The festival atmosphere is definitely here. People are friendly and welcoming, you can chat with anyone and, of course, everybody can enjoy a common interest of playing games. The warez and pornography sharing that was rife when I attended previously has all but vanished. Whether that is down to better security from Multiplay - like the fact that you need to have a badge on at all times to enter or exit - or merely the fact that with broadband, people can download illegal things at home, I honestly couldn't say. What is pleasing, though, is that it has stopped, as this was certainly a grey area which could have seen the events ended by the police.
Pleasingly, some of the best bits about the event have remained. Domino's Pizza is still on hand to deliver pizzas direct to your desk and by the sea of empty boxes I found in certain areas prove this is still as popular as ever. There are other food stands if you fancy buying overpriced pork and apple sauce sandwich (£5.50 – I am not joking) as well as other stalls selling various peripherals and tools for gaming and modding.
Nothing prepared me for the pig stacking stand. At this stall, sponsored by Crucial, the challenge was to stack as many rubber pigs as is humanly possible in a minute whilst competing with a fellow pig stacker. I managed to win in my attempt, stacking 15 inches of pink, pig goodness – the prize was a 1GB memory stick – always useful.
The other stands I visited were even more interesting. I was tempted over to Scan booth by two beautiful babes
to find a wealth a treasure cove of cool looking PC's. I particularly liked the Chameleon case that changes colour as it heats up. As you can see from the pictures there were plenty of watercooled systems on display, and if you're into case modding but not sure where to start, I'd certainly say this is a great place to come.
Scan weren't the only ones to be showcasing cases. Every third gamer seemed to have his own personal case. The ambience of a darkened room full of luminous cases is pretty cool and, again, if you're into modding it's certainly a great place to go. People weren't just using their PCs as a way of expressing themselves. One chap had a grenade attached to his microphone that looked pretty cool, and another guy was dressed in nothing but a leopard skin apron, reminiscent of Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef.
The tournament isn't just about having a jolly though, as there is some serious money to be won. The combined prize fund this tournament
was £20,000, with Counter-Strike Source offering the most lucrative rewards. As far as the results
go, multi-gaming team Dignitas
walking away with the top prizes in Call of Duty 2, Battlefield 2142, Battlefield 2 and Need For Speed Carbon. Counter-Strike Source was won by temp.css (a Dutch team), whilst Quake 4 was won by Dutch player Forever.
Future of the LAN
I got the chance to speak with Forever and asked him how he felt about the festival vibe of the event. "I didn't sleep here," he said. "I spent the night in the Hilton as I am a pro player. I need to have at least 8 hours sleep if I am to have a chance of winning the tournament."
Overall, though, he felt the event was great for gaming: "I haven't had a chance to speak to many gamers but it looks like everyone is having fun and it is good to see lots of companies involved with making this a success." You would say that after you picked up a cool £1,000 for two days work, though, wouldn't you?
So what is the future for these events? With a new competitor arriving on the scene in the shape of a super size gaming cafe network, I asked Craig Fletcher, founder of Multiplay whether he was worried about the future of his company. "I don't see how the LAN cafes will really challenge us. We are a festival that celebrates gaming and they will never be able to match us in terms of size," he remarked. "I personally don't see how their business plan will work out. We'll have to wait and see."
These new gaming centres, which are being headed up by ex-professional gamer Sujoy Roy
, are designed to be able to host 400 gamers at any one time. With plans to have one centre established in Birmingham and one in London, the future of LAN gaming in Britain could be heading in a very different direction. For now, though, the gamers at Insomnia have had a stonking time - any almost all are getting prepared for the trip back next time.