Chatting to FORMAT founder, Simran Whitham

by MaddOx
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It seems ages ago that the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world as we know it and gaming events everywhere were being cancelled. But, slowly they have started to return over the last year or so, and we’ve been fortunate to attend some ourselves. The next big event that we’re attending will be FORMAT later this month, a unique event that creates a nightlife movement for gamers.

Before the event though, which we’ll give details for below, we’ve been chatting with event organiser Simran Whitham about FORMAT. From the challenges they’ve faced to how the event has developed and what attendees can expect at FORMAT later this month, we reveal all in our latest interview. So, without further delay, let’s see what Simran had to say when we questioned him about the UK’s biggest community gaming nightlife event.

Hi Simran, we’ll leave the introductions for now as we have previously chatted back in the days of Manchester Gamers Unite. So instead, why not tell us a little about what you’ve been up to since our last chat back in 2019?

FORMAT has grown so much since 2019. We obviously faced the biggest challenge the games industry events sector has ever faced in 2020, but throughout the pandemic, we used the time in lockdown to rebrand our whole company and from there our growth has been insane.

Our events have grown triple the amount since we last spoke, with us expanding across all three floors of the iconic venue of Impossible MCR, launching our own energy drink collaboration with Wraith Energy, and attracting businesses, community leaders and creators from all over Europe to attend our events, and the expansion of FORMAT outside of Manchester.

Honestly, there’s so much to cover that it would take up a whole page but if I had to sum it up, amazing growth is what has occurred since 2019.

FORMAT Team outside Impossible MCR

This event has been going on for a few years now. Can you briefly describe the concept of FORMAT and what inspired you to create it?

FORMAT is a nightlife movement for gamers and non-gamers alike who are leading a revolution throughout the UK to change the game.

Building a community unlike any seen before through the power of community-driven development, we are unifying two worlds to create an event unlike any of its kind.

We host large-scale gaming and nightlife culture events, where we host a wide variety of music, culture, and entertainment artists, video game studio headliners, brands and community leaders all throughout the country to create an event experience to remember

I was inspired to create a games industry event that fused traditional nightlife culture with the greatest entertainment medium on the planet, video games because I felt that there was no nightlife movement for gamers and game developers that united both worlds together in a non-corporate manner like a lot of traditional trade shows seen today.

What are the main goals and objectives of FORMAT? How do you hope to achieve them?

FORMAT has already achieved its primary goal of building a nightlife movement for the games industry as we’re now the world’s biggest games industry nightlife event.

Our further goal is to continue to grow and fulfil our ultimate dream and see us become the Warehouse Project of video games. To provide the real games industry nightlife festival that this industry deserves.

It isn’t a matter of how, more a matter of when as FORMAT’s continuous growth and support from our games industry and hospitality partners is enabling us to chip away at our long-term plans and make them a reality.

We have some really exciting partners backing our long-term vision for the games industry events sector, and soon you will be hearing the next phase of what is coming next.

How does FORMAT differ from other events in the gaming industry?

Simply put, we put the community first.

A lot of traditional games industry events are very corporate in nature and designed around selling attendees products or services whilst focusing most of the time on a single target audience.

FORMAT is a nightlife movement for gamers, content creators and game developers uniting them through an ethos called community-driven development where we put game developers, content creators and gamers on the same playing field, where all areas of the gaming community come together as one.

We blend the best bits of nightlife culture with the brilliance and modularity of video game culture together to form the ultimate gaming social and nightlife movement for gamers and non-gamers alike.

FORMAT nightlife

With the world not really that long ago having gone through the COVID-19 pandemic, what challenges have you faced in promoting FORMAT and attracting attendees?

So to be honest we haven’t faced many issues in attracting attendees to our events post-lockdown, in fact, we’ve seen the opposite: the post-lockdown events have performed better than their pre-lockdown counterparts.

We’ve seen a huge appetite for events since returning from that very hard time for our sector.

The pandemic was hard for all events, we tried digital and it just showed that there will always be an appetite for an IRL physical event, we’re tribal creatures by nature and we seek a tribe to attach ourselves to, and that’s what events do, they enable us to find and build our own tribe through mutual love of video game culture.

And because of FORMAT’s unique approach to blending nightlife culture with video game culture, we’ve provided a unique event unlike anything else available on the market so we’ve seen an increase in attendees wanting something different from the standard corporate industry trade show.

What other key challenges have you faced in organising and planning FORMAT? How have you addressed these challenges?

Events management is something you have to WANT to do, it’s not for the faint of heart.

FORMAT also has a much wider range of moving components to manage such as our exhibitors, retail partners, live acts and performers, sponsors, equipment, our VIP industry night RE: FORMAT, and so much more and with that comes many challenges.

From a planning perspective, we’re constantly faced with finding innovative and fresh new game studios and partners for our events to avoid FORMAT becoming repetitive, ensuring all exhibitors are communicating with us and turning up for events, meeting our partners and sponsors needs, producing marketing materials and consistent social content, working with creators/press and that’s just SOME of the stuff we do behind the scenes to build successful events…

One of the key ways we tackle so many tasks that require you to stay on top of them is constant communication and attention to detail.

