It’s hard to believe that this was my thirteenth Insomnia. It’s interesting when the summer LAN comes around and we find ourselves reminiscing over that first ever event for our group, i49, now four years ago, back when I was aged 15 and still had to get my mum’s permission to attend. Things have come a long way since me, Ryan and Becky would lurk outside the VIP lounge at Telford hoping to ambush YouTubers; in fact, pretty much everything’s changed.
We now live in an age where the first of our group arrives as early as Wednesday, when Jamie (@_Morphh) helps the logistics volunteer team to set up the event. Now, more and more people make the journey on Thursday afternoon, with Bryony (@AnOrdinaryGirl) famously commencing proceedings by drinking on the train. We have Rody (@RodyGaming), Julia (@Juniorrwx) and Fabian (@AnUnordinaryGuy) – the Dutch squad – making the arduous overnight ferry trip and getting to the NEC before even midday on Thursday. Personally, I had just moved into my new student house in Birmingham the day before, and was due to be picked up by Ciaran (@Muskoke_) and Chloe (@Timber_Rifle) in the evening. As it turned out, they ended up picking me up considerably later than I had expected, so I found myself arriving at the NEC shortly before 11:30pm. Just as last summer, I had missed the standard check-in closing time, leaving me disappointed but not too worried, as the security guards at the entrance to the indoor camping hall were still able to take my camping ticket and give me an appropriate wristband. I hastily pitched my tent, dumped my belongings, and turned to leave when I noticed Nat (@NatzoHD), finally back at Insomnia for the first time since i57. Nat suggested that I may still be able be able to get into the LAN hall since I had my actual BYOC ticket on me, so I grabbed it from my tent. However, our first stop was in fact Wetherspoons, where I had thought I had seen Amy (@LikeTotallyAmy) on my way in. It turned out I was correct, and in addition to meeting her I ran into Sufi (@suufiii135), Ryan (@Jagerbomb7), Connor Brogan (@Constillate) and Rowan (@Bandgasmic). I had gotten to ‘Spoons at around 10 minutes to midnight, and had just enough time to buy a Kopparberg before last orders (which I had missed when I had been similarly late last summer). I had a bit of time to say hello to everyone (including Amy’s peculiar new friends, who instantly stole my top hat) and observed the drunken antics of Sufi (relatively new to alcohol, as readers may recall his first ever alcoholic drink from the i60 blog post) and some guy called Nile. Nat was keen to get back to BYOC and Spoons was in the process of closing, so I quickly finished off that first drink and the two of us made our way to the LAN hall entrance, though not before being stopped on the way by some randoms who wanted to take a picture with my hat on, to the amusement of another nearby Connor (@FIyover). When me and Nat got to BYOC, I explained my situation to a security guard, who recognised me from previous events due to my hat and pointed me in the direction of a volunteer who had kindly stayed up to get wristbands for latecomers like myself. This meant that, unlike last summer, I could still get into the LAN hall on Thursday night, although I would have to wait till the next day to get my security stickers and bring my PC in.
Nat showed me to our corner of the LAN hall, on the left-hand side a few rows behind the VIP section and near to the social area. I was surprised to find Chloe and Ciaran still awake and at their PCs, given that it was now half past midnight and they had spent most of the day driving down from Glasgow. I used Nat’s computer to order some Bulmers to my desk via Qjacker. Without my PC I didn’t have much to do except watch other people play games. Nat, Fabian and Helen (@Helen_Bottster), a former associate of the ATLAS people and whom we had recently adopted, played Rocket League for a while, and Eike (@EikeSky) dropped by to say hello. Bryony, having been drinking since the afternoon, was predictably drunk. With it being a Thursday and being so late, things were pretty quiet and most people were heading off to bed fairly early (all things considered, this was a welcome relief after the Thursday of i60). Nat went to meet some of his friends in another part of the LAN hall, and I tagged along, where I discovered that these were in fact mutual acquaintences: these were Panda, Danny, Nathaniel, Smish and the other Tower of Power people, with the common link between me and Nat being a girl called Katie (my fellow UoB student Jaynee wasn’t there this time, however). Anyway, after a couple of Bulmers I was already feeling pretty tired, and I hadn’t had too much to eat that day so the alcohol was going straight to my head, so I called it a night at around 2-3am.
