Growing up, video games were a huge part of my life (like many children in the late 80s/early 90s). Ever since I can remember I was either playing super Nintendo with buddies at their house, or we’d be trying to get all the way through Kirby in one night, as we didn’t really have a way to save back then, or at least, we didn’t have the memory cards. My first console I finally owned was a Nintendo 64. I was in an EB games with my Dad and was just checking out what new games had come out for consoles, PC, you name it. I was mesmerized by the variety. Remember back then, there was no simple way to download or stream your games via digital content delivery like there is today. Low and behold, he surprises me with a Nintendo 64 which came in this massive box with a few games like Mario Kart 64 and a couple of controllers to play with friends. Those were good times, and just the beginning of my adventure.
Fast forward to high school and Xbox was a contender to compete with Sony and Nintendo (Sega had a dreamcast but it seemed to be falling behind at this point). At the time I thought, “Wow, a Microsoft Console…it’s gotta be good.” With its massive “duke” style controllers and a launch title like “Halo” in the starting lineup, I was hooked. I had friends over constantly playing Halo in four player matches in Blood Gulch and Sidewinder. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t flunk out of high school because I had to beat the campaign in Legendary before I finished the semester. It was epic. It was the ultimate shift in gaming. Of course, there was an entire universe of console, PC, and handheld gaming to be had (and even mobile games were beginning to become a thing, but keep in mind, cell phones were quite primitive back then). But I was at least getting my feet wet, and I absolutely was convinced that console gaming, especially on the Xbox was THE way to play video games
In college I became friends with a guy named Chris, who, to this day is still one of my best friends. He knew I had an old laptop I used for school and asked if I ever played any PC games.
“Does Duke Nukem Count”?
It had been a while since I really played any PC games. Growing up it was either console games or some light Doom/Duke Nukem on my Dad’s computer. That was really my entire experience PC gaming. He told me that PC gaming was his main jam, and that I should get into it. After a few weeks of deliberation and saving up enough money, I took his advice and went for it. He thought that building a computer was the way to go, and ended up helping me with the parts selection.
We decided to go with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600…. oh yeah baby…FOUR cores of greatness…when the standard was to buy only dual core, we wanted to “future proof” this machine. We paired it up with an EVGA GeForce 8800GT, 2GB of RAM, and a 500GB Hard drive…all packed into an Antec 900.
You may be thinking to yourself: “How OLD is this guy?!” and you’d be right. These were the top of the line parts back then…the cream of the crop for a 2007 PC build. And once we got it all booted up, it was time to play some games. Counter Strike, World of Warcraft, Worms: Armageddon, just to name a few. This was the ultimate experience in gaming. But he told me that instead of just playing online with random strangers, LAN parties were another option for gaming.
The first LAN we went to was called “AmosLAN” which some guy in Austin decided to host each year. A total of ~25-30 gamers piled up in his house for a long weekend and he arranged with the power company for a few extra dedicated circuits to his house to allow everyone to bring their PC over. This was wild. I just put together my first real PC and all of a sudden, I was going to take it to someone’s house, game with a bunch of people for hours and days on end, never to see any of them again. Wicked. From this point my real question to Chris was: “Where can we find more of these LAN parties?!”
After much researching, there were a number of conventions we went to, none of which being a real LAN party, but things like HardOCP meetup, Blizzcon, and other conferences were at least all about gaming and PC hardware. These were my people. But we needed a LAN…something to bring our own PC to game for days like we did at AmosLAN. We needed to fill the void.
“Ever heard of Quakecon” Chris asked?
Quakecon, a 4-day stint of gaming in Dallas, Texas was a tradition going on since the late 90s. It had grown to a point where it was one of the largest LAN parties in North America. The premise was, Quakecon took over a major hotel and rented out the largest ballroom area to house thousands of gamers who all brought their own PC.
Fast forward another 10 years and I was still going to this conference. Four days of energy drinks (bawls, naturally), PC gaming with friends, late night food runs and 3-hour naps between 3 and 6am was the kind of experience nerds from around the world enjoyed for years upon years. It’s the ultimate in LAN parties, even if we all use the internet to play with each other. As time has progressed forward, gaming, while truly a revolution in staying connected with friends and strangers alike on the internet, has lost some of its grass roots. LAN parties, whether they be at a friend’s house or at an event like Quakecon are truly the ultimate experience in nerding out with friends. For 361 days a year, adulting is our primary objective. But…for four days a year, losing yourself in a gigantic dark room with friends gaming your face off is something truly special.