It’s the little details that you never notice at events that make them so successful, but if they’re not there you’ll notice. We’re always checking in with our exhibitors, sponsors, creators, external partners, and venue holders to ensure that all the moving components that make FORMAT up are working in harmony with each other.

To add some gamification to this I’ll use the analogy of imagining the event as an open-world, interactive choice video game, the player will have unlimited routes and content they can interact with and you want the world to feel as alive as possible. But to do that technically you need to have a lot of systems communicating with each other to play out the multiple possibilities the player can do whilst simultaneously letting them have a trouble-free experience.

FORMAT Halo characters on stage

What measures have you taken to make FORMAT more inclusive and accessible to a diverse audience?

FORMAT by its nature is for everyone, we’ve broken down the demographic barriers a lot of traditional events subconsciously have.

You tend to discover that a lot of events tend to focus on one core demographic i.e. dev, gamer or creator events that don’t make anyone from an alternative demographic really connect and build relations, FORMAT brings everyone together regardless of where you are from.

Our slogan is that we are a nightlife movement for gamers and non-gamers alike and we take that seriously, the beauty of video game culture is that anyone can be a gamer and we focus on highlighting this a lot, especially in our creator and developer marketing videos where we highlight a wide variety of creators and developers from underrepresented backgrounds and genders to really highlight that we are an event for all.

What kind of feedback have you received from the gaming community so far from past events? And how have you used this feedback to improve this year’s event?

We are very humbled and privileged to say we’ve never hosted a “bad” event in our seven-year history, we’ve had so much praise about how we’ve beautifully blended nightlife culture and video game culture together whilst making it inclusive to even the most introverted of attendees.

Past feedback from attendees has seen us incorporate elements such as our VIP industry night RE: FORMAT, live music artists on stage, more networking opportunities for developers and even a quiet area for those who feel overwhelmed by the more traditional nightlife or exhibition elements of the event.

Now we’ve discussed the event in general and the challenges in running the event, let’s talk about the FORMAT 2023 launch party. When and where is the event being held, and how can people get themselves a ticket?

The event is being held in the best city in the UK Manchester, at the iconic Impossible MCR across all three floors, and attendees can purchase tickets at

FORMAT stage

Debatable about being the best city, you’re forgetting Liverpool is just down the road. Are there any notable developers, publishers, or industry professionals participating in the event? If so, in what capacity?

We have the largest number of exhibitors, sponsors and partners a FORMAT event has ever seen. Some of the most noticeable ones are:

  • Team 17 who are exhibiting the latest updates for Hell Let Loose and their newest title Marauders.
  • Flix Interactive, one of the development houses behind Sea of Thieves, Sniper Elite, and many more are joining us as a sponsor and exhibitor showcasing something very cool….
  • Neonvibes is the UK’s leading neon sign manufacturer and is supplying a wide variety of gaming and FORMAT neon signs for both our RE: FORMAT VIP night and the main event on May 25th.
  • We have Arcade Club UK coming with a range of their signature arcade machines
  • Rezzil is coming with their amazing VR sports title Rezzil Player, a truly unique VR sports experience.
  • We have the leading games industry recruiter Studiotypes attending with a custom photo booth and claw machine attendees can win prizes from.
  • We’re hosting a charity raffle with Safe in our World where we’ll be giving away a large number of prizes live on stage to our attendees
  • Wraith Energy who we recently launched an energy drink collaboration with FORMANGO will be attending to showcase our energy drink collaboration off to our attendees
  • noblechairs will be providing some of their signature gaming chairs for our exhibition spaces
  • We’re working with the amazing Manchester-based clothing brand Hundredtag Studios to launch a pop-up shop with a limited number of exclusive FORMAT x Hundredtags signature jackets available only at this event.

Can you give us an overview of the games or gaming genres that will be featured at FORMAT?

We have a huge variety of video games at our events, we always try and diversify the types of games on showcase so every type of gamer feels like there’s a showcase for them so there isn’t really an overview of specific genres.

We are very selective with the games we put on showcase as they are a representation of FORMAT’s events so we can guarantee you’ll enjoy what we have on offer.

FORMAT gaming

Are there any opportunities for attendees to network with industry professionals or potential collaborators?

Absolutely, one of the main USPs of FORMAT’s events is that there are no formal barriers between creative and consumers and all the studios/brands are casually walking around the event within a stone’s throw of each other so there’s plenty of networking to be done.

How do you see your event evolving in the future? Are there plans for expansion or additional editions?

So, I am keeping a tight lid on this but expansion is coming 😉

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring event organisers or those looking to get involved in the gaming industry?

One of the best pieces of advice I can give for anyone looking to break into events is that consistency is key, and you must not be afraid to approach people.

And there we have it. We’d like to thank Simran for answering our questions, and the folks at Kuoda UK for helping to organise the interview. Remember, you can book tickets online via the official website, or click here to head over to the ticket store. Tickets start at just £6.50 for entry, but you can use discount code FRM_MCR25 in order to get 25% off ticket prices.

If you decide to attend, we’ll see you there. If not, thanks for reading, and be sure to keep coming back for more gaming news, reviews and interviews with people from the gaming industry. Bye for now!

Check out more of our interviews with people from the gaming and tech worlds by clicking here.

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