The first night at Insomnia in indoor camping is usually the most difficult, and I woke up a few times throughout the night. I had the misfortune of being placed very close to the dividing wall between the camping hall and the main stage hall, so I was woken up shortly after 9am by The Final Countdown, various generic dubstep tracks, and Shooting Stars shortly followed by the opening ceremony blaring through the wall. Deciding any more sleep would be virtually impossible, I returned to the LAN hall, got my security stickers and lanyard from the now-open check-in desk, and ate a breakfast of pringles and extortionately-priced £1.50 bottled water from the tuck shop. Of course, most people were enjoying the comfort of their hotels, so they could easily sleep as long as they wanted and wouldn’t turn up for another couple of hours. Thus, I decided to kill some time by exploring the event, and ventured into the Expo Hall. It’s a part of Insomnia I always make a point of visiting, as once upon a time the Expo was our home at the festival way back at Telford and Coventry, and I’m not one to forget my roots. I soon discovered that this was the largest Insomnia exhibition I had ever seen, and every company under the sun seemed to be here. A lot of recent exhibitions have been mostly generic merchandise stalls, but I was pleased to see this event had been spiced up with a robot battle arena and a drone racing circuit (which had been present at i58, but had been a little bit hidden away compared to i61). I went back to BYOC, where I pointed Amy in the direction of Dan (@DTenory) (not Bennett), who had her phone.
At around midday, I recieved word from Chloe that she and Ciaran were inbound, and I was due to meet them since my PC was still in their car. I made my way outside to wait for them, where I spotted the ATLAS people lounging on the grass outside, namely my i59 livestream helpers Callum (@AnimatedCallum) and Paul (@Paul19988), my one-time former pub quiz ticket dealer Ryan Wild (@Wild1145), Charley (@Death_Frostbite) and her boyfriend Alex. I sat down with them for a short while and chatted with Callum before heading to the car park to find Chloe and Ciaran. Ciaran had bought a trolley for £27 which made transporting my PC and peripherals considerably easier and left me wondering why we hadn’t done this years ago. Before long I had my PC in the hall, but the common LAN affliction of incorrect socket usage by the opposite row left me without a socket, and after some communication with the presently absent Nat (who was sat to my left) I swapped a few plugs around and powered up my machine. The technical issues weren’t over, however, as it turned out the Ethernet cable I had been provided with was dead and I had to go to the technical helpdesk to get it replaced. In the meantime, I ate the packed lunch I had made myself to save money. At around quarter to two, I was finally able to run my traditional initial speedtest and send the first tweet from my machine of the LAN.
However, this didn’t give me much time to relax, as I was the owner of not one, but two Insomnia Pub Quiz tables which meant I had 20 tickets to distribute. I gave out the ones assigned to people who were already around, accounting for around half of my total supply, but had to hang on to the rest until their recipients arrived. In the meantime, I played some offline CS:GO against bots, since I hadn’t played in ages and I was quite out of practice (as it turned out, I didn’t play any competitive CS:GO all weekend, but since LAN the game has come back into fashion in our group, so it may not have been entirely useless). Whilst playing, the second Ethernet cable I had been given randomly died as well, so I had to go back to helpdesk and get that one replaced too.
Something which has become an Insomnia tradition for our group over the past year has been the pre-Pub Quiz Frankie and Benny’s at Birmingham Airport. Having been instructed by Bryony (who typically organises such things) to arrive for 5pm, I went back to my tent to partially change into my pub quiz outfit, as I had found at previous events that changing after Frankie and Benny’s limited time for pre-drinking the quiz. I left my waistcoat and cane in BYOC and my bow tie in my pocket, so I was wearing my nice shoes, trousers, shirt, blazer and hat, and made my way across the Skywalk to the west wing of the NEC (home to the winter and spring LANs), across the overpass to the train station, and onto the monorail to get to the airport. I was about 10 minutes behind the others so I was a little late. This time at F&B’s, we had Bryony, Chloe, Ciaran, myself, Rody, Julia, Fabian, Nat, Jamie and Francis. Concious of the fact that my habit of eating mostly rubbish Qjacker food in order to save money at LAN had probably contributed to me feeling ill for most of Sunday at previous events, I decided to spend a little more than usual and got a burger and some garlic bread instead of just my usual bowl of chips. This turned out to be a little too much, since the burger unexpectedly came with a side of chips and there was a lot more garlic bread than I was expecting.
