Noob goes a-gaming
My first ever Insomnia Gaming Festival experience
Let it be known that I have always considered this event - and others like it - Stan's domain. My idea of gaming is Pokémon, Lego Harry Potter, and the odd dabble in DC Universe (I created a character that was meant to fly but I just kept crashing her into buildings).
Bank Holiday Monday seemed like a prime opportunity to spend some Quality Time with Stan, what with how I had been away most of the week. Alas, I had forgotten about Insomnia. Just when I was resigning myself to a day of home alone housework (aka sewing and reading before scrabbling to get everything done in the last half hour before dinner), my commitment to Quality Time was tested in the form of an invitation. To go with him. To Insomnia. The gaming nerdfest to end all gaming nerdfests.
I can tell you're laughing at me already, and that's fair enough. If you're a regular here you know full well I can't claim not to be a nerd - but if you've read my Adventures with BatStan, you also know I was about to be in WAY over my head. And - crucially - surrounded by Superior Nerds. People with encyclopaedic knowledge of dozens of fictional universes, flamboyant hats and a raft of in-jokes that leave us noobs blank faced and confused. Meep!
We arrive, wearing our matching Star Wars t-shirts (mine says 'I love you'; his says 'I know). Dozens of people are spilling out of the doors of the exhibition centre, weighed down by kit: carting screens, pushing wheelie chairs, trolleying their entire home computer set-up out of the building. One guy is carrying a 40 inch TV.
Turns out we've hit the tail end of a three day LAN party. We find our friends who work at the event and have kindly arranged free passes for us.
When we get into the hall there are a couple of hundred stations set up, the entire arena in semi-darkness like a perpetual slumber party simulation. People aren't asleep - they're either still gaming, or packing up to head home. WWE videos are playing on a massive screen nearby and the rest of the exhibition is tantalisingly screened off by a massive curtain/wall/thing. I don't know, it's too dark to see.
Our Escape Room session is due to start. I'm about to spend 45 minutes trying to puzzle solve with a highly competitive Stan, his gaming friends, and two people I have never met before. What could possible go wrong? It's not like I failed to get out of the last two escape rooms I tried...
If not a headless chicken, I am perhaps a befuddled owl. I consider I have contributed exactly two useful things to this process so far. I don't know what anyone else is doing or what I should be doing and I seem to have forgotten how to do basic arithmetic. This escape room is very clever and I, it appears, am not.
It's over, and we've got 5 of the 7 answers we needed to escape the room. I'm painfully aware it would have been 6 if I hadn't ballsed up the maths. Nobody says anything mean and it was all quite fun apparently although I literally didn't know what I was doing from start to finish. Time for something that isn't quite so challenging - heading into the main exhibition. Our friend Adri sadly has to leave us to catch a flight. Nik volunteers to take us around (considering he has basically lived here for three days already this is possibly a sacrifice on his part).
This is big. Very big. Robots and drones and board games and other games and games and oh look a man dressed as a killer bionic bear. Wait, is that Star Wars Monopoly?? Is that... Sir Kilalot? Hold the phone! I literally get Stan to take photos of all of the Robot Wars robots. I desperately wish Craig Charles was here.
VERY impressed with GAME's new(ish) Gaming Arena concept, Belong. Arenas in cities and towns across the UK each play and compete under a unique team name and emblem. The exhibition stand is slick and beautifully branded with loads of gaming stations for people to try out. If this was my scene I would LOVE it. I kind of do love it anyway.
2pm (maybe, I don't know)
Oooh Playstation have weird wheel-shaped gaming pods for racing games. I like.
A bit later
Giant chair! I get so excited I don't even realise these people are selling chairs until I get out of the chair. Makes sense though...
We visit the MSI stand because Stan has friends there. MSI make specialist gaming tech/kit/gear, whatever you call it, for gamers. It's beautiful. I'm mesmerised by the PCs that you can see inside; the cooling system and everything else is lit up with lights, you can literally watch them running. I did not know computers could look this good. This is way more interesting to me than the raft of 1-v-1 League of Legends games going on at the other end of the stand.
Time is a construct, I'm not even checking anymore
The Indy games section is THE BEST. I have just played as one end of a stretchy dog with Stan playing as the other end. We had to feed acorns to snake-like creatures in order to pay for free transport through their bodies.
I have also had a go at Chameleon Swing in which I am alternately being snatched out of the air by crocodiles or eagles. The chameleon wears little outfits which are decided by a dice roll and I feel giddy with the power of having its fate in my unsteady hands. Meanwhile Stan is exploring Atlantis in a steampunk craft, whose very earnest creator wants to tell us the entire concept story from start to way beyond the finish.
Nik and Stan are playing some kind of spy card game so I go exploring and get sort of chatted up by a man at the ice cream stand. His face when I make my excuses and leave him may haunt me for some time. It's possible I have misread the situation and he just wants a friend. I feel awkward.
I find myself in a large hall with a stage and watch ten minutes of a panel show called Nerds & Noobs which looks suspiciously like a dating game but actually involves rounds of 'who's that Pokémon?'. I think these may be my people. But they are all blokes. Come to think of it I have not seen many women at all today.
Saying our goodbyes to Nik, we head back through the exhibition toward the exit, detouring by a stand with an exceptionally cute soft toy I have been eyeing up. Turns out it's £35. Nope!
Supposedly we are leaving, but the queue for preview play of the new South Park game is now non-existent and Stan cannot resist. I wish I had resisted - that is all I'm going to say about that (my face below is BEFORE playing/being scarred for life).
The end of the universe
The robot arena is a loud smashing inferno of sparks and flying metal as today's roboteers chance their creations in a no-holds-barred battle royale. It's brutal and the crowd loves it. We roar with bloodlust as chunks of robot are flung into the air until at last one spinning hero remains, surrounded by the wreckage of his adversaries.
On a high, we launch ourselves toward the exit and at last find that daylight has not actually abandoned us for good. As we reach the carpark, I note that I am wearing no less than two badges and can't feel my toes. I will spend the next 3 days trying to scrub the eye of Sauron stamp off my hand and wondering whether I actually have to learn to play League of Legends in order to have a legitimate reason to make cosplay outfits.
Noob goes a-gaming will return at some unspecified future time because, let's be honest, I can't escape it now. I have opened Pandora's box.