The sub-culture of the gamer is largely misconceived by anyone who is not a part of it. Gamers are perceived as lazy, unmotivated, socially reclusive and overall either geeky, nerdy or both. These stigmas are frustrating when you consider that the concept of going to Malaga for a weekend to spend hundreds of pounds getting blind drunk in an attempt to convince other blind drunk people that you’re a sexually viable candidate and to prove this fact you’ll pay for a ridiculous tattoo that you’ll later regret, all the while the person you lure will only ever regret ever meeting you.
The fact is that to be a computer gamer you need a computer and they’re not cheap to obtain. The average gaming rig complete with games can come to the minimum of £1000 easily. It’s a hobby that requires equipment, discipline and in some cases skill (I do not apply).
Basically, if you’re not a gamer you don’t know what you’re talking about and you should really take the time to get to understand the culture, the games and the people who have made it all possible.
The best place to be able to absorb the energy, appeal and entertainment of gaming is to attend a LAN event. I regard them as my gaming holidays, two weekends a year where I can relax away from natural light, daily life and anything else in my life that I don’t need to be a part of. With a couple of clicks I can be completely immersed into one of a nearly infinite number of universes. I can be any character, I can live any story and I can travel to places that only exist in this realm.
The level of organisation and detail in hosting these events is always commendable, the admins who make up Skynet put in a tremendous level of work from finding a suitable venue to physically trailing the miles of cables needed to bring us all together. Until the very last ethernet cable is rolled up and accounted for their work does not stop. This level of dedication in bringing such a fantastic event is not for the benefit of financial gain or anything along those lines. It is purely to bring together likeminded individuals for a chance to socialise, game and if you’re up for it compete with one another.
The prizes up for grabs that are fantastically made possible by the event’s sponsors are definitely worthy of winning. From pc cases to high quality gaming headsets there was an abundance of equipment to be won. For the winners of Counterstrike and Quake you could walk home with a shiny medal or a beautiful plaque to symbolise your skills at the games.
If, like me you’re not a particularly good gamer you can take your chances with the raffle which in reality gives you much better odds than entertaining the gaming tournaments. Actually, if you’re like me you’ll do both regardless of your gaming skills. What I lacked in skill, co-ordination and team work I made up for by being able to purchase strips of numbers allowing me to leave the LAN with a new gaming mouse, a really cool torch and a mousemat for the mouse to operate on. What’s not to like about that?
I have been attended LAN events with my longterm friend and gaming companion Mr. Pokeylope an individual who has dedicated his life and income to enjoying video games. For the last two years he has kindly let me use one of his gaming rigs to participate in Efragz and Skynet LAN events. I can say this now that I am safely at home but I only own a Mac for work reasons. I’m just grateful that PowerPC went out of the window so that I can at least run Steam and some of its games on here!
After just over an hour of chugging from Caldicot to Brecon in my battered old van full of equipment that vastly outweighed the value of the vehicle we pulled up at the back of Theatr Brycheiniog at the wharf of the Brecon & Monmouthshire canal route.
We collected our passes and complimentary raffle ticket (but missed out on a lollipop!) and made our way into the main theatre. Already we could see that there were more in attendance at this event than the previous one with a new layout allowing for comfortable accommodation. Given the super awesome piece of equipment that Mr. Pokeylope had brought with him we were given our very own desk and abundant play area.
We brought in our equipment and began setup, pausing at times to say hello to familiar LAN faces, our LAN family if you will. By the time we sat down and switched on our machines it was already time to make our way upstairs to the quiz. If any readers have attended an Efragz or Skynet event before you will know that it’s the quiz that tends to be neglected from the high level of organisation that I previously mentioned. Any Mead0s hosted quiz is the best example of what I mean and if you’ve been there then you know to.
How relieved we were to find that questions had been pre-written and this quiz even featured a ‘sound effects’ round. How far this quiz had come since last time surely the prize was going to be super cool too. Well, the prize was forgotten but there was cake and I did get to experience the satisfaction of winning thanks to the super-brains that made up our team.
The remainder of Friday night was dedicated to conversational catch-ups, seeing what other people were playing, getting in a bit of practice and initiating Noel on a three hour rant about the state of the world. Noel who works at the theatre takes the box office helm at night to ensure that we’re not sieged by bandits and to product the ice-cream freezer from us, the gamers. We thank and commend him for essentially giving up his weekend nights to keep us safe and entertained.
Saturday is day one of suffering from ‘The Grog’ a rare condition that affects only sleep deprived, junk food eating LAN attendees. There are a number of ways that people tackle The Grog be it high levels of caffeine, energy drinks or actually working out a decent sleep pattern. I take the caffeine option which although delays the onset of The Grog does mean that you’ll experience it far worse the following day and the following day and….
Tournaments started Saturday and I had signed up for everything including CS:GO a game I own but suck at and rarely play, Rocket League which I had played once and didn’t own, Command & Conquer which I had never played and didn’t own and Quake 3 a game that I only ever played at LANS sucked at and didn’t own. A quick browse through the network files and I was gamed up (except Rocket League which I played on Syke’s computer, thanks man) and ready to get in some practice.