The Frankie and Benny’s usually has good vibes and is generally the calm before the storm. Once the meal was finished, the group went our separate ways to prepare for the Pub Quiz. Me and Rody went back to BYOC, where I found Sie (@wondersiex) sitting at my computer, having arrived at the NEC whilst we were at the airport. Sie’s nephew Ash was also lurking, hanging around with some of his other friends in the LAN hall. I simply put my waistcoat and bow tie on and opened a Bulmers and waited for the others to reassemble; in the meantime, me, Sie and Helen were treated to the sight of Rody topless, as he had decided to put on his pub quiz suit in the LAN hall for some reason. At around 7pm, I made my way outside to the smoking area, to give my final pub quiz tickets to Skeppy (@SkepticPara), Sam (@PoHobi), Callum (@C4Tune) and Timmy (@TimmehGee). Since the move to Friday night, the Pub Quiz hasn’t been licenced as late as it normally would be, so the start time was billed slightly earlier than it normally would be, with doors opening at 8pm and the quiz itself starting at 8:30. I’d bought two tables, but they weren’t together, so I planned to get in early and arrange a swap with one of the neighbouring tables (which we’ve done successfully once or twice in the past). Thus, me, Nat, Helen and Francis, with a crate of Bulmers in tow, set off for the main stage entrance at around 7:50. However, there was some sort of delay, because the doors didn’t open for half an hour. We joined the colossal queue, where we soon met the twins, Curt (@CurtZeNinja) and Kyle (@EyeIzMoorey), and were later joined by Chloe and Ciaran, who was wearing a giant banana costume. At 8:30, the doors to the Insomnia World Famous Pub Quiz finally opened.
I immediately found our table – 43 – and swapped the table number of the neighbouring table with the number of my other table – 148. Once our neighbours got here, I simply pointed them in the direction of what used to be my second table. Then, over the next half an hour, our team slowly began to assemble. For the first time since i55 two years previously, we had a mega-team with two tables joined together. I registered us as Golf With Friends Esports Association, managing the answer sheets for my seventh Insomnia Pub Quiz in a row. On the team was myself, Chloe, Ciaran, Nat, Bryony, Sie, Ash, Francis, Rody, Julia, Fabian, Helen and her friend Fraser, Jamie, Skeppy, Timmy, Callum and Sam. Curt, Kyle and a couple of their friends actually joined on a third table, but I think they had their own team registered. Interestingly, Bryony and Ash actually registered their own team called Autistic Spinners, but they either didn’t hand any answer sheets in or deliberately gave all wrong answers because they scored 0. We were also lucky enough to be placed very close to our friends on Dan Bennett’s (@DanBennett) team, including Toby (@nether_dweller) and Katie (@katiejjk), although unfortunately Alice’s (@AlphaGlitchGirl) team, Team Sensible (back for the first time since i57 now that Alice is finally old enough for the new 18+ policy, and an important team for me since it was my very first Insomnia Pub Quiz team way back at i53) was on the complete opposite side of the hall. We also weren’t too far away from the Tower of Power group, who like us had organised a mega-team. We had plenty of time before the quiz itself began, and as this was one of the only times in the weekend that we could get the whole community in the same place, there were plenty of greetings, hugs and group selfies going round; lots of people hadn’t seen each other for quite some time (the most extreme example I can think of would be that C4 wouldn’t have seen Rody and Julia since i54, well over two years ago). There was a great atmosphere and I’m quite proud of putting the whole thing together. Shortly after 9pm, Multiplay founder Craig “Wizzo” Fletcher got the quiz started by announcing that we had already raised over five grand for Special Effect, and a clip of a man eating maggots and promptly vomiting was played to set the mood (it’s gotten to the point where I’m deliberately leaving gaps in my pub quiz playlists due to how NSFW it’s gotten). We got off to quite a good start and played our Fatmouse card (one-use double points checkbox) in the optimal place, but as per usual, everything went downhill after the picture round interlude when the alcohol really began to kick in. As the quiz wore on, various people (namely Sie) began to wander off to talk to YouTubers and such. We had an unusual second interlude before the final round, in which the Multiplay production team had enough