The Insomnia LAN convention: More than just a room full of computers

Thomas Mote delves deep into the Insomnia LAN, one of the UK's biggest gaming events, and asks the question: do ESports have a future in England?

Overview of the Event

A man at a LAN in a hat

We spoke to many of the gamers present and got their opinions on the hobby

The latest Insomnia LAN has just come to a close and organisers Multiplay have done an awesome job in bringing together players from all over the country and even further afield, providing them with an electric atmosphere.

With a massive 2500 people attending the 45th Insomnia event, Multiplay proved they have the capability to provide the best event possible, hosting fantastic tournaments and providing more than enough space to cater for the huge turnout.

The weekend ticket price of £92 (you’ll have to bring your own PC, too) might seem a little steep, but – in reality – if you’re into games, what else could you do for a weekend for that amount of money and still have such a good time? Being a veteran of of theLan party giants -such as Dreamhacks and The Gathering – I can confidently say that i45 was an amazing event and I am looking forward to attending i46 in the summer.

Trying to find a hotel at midnight was not a highlight, though, so I recommend you book one well in advance if you’re thinking of coming along.

More about the Gamers

Counterstrike screenshot

Will Counter Strike: Global Offensive prove to be a success in the LAN scene?

Big-name ESports teams such as Team Dignitas and Infused Gaming making an appearance showed the high quality of gamers that the events draws in – though you don’t need to be a professional gamer to have a good time, of course. Like many conventions, most of the people we went to speak to said they were there purely for the social side of gaming, and to turn “online friends” into real life ones.

Walking around the LAN and chatting with people we could see that it accommodated for everyone from the first time attendees to the veterans of the gaming scene; from eager spectators to those planning on competing in one of the many tournaments. There was a huge range of games on offer: from competitive titles such as the gun-heavy Counter Strike and space-based strategy heavyweight StarCraft 2, to more social games like runway indie success Minecraft. And they’re not small groups, either; we heard that there were well over 100 people signed up to compete in the League of Legends tournament.

But why were other people here? Talking to some of the gamers present we learnt that many were inspired to come here by other players. One American guy from a military base here in England said he “was amazed how big the gaming scene was,” and inspired by CoD4 Esports team Pandemic he attended his first Insomnia LAN a few years ago and has been building a team and returning for each subsequent event.

Others came because they’d heard from mates go on about the experience they had at the last LAN and were eager to see what the fuss was about – they attended and haven’t stopped attending since. I45 brought all these gamers together, gave them space to interact with each other and the opportunity to maybe try something new.

Team Dignitas

Lots of people with lots of computers

The Insomnia LAN pulls in a lot of people

Team Dignitas gave us an inside story of a professional gamers life and they were a great source of information; not only on how they rose to their prestigious position, but also on what the future of gaming has in store.

James Given a.k.a. Mr Dogber – part of the management team at Dignitas - thinks Esports are growing thanks to the ease of joining in. “Nearly everyone has a computer,” he says, “and so everyone can play games, whereas sports such as snowboarding or wrestling have factors about location and physical ability that mean less people partake.”

What does this mean, then, in the longer term? As I see it, current generations will be growing up with this technology and so gaming will be more accepted in our culture. Public opinion might be that this is a bad move – and could possibly lead to a loss of in traditional sports – but is it?

I agree that at time of writing gaming is not the most socially-accepted pastime (although public approval is growing more and more with the prevalence of home computers/consoles and the popularisation of games) and many peoples that play games with passion get quickly labelled with the stereotype of ‘Nerd’ from outsiders. But if gaming at a professional level was to become more mainstream then societal norms would apply and stricter codes of practice would reuslt, getting rid of the impression that most gamers are rude, opinionated, and antisocial. Read more on Team Dignitas and their mission to bring up the standard of professional gaming in our in-depth article on the subject.

What does the future hold for gaming?

Lan Cakes

Themed cakes are popular, apparently, and presumably made out of LANcake batter

With Esports growing in size at the moment helped by the variety of games people can play, I see a potential for the industry to grow and, like many gamers, I hope that Esports becomes a more mainstream and socially-accepted activity.

I asked a lot of people about their thoughts on the future of gaming and got a mix of responses: Team Dignitas’ Mr Dogber agreed that Esports still needs time to grow, but with £1 million tournaments being held this year there is evidence that the funding and backing of Esports presents a promising future. Though this idea didn’t come without opposition.

Going round the tables and getting more interviews we found there were a number of people who believed Esports was at a peak and the next corner would bring a drop; with games such as Call of Duty 4 starting to die out, some believe the industry needs a new spark of games to relight the fire for the future. Kathryn Warden (also of Team Dignitas) believes that “we need to tread carefully” but if we do “there is a brilliant future.”

In my opinion, though, there is room for Esports in Western culture. If we look at the gaming scene in Korea, the industry is massive because it has become accepted as the norm by the majority of the populace. Will it become more so in Europe and America? I believe it can, and will.

But what is going to provide the spark to get Esports running at full steam? With Counter Strike;Global Offensive, Diablo 3, Defence of the Ancients 2 and the other big names scheduled for release this year, will a new triple-A title bring the sport back up to speed?

What’s Next?

Unlike the other press teams we had the opportunity to talk with Craig Fletcher, founder of Multiplay (organisers of the Insomnia LAN); more coverage on this interview will be up next week. There was a lot of talk about the future of gaming and specifically the future for the Insomnia Lans: ideas to improve the LAN experience, increasing the amount of activities for attendees, and a shift towards making the event more family-friendly to put a professional face on the Esport industry.

If you attend LANs, what would keep you coming back for more? More tournaments, activities or something new? Please comment with your ideas below.

PostDesk are currently planning to create an in-depth documentary on the next Insomnia LAN this summer, with the aim to encourage more people to these fantastic events and also to provide live coverage of the LAN for those gamers who are unable to attend.