We love a good excuse to get out of the FULLSYNC office, which is basically just a collection of small dark corners in our homes. And with the FORMAT launch party scheduled at Impossible in Manchester, just down the road from myself, we had that excuse.
Now, we’ve attended a fair few events in recent years. If you read our content regularly you’ll know that the last one we attended, i70, we were left unimpressed with what the event has become. Because it no longer feels like a gaming festival. And we’d been invited to FORMAT a few times, but we just could never make it for one reason or another.
That changed this year, and we were eager to head on down to check out what this event had to offer. So much so we even got together with event founder Simran Whitham to discuss the event in the weeks prior to the launch party.
Before we get into our own thoughts on the event though, let’s take a little look at what FORMAT actually is.
Simran Whitham on what FORMAT is…
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.
Hitting up FORMAT for the first time
I headed on down to FORMAT by train, it shouldn’t have been that long a journey from Chester, but a changeover at Crewe that was delayed by half hour set us back. Fortunately, there was a bar right next to us on Platform 6 and we had some drinks for the journey to tie us over. After arriving at Picadilly and not wanting to lose more time, we hopped in a cab and arrived at Impossible to a bustling scene inside and a queue stretching down the side of the building to get in.
It wasn’t too long of a wait to get in though, and there were some fantastic cosplayers outside waiting to greet and entertain everyone that had arrived.
Once inside, the place seem packed to the rafters. The floor you enter was full to the brim, as was the beer garden outside where the sun was shining. We quickly popped over to the bar for a beverage to keep our energy levels up and began taking a look around.
Since we had entered the middle floor, we got to checking out what was on display there first. There were a few games here and there dotted around, with developers showcasing what they had been working on sitting in their own little booths and giving gamers and non-gamers alike, a chance to check out their hard work. But what was really great was how friendly they all were when we started chatting with them.
One of our highlights from this floor was a small indie developer who had, through what we believe may be voodoo magic, created an interactive game using an Android projector and a pop-up book. Lowtek’s Light Book was clearly a prototype in its early days. But we were amazed at how turning the page of the book would continue the story, how the image was projected on the book and how you could control the character on screen using a wireless controller.
But after chatting to the man behind it, we were even more blown away that he’d made this in about five days.
We then headed downstairs, not before stopping by the Safe in Our World raffle stall to buy some tickets. It seemed to be our lucky night as well as we ended up getting a Super Rare Games physical copy of Strange Brigade on Nintendo Switch. After climbing down the stairs, we were greeted with another packed floor that definitely gave the event more of a nightlife feel with the lights turned down low, a DJ spinning tunes on the decks, and even more developers dotted around including Flix Interactive, Team17 and Leda Entertainment to name but a few.
Our standout game here though was a fighting game called Two Strikes, which admittedly I sucked at massively. But, it was great fun. No long health bars, no complicated combos, just who is quickest to basically land a successful hit on your opponent.
The graphics were what originally drew us in, with amazing artwork styled like something straight out of a manga. The way the colours were toned down on characters and enhanced on the backgrounds, and how the blood pouring from an opponent stood out. It was just beautiful to see.
But then we began playing, and to say we struggled to put down the controllers was an understatement. We tried out a few of the different fight locations, and also a few of the different fighters which use a range of different weapons, and I was mistaken to think long-range attacks would win me the battles. Still, I walked away with the glory after declaring “winner takes all” rules in our last battle.
While we were walking the floor, we also tasted some free samples of slushies supplied by Wraith Energy. Now, usually, I’m a Sneak man. And I think their Peach Iced Tea flavour is still my go-to drink. For now. But the Blueberry Lemonade was so nice, and we couldn’t go without also tasting a sample of the exclusive FORMAT X Wraith Energy Formango flavour.
This, admittedly, was also tasty and much better than the Electric Mango I bought from Sneak and now sits rotting away on the side in my kitchen. They were smooth, there was no weird aftertaste. My only complaint was I drank them too quickly and ended up with a brain freeze.
We also then went over to check out a small stand hosted by Studiotypes, a talent agency in the gaming industry. They were really friendly again, and super great to chat to. They also had their own charity giveaway where you could pay for turns on a claw machine where tickets could be won in their prize draw, all funds going to SpecialEffect. We’re eagerly awaiting to see if we bagged ourselves another win in that with the draw due this week.
After exploring what was offered downstairs, we went to the top floor which was a much smaller, and quieter area, for those who maybe wanted to escape some of the hustle and bustle. Fortunately for us, the bar was also quieter so we took advantage of that and with time an issue because we had a train to catch home later, we decided to head back downstairs. We caught the end of the performance of some live music from Tae Hawfa, which wasn’t our cup of tea, however, we appreciated the energy he brought to the stage. And it was a nice added element to the whole event to have live music.
That’s when the Safe in the World raffle took place, we collected our game and sadly, had to head off to catch our train home. However, I think it’s safe to say from our drunken cheesy smiles below, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. And we will definitely be going back again in the future. Though next time, a hotel is on the cards so we can stay from start to finish.
Our overall thoughts on FORMAT
As I’ve said before, gaming events seemed to be dying somewhat. Especially after attending the last Insomnia Gaming Festival. I get why when many developers are taking to the online world to do their own presentations on platforms like YouTube. Saving them a fortune from having to buy slots at expos and events across the world.
However, FORMAT has brought my faith back that there is still a place for them. The energy of FORMAT was great. Everyone was friendly, everyone got on, and there was nothing but positive vibes from the queue outside to every inch of every floor in the venue…and outside in the beer garden.
I genuinely don’t think I’ve been to a gaming event that has quite gripped me as much as FORMAT did. It was such a refreshing take on a gaming event, truly unique and unlike any other I’ve been to. The ability to actually mingle with like-minded people and the folks behind games, rather than reps that are there with little to no knowledge of what is on display, just made it all that more special.
I know in our chat with Simran, he mentioned there are big plans for the future. And I can’t wait to see what they are because I’m eager to get back to another FORMAT event. The one thing I do hope though, is that if it moves to a bigger venue and becomes an even bigger event than it already is, it doesn’t lose any of the magic that Simran and the team have put into FORMAT. Because that would be a shame. They have a winning formula right here, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That said, I am now craving another night like this to go to. I need more FORMAT in my life. I’ve been, I’ve seen, and they have conquered my heart to be a full-on FORMAT convert. We cannot wait for the next one to be announced, we just hope we don’t have to wait too long.
If you’ve not been to FORMAT before, we recommend you head on down and get involved. You can find all the latest information for their events by checking out their site and following them on their socials as well as keeping an eye out on our news section.