time to squeeze in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme and the Manic Street Preachers’ A Design For Life (both for the first time since i57 I believe). Then we had the music round itself, featuring a rousing acapella chorus of Linkin Park’s Numb, in tribute to the recently departed Chester Bennington, and also the what I considered to be the surprising inclusion of Downtown by Petula Clark, a song which I recognised from the days when my Year 4 teacher would run the school choir and would drag the class along to listen to their practice sessions (historically, my contributions to music rounds have been pretty lacking, so it’s nice to actually recognise a song every once in a while). And then, with the quiz itself done and dusted, the traditional singalong got underway as the volunteers wrapped up their marking work. The fairly recent (i.e. since i59) but popular double act of The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger and Fall Out Boy – Sugar We’re Going Down were back, as were many of the usual Pub Quiz classics: Katy Perry – Firework, The Killers – Mr. Brightside, Tenacious D – F**k Her Gently, and the return of CeeLo Green – F**k You. The winning teams were announced, and we noticed that Sie had pulled a Ciaran and decided to get on stage with one of the teams; running towards the stage to get a better view, I slipped in a puddle where Francis had been pouring water over himself and bruised my elbow. My injuries were compounded when Kyle borrowed my cane (presumably for air guitar purposes) and promptly hit me in the mouth with it, though he gave me a can of Strongbow by means of apology. With the winners announced, there were just a couple of songs left, songs which are almost synonymous with the World Famous Pub Quiz: the full rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody sang by 2000 gamers, followed by the conga line to the tune of the Cuban Pete song from The Mask as we slowly started making our way to the exit. One of Curt’s friends was quite royally drunk and as we tried to figure out how to extract him, Wizzo dropped by on his way out and we said hello. Personally I was around 4 ciders in at this point, and a summer out of uni had reduced my tolerance so I was feeling borderline drunk myself – although I suspect my days of having three drinks, getting plastered and simultaneously being somehow hyperactive are behind me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve gone off Jager a little bit – I didn’t have a single Jagerbomb all weekend, and the last time I can remember even drinking Jager at the pub quiz was i58.
Anyway, by now it was around half past midnight, and most of the BYOC group made our way back to the LAN hall. A few of us got together to play Jackbox Party for a short while, but it wasn’t long before most people started to head off. Me, Sie, Helen and maybe a couple of other people stayed up late and lurked around the bar for a while, where I managed to grab Syndicate so that Helen could get a picture with him. Tweets from around this time are sparse and I can’t remember much exciting happening, so I’m guessing things were pretty quiet, and that I presumably went to bed some time between 2:30 and 3:00.
Saturday morning, like all mornings after the Pub Quiz, was a slow start. I myself woke up at around 9:30 due to the main stage blaring music again. Whilst having some form of makeshift breakfast in BYOC and looking through the pictures of the previous night I was joined by Helen and C4. Unfortunately, Callum had to leave the event early due to work so this was the last I saw of him. Whilst waiting for more people to wake up, I worked through some video editing for the Adammic YouTube channel. A few more people arrived such as Bryony, and we got through a couple of games of Golf With Your Friends, the community’s traditional LAN game. The main event of the afternoon would be the Cosplay Championship on the main stage, and a load of us marched down there just before 2:30 to support Julia who was cosplaying as an Ascended Sleeper from Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. As usual we cheered and generally made as much noise as possible when it was her turn. Unfortunately she didn’t win anything (prompting much angry questioning of the judges’ decisions from our community), although she did get 3rd place at the secondary Cosplay Masquerade the next day, which I missed (I’m still not entirely sure what the difference between the Cosplay Championship and the Cosplay Masquerade is). Incidentally, I believe it was Nat’s friend Katie who won the Cosplay Championship.
