipment out of your car. Oh, it’s raining? Too bad. Watch as thousands of people desperately wobble through the downpour covering their PCs like a newborn babe. Now, got all your gear up three floors and into your awkwardly placed seat? Nope, you haven’t. You forgot your HDMI cable. Off you go. Back to the car. Haha! This is more exercise than you’ll ever do. But don’t worry, you’re about to make up for it by being slovenly for the next three days. Right, now to pitch your tent. Yes, a tent, as in camping, as in not inside. Daunting, isn’t it? Well you shouldn’t be daunted; you’ll only be on the campsite for those few precious hours of sleep. Unless you forgot an airbed. Oh, did you forget your airbed? Welcome to three nights of hell on earth.
So you’re finally all set up. You’ve claimed your row in the hall, and all your mates are raring to play some games. And you play those games. All the time. With each other. What? You thought I was going to write a commentary on playing games? I thought it was self-explanatory? Okay, rather than talk about games, let’s talk about the people playing the games.
“Presumably all these people have a jolly good time”
You’ve got your hardcore FPS players. They’re probably wearing those overly high tech sporty team shirts with their ridiculous Steam names on their back. Every time you see them they will either be playing CS:GO or writhing on the floor after an overdose of Red Bull. Then you’ve got your party game players. One of their mates brought a screen that is of a rather impolite size and they spend the weekend playing Super Smash Bros and shouting abuse. Then there are those that exclusively play single player games. We assume that these people don’t quite understand what’s going on, and are just playing something to try to fit in. Usually sat near them are the non-gamers. These people are so confused that they don’t even realise that you’re there to play games, and instead use their PC purely for browsing Reddit and watching TV. If the TV show they are watching is some sort of dubious Anime, you must never look them in the eyes, for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain. And then of course you have normal people who play a decent variety of fun multiplayer games, made more enjoyable by the fact that you know that you’re all sharing the same environment that is just slightly worse than your own home. And presumably all these people have a jolly good time.
For those that have never been to a LAN event, here are some other things that you can expect to experience:
- At least once a day the call for “Buttscratcher!” will go up, at which point you are all expected to reply “Buttscratcher!” ad infinitum.
- By the end of the weekend somebody should have hopefully made a beer can tower that touches the ceiling. This ritual is completed when the tower falls and seriously injures all in its path.
- On the night of the infamous Pub Quiz, people who previously had very little interest in socialising will be fuelled by glorious mead and will converge on the nearest member of the opposite sex. However, with a male:female ratio of around 20:1, this can become quite hilarious and/or uncomfortable for sober onlookers.
- Your diet will undoubtedly reach new heights of childlike hedonism, and the few available toilets will pay the terrible price.
- On the off chance that you venture out into the Exhibition area to mingle with the filthy “Day Pass” holders, you will be met with an untold amount of unaffordable hardware that will make you rethink your entire life. You may also witness the bizarre world of amateur cosplay, which is equal parts entertaining and sad.
- Whilst initially intrigued by all of the scheduled events on offer, you will quickly become disillusioned as it becomes apparent that all events are exclusively designed to give meaning to the lives of young teens in letting them bask in the glory of their favourite YouTuber. Once the children have gone to bed however, you may console yourself with some top notch eSports.
- If you play in a pro tournament, you will lose. If you play in an amateur tournament, you will lose. The tournament system, the admins, and the other participants will all make you question your commitment to being alive. You have been warned.
Hopefully through all the sarcasm and disdain you got the impression that Insomnia 55, and LANs in general, is the absolute best. I cannot recommend these sorts of events enough, despite what I have said (almost all in jest, I might add). And this, coming from someone who was hospitalised at Insomnia 49 due to, ahem, “tummy troubles”. For all those interested in having a right laugh with their mates, or just having the opportunity to meet like-minded people, Multiplay run Insomnia events three times a year. Also, as a heads up, Dreamhack is finally coming to the UK this year in the form of a tournament/expo, with plans to expand it into a LAN like its Swedish counterpart next year.
Dig out your Ethernet cables and join the party!