I consider gaming to be a lifelong passion of mine, so it might come as a surprise to some that I’ve never been to any organised gaming events before. I’ve spent far longer than I’d ever willingly admit playing games, watching YouTubers give their thoughts on topics, reading articles and so on but I’ve never really considered going to something that big before.
My curiosity was finally piqued last month when a few friends went up to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham to check out the 63rd Insomnia Gaming Festival. They returned with a lot of memories and interesting things to talk about and it really cemented in my head that next time there was something like that going on, I wanted in.
Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long! A few days ago one of those friends wanted to go back up to the NEC for EGX (formerly known as the Eurogamer Expo) and this time I finally went for it. And oh boy, did it leave me with a lot to think about. We went up on Sunday, the last day of the event, since that was the only day with tickets left.
Having only heard of the NEC before, the image I had in my head was something like a big concert arena. I was quite surprised, when we finally navigated the small village of car parks, to find an incredibly large building that looked like a shopping centre, a massive warehouse and some kind of bunker all in one. The size of it was staggering. EGX itself only used a portion of the space of course but I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale of the event as we went in.
I’ve never been to anything game related bigger than a game shop before. Imagine my surprise when we walk into EGX and I see what feels like an endless array of almost everything I’ve ever appreciated about video games before. It genuinely took me about an hour or so of looking around to get over my giddiness and properly process the sheer scale of it all. Just thinking about it now gives me goosebumps.
I was in heaven.
Reading up on the event and what was going to be there beforehand is nothing compared to actually seeing it for yourself. Despite the vast assortment of games and events happening all over the place, being there felt surprisingly relaxing. For some reason I always pictured events like this as being similar to a busy market where every stall owner is trying hard to get your attention and try their products, but I never got that impression at all.
Certain sections made much more of an attempt to be seen and heard, especially Nintendo with their giant screen and traditional bright red setting for their stands, but it felt more like a reliable landmark to me rather than a loud annoyance trying to distract from anything else.
Whilst some of the more popular games definitely had long queues (Life is Strange 2 had at least an hour long waiting time all day for example), the games me and my friends wanted to try were surprisingly easy to experience. Our longest waiting time was for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and even then that was only for about 10 minutes. Granted, it was Sunday which I’d imagine was much quieter than other days, but it was nice all the same.
I won’t go into detail on the games I played for now (although that is coming soon!), but whilst we were there I either played or watched my friends play Soul Calibur 6, Sonic Team Racing, My Hero One’s Justice and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Unfortunately, we were too late for the VR game Beat Saber!
Aside from the games themselves, we got to check out one of the panel discussions and play in an Overwatch limited 3v3 tournament.
The panel we saw was titled “The future of VR: Where, how and when will you play?”, the podcast for which I will link to once it is availiable!
The panel was by far my favourite experience of the day. Getting to listen to four knowledgeable people talk about the practicalities and potential uses of VR, especially beyond the scope of gaming itself, was an enjoyable experience that led to us having our own discussions about the topics afterwards.
Beyond that though, it really made me realise how much I enjoy not only video games themselves, but a lot of the technology and thought processes behind both. I fully credit going to this panel as a big part of why I’m trying to write again.
If you are attending next year and have any interest in the panels on offer, I would recommend checking them out or seeing if they will be available online somewhere afterwards. I will be looking up some of the panels I missed myself and who knows, maybe I’ll have more to say about those in future.
Once we were done with the panel and some food, it was time for the Overwatch tournament. Upon arriving we all sat down and got set up, but we had to forego our practice match as we had some technical hiccups with being unable to hear one of our friends. She eventually worked the problem out after a while and we got started!
…It was brief!
To be completely fair, neither me or my friends are PC players but we were going up against a team who were. It was a surprisingly close match though, and as someone who has never taken part in a gaming tournament before it was an enjoyable experience and that I would definitely do again.
That is most of the event covered, but of course it wouldn’t be an event like this if there wasn’t merchandise as well. There were stands by a lot of the big companies such as Bungie, Ubisoft, Blizzard, Bethesda etc. but there was also a very large section of independent merchants selling all kinds of clothes, cuddly toys, art, Japanese snacks and much more. Naturally I couldn’t help myself and walked away with a few things, but I appreciated that for the most part the stores were kept in one area and didn’t try to take attention from the games themselves.
I think I’ve covered everything! Everything I had chance to experience anyway. There are so many things I only had a passing glance at and many other things I’m certain I missed and didn’t see at all. Entire sections like the Indie games were passed over this time purely because there wasn’t enough time.
If you are interested in going to EGX next year, I would highly recommend trying to go over multiple days, unless you know you only want to check out a couple of specific things. The event is so big that one day just isn’t enough to properly experience everything. Next year I definitely intend to go for a few days if possible.
And I can’t wait!
P.S. – Here is a photo of me with Eevee and Pikachu!