On returning to BYOC following the cosplay event, I soon noticed that the Pub Quiz results had been published. Of 206 total teams, the main team had finished 138th, Team Sensible 167th, Dan Bennett’s 145th, the ATLAS group 193rd, and the Tower of Power gang 185th. I do suspect that the main team only managed to finish ahead of every other team loosely affiliated with the community through sheer force of numbers, given there were around 20 of us. I spent a while copying the results into my spreadsheet, watched by Nat and a bemused Katie, still in full cosplay. Some time around 4pm Chloe and Ciaran went to acquire a few provisions, and in the meantime me, Nat, Bryony, Fabian and Francis had a short trip to Wetherspoons to play a bit of Never Have I Ever over various Kopparbergs and Desperados. Due to a small issue, Bryony had to visit the medical room, whilst the rest of us went back to BYOC, where we generally chilled out for a few hours. I watched Nat play through Portal and helped him in places. Eventually, shortly after 7pm, Chloe and Ciaran decided to go to their hotel restaurant to eat, and me and Helen decided to tag along. Their hotel was the Premier Inn, which was fairly close to our end of the NEC. We all ended up ordering steak. It was a good chance for me to catch up with my good friends, with me and Ciaran discussing business and politics at length, and it also served to introduce Helen to Chloe and Ciaran.
By the time we were finished with our meals, it was gone 9pm, and the others had already started drinking without us (although I’d had a Magners with the meal), so I was keen to catch up. Chloe and Ciaran had to get something from their hotel room so me and Helen walked back to the NEC. When we got back to the LAN hall, we found most of the rest of the BYOC crew (from memory, Bryony, Sie, Ash, Francis, Jamie, Nat and Dan (not Bennett)) in the social area playing card games, huddled around a small table with very little room to cram chairs into. Me and Helen joined them, and we played a bit of Blackjack before moving on to the classic university drinking game Ring of Fire. Rather than using Qjacker, I decided to actually use the Esports Bar for once, incurring a fair bit of extra cost for a Stowford Press cider before eventually upgrading to whiskey and cokes. Our games of Ring of Fire saw some interesting rules: ending every sentence by pointing at the notoriously socialist Francis and calling him a Tory voter managed to break his spirit a little, and we eventually developed a habit of shouting “THE KING IN THE NORTH!” at random passers-by, which essentially became the meme of i61, much like the dinosaur dance at i54 and the “We drink, we drink, we drink again” chant of i55. Whenever an Ace was drawn and the “waterfall” was triggered, Helen would frequently exhibit a surprising amount of stamina at downing drinks, instantly impressing Bryony and myself. How Helen managed to survive without throwing up I have no idea, because she got through a lot of Captain Morgan’s. As the night wore on into the early hours of the morning, things entered a bit of a lull as various people disappeared to the casino in anticipation of the imminent Mayweather vs. McGregor boxing match. In the meantime, we met a guy who had apparently lost his cat, at least according to Sie. At one point, whilst downing a drink after drawing the fourth King, I was interrupted by Zoey of the Blue volunteer team, who I had met at StratLAN in February, although she didn’t stick around as she presumably had games of Werewolves to run. Wizzo also dropped by and me, Sie, Ash and Nat were able to get a picture with him. We were eventually joined by Eike and Rowan, and I was able to prise Chloe and Ciaran from their Hearthstone games to join us as we transitioned from Ring of Fire to Never Have I Ever. With Bryony and her natural authority at the casino, I ended up taking charge and, once again in my borderline-drunk state, found myself assuming a John Bercow-like Speaker of the House of the Commons persona in order to manage the game, with variable success.
As 4am approached, we noticed a large crowd gathering around a TV screen near the VIP area – someone had paid to view the big boxing match and was essentially streaming it on this TV screen for the punters to watch. I adjourned the game of Never Have I Ever (ayes to the right: 1, that being Eike, and noes to the left: 0) and those of us who were left joined the growing crowd. Chloe and Ciaran weren’t too interested and shortly went to bed, but I still had a fair bit of energy and decided to see what the fight was all about. Me, Sie and Francis gathered around a table near the back of the crowd; Nat and Rody weren’t sat too far away, and I also noticed Toby, clearly up way past his bedtime 😉 . Anyway, after about an hour of pre-fight build-up and other such nonsense, during which time I recall Katie coming over and talking about her cosplay with some of the others, the big fight finally got underway. I sort of ended up getting a little bit into it, although not as much as some of the other members of the crowd who clearly had bets on the outcome. By the time Mayweather emerged victorious, it was knocking on 6am, and within minutes our very tired group dispersed into the NEC lobby, already illuminated by the early morning sun. I went straight back to my tent.