First up was CS:GO and Mr. Pokeylope and I had found our ways into a scratch team of equally inexperienced players. Fair to say we were destroyed in the first round and sadly didn’t make it any further into the tournament but it was all in the name of fun.
I was carried to victory in the first round of Command & Conquer and this might have given me a false sense of confidence and the idea that maybe my strategy would work next time. It didn’t, I was wiped off the board in a matter of minutes leaving nothing but a lonesome dog standing where my base had once stood. Surely I could pull this back in Rocket League? Well, we lost that 9-2 with Mr. Pokeylope scoring the only two goals but sadly that wasn’t enough to carry us forward either.
I figured that at least I wouldn’t be the worst Quake 3 player there surely? The age range of gamers was enormous ranging from about 12 to (without wanting to offend anyone) maybe 50 and Quake has been out for years so if my calculations were correct the younger generation would suck at it and give me a fighting chance. Nope. I was absolutely and completely last despite getting in a higher number of frags than I had anticipated. Oh well, at least there was the raffle (which happened to pay off!)
I didn’t do a time lap in Dirt this year as I was dangerously close to walking away with last prize a mammoth Belinea CRT monitor last year and I was worried about what last prize was this year, sadly it was an awesome last prize consisting of an ancient XP machine, complete with monitor that would have once made a really compact gaming rig but was now little more than a funky paperweight.
Around Saturday lunchtime we got wind of a burning car around the corner so we went to check it out, after the drama had settled we walked back to the venue to see a group of gamers sail off down the canal in a hired boat!
Saturday evening saw the smoothest ‘Operation Pizza Night’ ever with the arrival of around a hundred pizzas to the theatre. Our tags were called and our pizza (pre-ordered by Friday) was handed to us in it’s golden, round glory. All was well, we feasted and rejoiced and it was delicious.
By 12:20am Sunday morning I was overwhelmed with The Grog and despite my afternoon nap (which I was woken up from to immediately go into Rocket League which must be why I was rubbish) I could not maintain a standing or sitting position any longer. I slumped my way to my now deflated airbed and slept as hard as I possibly could.
Sunday morning is period of mixed feelings, the aforementioned vengeful Grog, the knowledge that it’s the last day, the regret of not being able to stay awake and the desire to mainline caffeine whilst smoking are fighting for attention. The only answer at this point is to play something. I was awake all of nine minutes before vPope one of Skynet’s admins and holder of the microphone began one of his infamously long announcements in the style of Radio Norwich’s Alan Partridge. The information did not sink in as my brain had cut off all communication to itself in protest over something.
Mr. Pokeylope and I soon spotted Greggs goodies cropping up on tables so off we set through beautiful sunny Brecon to find Greggs. The lady inside made us promise to tell her when the next LAN was so that she could book it off, claiming to have taken Sunday as it would have been quiet had it not been for us meddling kids. Greggs by the way is a very effective cure for The Grog.
That afternoon saw the prizes and awards being given out in a ceremonious manner, complete with three tier winner plinth and confetti cannon. It was like The Olympics but better.
To give you an idea of how ‘no less thoughtful’ gamers are to non-gamers the Skynet admins awarded a mother a large box of chocolates to enjoy because she had spent her entire weekend there to allow her son to come and compete. The Shonk commends any parent who endorses whatever hobby their child might enjoy and we also commend Skynet for commending her on her commendation.
With the awards having been awarded and the prizes having been prizen it was time to pack up the van and say our goodbyes to our LAN family already slightly excited by the thought of the next event. Already by the time we were leaving the Skynet team had began restoring the theatre to it’s conventional shape, tables, chairs, cables and extension sockets vanished away neatly and efficiently by a team of people who continue to do a wonderful job at hosting these events.
I have but one criticism but this may stem from my natural inability to play well and that is the introduction of handicaps. Our first game of CS:GO was up against some really dedicated players and our second game was against a team on par with us so the results varied massively. That’s it, that’s my one and only quarm.
I look forward to the next event as I do all gaming events, with all the glee that I can muster. The next Skynet LAN is scheduled to take place at the same venue in October, in the meantime there might just be an Efragz LAN somewhere in the middle, stranger things have happened.
If anyone is still reading that still isn’t convinced that a gamer is still a human person, I’ll just eradicate one other stigma that you may still try and throw back at me and that’s regarding gender. I can assure you that both male humans and female humans enjoy gaming and both genders attend and no it doesn’t descend into some disgustingly sexualised competition to ‘lure gamer chicks’ because we’re all smart, intelligent people who are there for our love of gaming. Plus, contrary to popular belief not every gamer suffers from being perpetually lonely and this was backed up by the fact that there were a few gamer couples in attendance.
So, I implore you, do not make negative judgements towards a culture you don’t understand and don’t knock computer gaming until you’ve tried it. There is a game out there for everyone, my own mother disputed the entire concept of video games up until she played Silent Hill from start to finish over the course of a weekend.
I look forward to seeing my LAN family in October as well as familiar and new faces. In the meantime I’ll try and get some practice and may even turn up with my own rig! Until then, game happy and remember to keep reading The Shonk.
If you want to know more about the thing that Mr. Pokeylope brought, follow The Shonk for an upcoming review!
A shoutout to the sponsors as well for the epic prizes!