FULLSYNC on tour! Was it good to be back for i68?

by MaddOx
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No, we are not talking about sleepless nights. We are of course talking about the Insomnia Gaming Festival. Back once again for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And some of the FULLSYNC team were lucky enough to attend.

The last time FULLSYNC had the pleasure of attending such an event was i65, which was way back in August of 2019. A time when wearing masks in public was just for avoiding breathing in smog in China, and where isolating from others was through personal choice because people are horrible, not to prevent spreading a deadly virus.

However, Randy went and shagged a Pangolin, and then the world went to pot, and we are where we are. The fortunate thing is, that things are starting to slowly get back to normal, which means events like Insomnia are starting back up again.

But what was the first Insomnia like after lockdown? Well, we’ve two FULLSYNC viewpoints for you today. My own, the one of a repeat visitor, having been to a fair few of these events now, and the views of a newbie, with VRLars attending his very first one.

Weeee’rrreeee back

As mentioned, I have been to a few Insomnia festivals now with FULLSYNC, and I have said time and again how they seem to be declining in quality. That was until i65 when I got my first taste of Borderlands 3 ahead of the game’s release.

Now I was not expecting fireworks and a Disneyland experience, but I did expect better than what we saw. Usually, when we attend, there are big displays, booths giving out free samples, and double-decker gaming buses. It truly is an experience. This time, however, that wasn’t the case. Even we brought freebies as well in the form of our lovely FULLSYNC vinyl stickers for anyone that came to say hello to us.

FULLSYNC Sticker next to RGB keyboard

So what was so wrong with i68?

Well, for example, PlayStation usually has a huge display for their main game, and Nintendo usually has a stage where they hold talks and tournaments with plenty of consoles around for people to play. This year, all the major console manufacturers were in the same little square. All they had was about eight consoles each, kind of like the displays you used to find in GAME back in the day when they had demo versions of games available to try in-store.

But that wasn’t even the worst bit. The layout this year just seemed like chaos. The marketplace was extremely compacted together with barely any space to see what was on offer. The VR zone was hidden away in the darkness of the BYOC section, despite some VR and AR games being displayed in a different hall entirely. And the usual esports stage was combined with the main stage, with a smaller section available to watch for the early rounds which offered little space if a crowd was gathering.

The signage was also poor too, so it took a while to find the main stage because it was hidden away by a big curtain. And once we did find it, we couldn’t see a schedule anywhere for what was on show, we ended up having to download an app to find out what was going on.

Insomnia Gaming Festival i68 main hall

There were some enjoyable parts though. The indie section as always was strong, and we saw a fair few interesting games, trying out the likes of Kurat, and Survive The Nights, which I liked the look of that much I bought a bundle there and then before even trying the game. We’ll cover these games in more detail in the future, because, they deserve more than a little snippet of how FULLSYNC’s trip to the NEC went.

The board game area was also great once more. Well laid out, unlike the rest of the show, with plenty of games to try out, and helpful faces on standby to talk you through how the games work. One of the FULLSYNC team ended up buying a few bits for a fun project we have further down the line, but you’ll have to wait a while to find out what that is.

The only other real thing that had the kind of pizazz I was hoping for was the cosplayers. People who spend hours upon hours crafting costumes that resemble their favourite characters from video games, anime and more. Definitely one of the highlights of them all though was meeting this spartan below.

Halo Cosplay at i68

And what about the newbie? What did FULLSYNC’s VRLars make of it all?

A fresh FULLSYNC perspective

I had incredibly high hopes for Insomnia this year. I’m a total newcomer to the event, and Josh had regaled me with tales of its magnitude several times in the lead up to our visit. What I got was a bit of a letdown, but honestly, at this point, it’s hard to say if anything would have lived up to the hype.

I feel like what we got this time round was an incredibly diluted version of what Insomnia could be. In all honesty, there just wasn’t that much to see unless you were particularly keen on Esports.

CeX were there with a man in a robot costume, handing out samples of Beyond NRG and keyrings if you liked their team on Twitter. There was also a bit of casual army propaganda in the form of a giant tank you could take photos with, which seemed just a tad insensitive given the current climate.

We spent a good while looking for Sony and Xbox who were supposedly there, only to discover that yes, they were. Tucked away in a little corner with a couple of arcade machine-sized booths, not really doing much of anything.

On paper, there were tons to do, and lots of people were having a great time, but I didn’t really feel the big hook. The highlight was the board game area, lavishly furnished with games you could play at your leisure. I also really enjoyed sitting down for a quick chat with the guys behind Kurat, a really promising indie game that plays like a multiplayer version of Inscryption.

Kurat at Insomnia 68 in the indie section

Would I go back to Insomnia for another trip? I’m not sure. I felt like we’d seen all there was to see in just a couple of short hours.

The overall thoughts?

Well, in all honesty, the entire FULLSYNC team agreed it was a letdown. There were people enjoying themselves, but it no longer feels like a full weekend event unless you go to every show and watch all the esports tournaments. We managed to do a quick lap to see everything in about half an hour, then it maybe took a couple of hours at best once we had checked out everything we wanted to see that didn’t have massive queues.

The highlight was probably going out into Birmingham afterwards with a bunch of our custom stickers in hand repping FULLSYNC, eating some tasty Vietnamese food, and having one too many beverages in places like NQ64 and Subside. It definitely made up for a disappointing trip.

What I will say though, is this is the first event since lockdowns lifted. So as bad as I thought the event was, I think the FULLSYNC team are willing to let it slide. We’ve all been through a lot, and although there was plenty of time to plan the biggest and best Insomnia yet, I can imagine it wasn’t as straightforward as usual. We’re just hoping the next one doesn’t continue on this downward spiral and bucks the trend.

Check out more about events we’ve attended as FULLSYNC by clicking HERE.

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