Of course, just three hours later the main stage had started up again, and I woke up on Sunday very grumpy and tired. There was no hope of getting more sleep with crowds of pre-pubescant Youtube fans screaming in the next hall over, so I went back to BYOC and had my usual mediocre breakfast. The LAN hall was pretty deserted due to the previous night’s very late finish, so I mostly fiddled with my spreadsheets and watched videos for a few hours. Fabian was the first person back, according to Twitter. Shortly after midday, Toby mentioned that he was at a computer in some far corner of the LAN hall about to watch the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix, so I took the rest of my Aldi-knockoff Pringles over and we watched the first twenty laps or so, much as a few of us had done the previous summer. Later, I went to the Expo hall to find Alice, who was with a couple of her friends from school. Both me and Alice were keen to meet Ashens, who was the first YouTuber I’d actually been interested in meeting since Mindcrack at i52, back when I was 16 years old. Thus, we wondered around the Retro zone for a while, to no avail. At any rate, I also had my personal obligation of always setting some time aside to see Alice at every event, as she had kept me company for much of i53 and I remain very grateful for that. Alice’s friends wanted BYOC Guest wristbands, so we went to the helpdesk and I vouched for them. After that, I decided to get on with eating some lunch, and left Alice to her own devices. I would soon see her again, however, as just as I was finishing my lunch she messaged me saying she had found Ashens in the Retro zone. I dashed over there, said hello to the guy, and Alice took a picture of us with Ashens wearing my hat, which I’m very happy with.
Shortly afterwards, I went into the lobby to meet Sufi, who like Alice is someone I make a point of seeing and spending some time with. We did a lap around this end of the NEC complex and chatted about life, before I left him with Connor Brogan, Trollzous and the rest of that bunch, as they were due to have a night out at Pryzm in Birmingham city centre (somewhere I had no intention of going as I had spent enough time there as a fresher at UoB). A certain Lewis (@JAMAICANBACON96), better known to us as “Jesus” owing to his impressive beard and long hair, had arrived at the NEC, making a surprise appearance. Bryony got him a guest wristband and promptly tied him up in the “FRAGILE” tape she had got from a shop on her way to the event as punishment for being late. By now, evening was starting to arrive and most people were getting ready to see the Dark Room, John Robertson’s immensely-popular “live action video game” comedy show. I myself was starting to feel pretty rotten by now after three nights of drinking, and didn’t even do much gaming, instead electing to continue to watch Nat as he progressed from Portal to Portal 2. Inspired by him I did spend an hour or so playing the original Half-Life. However, as the others headed over to the main stage to watch the show, I still hadn’t eaten. I joined Chloe and Ciaran in Wetherspoons and ordered a bowl of chips, but I could barely eat a handful of them – I was feeling pretty ill in the digestive region, shall we say. By the time I gave up on the chips, I had missed a sizeable chunk of the Dark Room, and not wanting to incur Robertson’s wrath by arriving late, I decided to skip the rest and go back to the LAN hall with Chloe and Ciaran. I gathered some strength and ordered another 4-pack of Bulmers, going by the logic that if I started drinking again, I would either feel better or throw up, which would then eventually make me feel better. In the end, the former case happened, somewhat – I still didn’t feel too grand. In the meantime, many of the others were having fun at the Dark Room – Charley became the first ever person from our community to be chosen to play the game, followed shortly afterwards by Lith.
