9 August 2010

Where's the LAN Party At?

I feel a change of pace is in order this week; my last two posts were fairly heavy on game mechanics, narrative and surprisingly, Russian formalism. My incessant ramblings on these topics will certainly not cease but during an extended session of Team Fortress 2 I had an epiphany. I should just bite the bullet and admit it; sometimes...who cares about the story? Initially, it was a hard pill to swallow but washed down with a grand total of five dominations, it went down smooth enough. My Team Fortress 2 soldier skills aside I am willing to admit there are times when a great deal of satisfaction can be obtained from a game that has perfectly constructed gameplay. The competitive nature of the online FPS and the communities that build from it is what holds them together; a narrative is not necessary. Nevertheless, there is still one element I sorely miss and to find it I had to return to my introduction into online PC gaming.

Of course, at that time, I had very little knowledge of CPUs, GPUs and RAM so my PC was just powerful enough to run DOS games (it also was made by Daewoo...yes, the car manufacturer!). Luckily, there was a small establishment on my town high street named Cyber Realm that offered a whole host of games with fairly decent quality computers to play them on. A LAN centre is what I think they used to be called? It provided my first experiences with many PC games that I would eventually obtain and sink many hours into at home such as Counter Strike 1.6, Red Alert 2, Battlefield 1942 and if I remember correctly, it was where I saw the first glimpse of an MMORPG.

Thinking back it was a fantastic place to be and often hilarious. Going down with a group of friends and having the opportunity to destroy the school’s ‘cool kids’ in CS 1.6. I may have been less than adept at rugby and athletics but they were in my territory now where lightning fast reactions and excellent hand eye co-ordination were vital skills. Screams of ‘Who the f*$% just killed me!?’ and ‘Who the F*%& is username?’ would ring out every so often across the room from their mouths. The only replies were quiet sniggers in the corner. I only wish Team Fortress 2 dominations were around then!

Unfortunately, the fun would never last and Cyber Realm closed sometime many years ago. I never found out why but I imagine it never made enough money to support itself. In addition, as time passed I managed, like many others, to upgrade to a more competent computer able to run all of the centre’s games from home. Now with the wide uptake of computers by more households the need for LAN centres and internet caf├ęs has, more or less, completely diminished. Plus, easily obtainable, fast internet connections and the robust nature of online gaming across multiple platforms ensure the LAN centre remains in the past. Whilst I realise some still do exist they are not in the most convenient of locations for a spontaneous visit.

So there you have it, there is more to me than a prententious, narrative minded formalist. One day I would like to get round to perhaps organising a local LAN if there was enough interest to recreate that atmosphere. For now though, I’ll have to settle for the less entertaining banter over Xbox Live with a group of strangers in another part of the world.

1 comment:

  1. interesting article but i can imagine one of the main limitations of LAN gaming at home is the machines itself. most of them are cumbersome towers that are a pain to lug around without some form of car. that coupled with the dependancy on powerpoints (at least 2 for the tower and monitor) means that for a decent LAN game of 4 people it would need at least 8 power sockets in the room and space for 4 gaming systems (chirst i find it a struggle to get 4 people in a room for a rockband session).

    i always found a good example of LAN gaming is with the handhelds and their popularity in japan. with the advent of games like monster hunter and dragon quest a simular system is happening in japan where people are playing in almost LAN like systems in bars, just without being constrained to a bulky machine and monitor

    it is a shame though that cyber cafes have died out but i can imagine they are hardly profitable and maybe they havent gone but changed from the lan parties of old (instead of playing a game in a cafe now we are playing online games that orginally would have flourished in a cybercafe (i.e. L4D2))