When the Dark Room finished, a few of the others made their way back to BYOC, settling on some bean bags in the social area, where I joined them. Soon afterwards, Sie, Ash, Skeppy, Timmy and Sam also joined us, after pre-drinking in their hotel rooms. Since I’d only been nibbling at a few chips, I was drinking on a somewhat empty stomach and the couple of ciders I’d had started to go to my head pretty quickly; on the plus side, it was making me feel less ill. Gathered around the bean bags we had myself, Nat, Bryony, Rody, Julia, Fabian, Francis, Em and Helen, with Sie, Skeppy, Sam, Timmy, Ash and Jesus floating around nearby. There were some good vibes for a while and a few of us started to attempt to play Ring of Fire, although we didn’t get very far. For whatever reason, Sunday was a kind of weird night. It was still good a lot of the time, but drama was unfolding in Sufi and Amy’s group at Pryzm which inevitably leaked into the rest of the community; meanwhile, Sie and Ash had made the disastrous decision to play Werewolves with a particularly irate GM who apparently had a very short temper. Sie, of course, had no intention of taking the game seriously, and once tempers flaired and the possibility of physical violence against Sie was raised, the more physically capable members of the community bristled in Sie’s defence; luckily Zoey intervened and was able to defuse the situation without any need for security to be called. Whilst all this was going on, Chloe and Ciaran were happily sat at their desks, whilst Ciaran chatted to Jamie and Toby used my computer to play Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds with them. The night wore into the early hours, and whilst I was still drinking on a relatively empty stomach, I was also drinking slowly, and I actually started to sober up a little. I tried rum and coke for the first time as Chloe and Ciaran had a bunch of cans of the stuff and needed help finishing it off. By 4am, the only people who were left were myself, Sie, Ash, Rody, Curt and Kyle – we went to the bar one last time before the event closed, where I was regrettably served an unbearably strong whiskey and coke for some reason, so strong in fact that I couldn’t finish it. Lucy (@Lucif3r_Rhin0), her boyfriend, plus Connor (Pixelated) and his girlfriend Megan were also lurking around and I briefly spoke to Connor. Sie and the twins were much more drunk than me and I was horrified to find myself as the responsible adult, especially when the security guards started to get increasingly suspicious of their antics – Sie, of course, was still at charisma level 100 and was very friendly with the said security guards in no time. Once again, dawn was approaching, and the last of our energy was spent. I went back to my tent at around 6am, contemplating the weekend. The Pub Quiz had been one of the best, and we’d had some good times playing drinking games in the social area. I’d been able to see so many of my friends again, some of whom, such as Nat and most of the Dutch squad, I hadn’t seen for over a year; making a point of spending time with some of my best friends had been worth it, whether it be discussing politics with Ciaran and Chloe over steak, wondering the Expo hall with Alice, getting drunk with Sie or watching the F1 with Toby. I took the momentous decision of ranking i61 as the greatest Insomnia ever, beating even the legendary i57 – although only narrowly.
After waking up on Monday, I went to BYOC to finish off the rest of my food and generally try to relax, given that I was pretty shattered by this point. By now, the LAN hall was emptying and people in our own area were preparing to leave. At around midday, I powered down my PC and packed up the peripherals. Chloe and Ciaran were inbound and I had just enough time to see Alice and Lith in the lobby and say goodbye to them before Ciaran arrived. I said goodbye to those still left in BYOC, and we loaded my PC and peripherals onto the trolley. I gave Ciaran my lanyard so he could join the queue to check-out my PC whilst me and Nat went to the camping hall to pick up my camping gear. Meeting up again, the three of us moved my stuff back to Ciaran’s car. I said bye to Nat, and soon Ciaran was driving me away from the NEC – now not to return until next Easter. After arriving back in Selly Oak, I gave Ciaran a quick tour of my new house, before saying goodbye to him as he headed back to the NEC to pack up his own and Chloe’s stuff. I thought that would be the last I’d see of the Insomnia community for a while, although as it turned out, Helen had missed a train and she ended up staying in one of the spare rooms in my house overnight.
So there we have it – a new best Insomnia ever. With this one and the previous success of i60, it does almost feel a bit like a new golden age like the Ricoh era, although I do suspect that the Ricoh will always be viewed with rose-tinted glasses to an extent. However, I do feel that there is much which could be changed about our experience at LAN to make it better. Since taking over the Insomnia planning discord from Lewis Caddick in February, I’ve presided over the BYOC seating and pub quiz planning for two events, and I’m fairly happy with where we’ve got things. For the first time since i55, the mega-team is back, and I’ve already said how proud I am of putting that together. At the same time, though, there is more I want to do with the planning discord. In particular, I’m always concious of the way Insomnia hangs precariously on a cliff-edge of value-for-money. If I had a pound for every time I’ve seen someone say that i[XX] would be their last Insomnia, I’d almost be able to buy a round of Jagers from the Esports Bar – although most of those dramatic declarations do tend to be forgotten as the hype for the upcoming event builds, they do raise the point that, if just a few things go wrong, Insomnia could easily end up being a waste of money. When things go right, Insomnia can be the highlight of the year. Currently, with a robust system in place for BYOC seat picking and pub quiz organisation, as well as now six events of experience at the NEC and the cost-saving techniques that experience has taught us (pre-drinking in hotels, taking bulk Qjacker orders into Pub Quiz, etc), we’re at a somewhat comfortable baseline in terms of value for money. But at the end of the day, I’ve always believed that Insomnia is what you make of it; although much does rest in the hands of MPUK and the NEC, there’s only so much that MPUK can do – they’re just providing the environment and the infrastructure, and it’s up to us to actually have fun. With that in mind, I’m concious of some things which I want to add to the Insomnia planning process in order to maximise value-for-money. Ultimately that’s what I want: Insomnia is undoubtedly expensive and I want myself and my friends to have as best a time as we can in order to justify that expense. The most glaring thing in my opinion is the amount extra we spend on BYOC rather than weekend tickets, not to mention the hassle in dragging our computers in some cases halfway across the country, going through the stress of getting everyone together on the seat picker, given the small amount of multiplayer gaming we actually do together. Over the course of the weekend, I think we had maybe one game of Jackbox, one game of Golf With Friends, one game of Portal 2 co-op and one game of Rocket League. There were probably more but those are the only ones that I remember. It’s worth pointing out that LAN lasts for 94 hours – even if we spend three quarters of that sleeping, drinking, eating, looking round the expo or whatever, that still leaves a lot of time that we’re sat in BYOC not really doing much – often just looking at social media or playing singleplayer games. To be fair some people do figure out stuff to do – Ciaran, Chloe and Toby spent plenty of time playing PUBG for example. But I spent only a tiny amount of time playing multiplayer games – you know, that thing which a LAN is supposed to be all about – and I know I wasn’t the only one. Maybe I’m making this sound like more of a problem than it really is, but I’d just really like us to put these slow afternoons to good use in the same way we’ve long put our evenings to good use. So, going forwards I’m going to experiment with organising some multiplayer sessions suitable for medium-sized groups of people like we normally get at LAN. These will be quite flexible because of course people often want to be spontaneous at Insomnia, to go to the Expo or get something to eat. I’ll basically just say something like “I’m going to organise some GTA races at whatever time, join us if you want” and if people want to do something else then we’ll do something else. I’m very keen to make full use of the discord for this and also using the voice channels for in-game comms more. I do wish to re-iterate that it is not my intention to over-plan Insomnia: others have rightly pointed out that Insomnia works best when it is spontaneous. That is why these will take the form of flexible suggestions, not some sort of fixed timetable. Currently the games I have in mind include GTA V, CS:GO, Golf With Friends, Jackbox and PUBG, although I’m open to any more suggestions. I’ll keep them quite low-key and they’ll be carefully timed so as to not clash with anything else (cosplay, meal times, pub quiz preparations etc). I probably won’t give an end time, just a start time and we can see how long people feel like playing for. At any rate, this is just in the ideas stage, and it can be discussed in the discord nearer the time; I invite as much feedback as possible, I promise I won’t be offended! Furthermore, I’m hoping to expand my media operations by recording more of the event and actually keeping to my word when I say I’m going to livestream. Currently, I have a substantial archive related to Insomnia: vlogs, pictures, attendance lists, pub quiz spreadsheets, and of course these blog posts. All of these will also be maintained for the forseeable future.
Anyway, enough rambling. i62 is now over six months away due to the cancellation of the winter LAN, which is a shame, but it does mean that when Easter finally rolls around, Insomnia will be back fresher than ever. Maybe a bit of a break will do us some good, who knows. Our time at this event has had its ups and downs, but I’m fairly optimistic about 2018. As always, I remain the community’s unofficial Insomnia helpdesk, and I’ll continue to help the community to enjoy Insomnia as much as I do. See you at i62 folks.