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So what were you in high school?

Nirvana and Marilyn Manson patch on the white out painted backpack … you were Candace the “I don’t care” hesher girl.

Over weight and jolly … you were Jebediah who “turned out to be gay” guy.

Cute, but excessively shy girl with carefully hanging bangs … you were Christina the “study until I get into Harvard” girl.

Got your girlfriend pregnant at 15 and were cool for it … you were Travis the “failed sex ed” guy.

Exceedingly intelligent with a social problem of making every situation in life a scene from Seinfeld … you were Eric “my parents never let me play with my friends” guy.

Came up with an acronym to represent your group of friends like TCFS crew … you were the “too cool for school” guy.

Asian and proud of your high score at the arcade for Street fighter 12: Marvel heroes vs Jacki Chan … you were Matt the “unusually good virtual dancer who never danced with a real girl” guy.

And on and on and on …

So where did I fall?

Captain of the soccer team, doubles tennis star, and vice president of the Ping-Pong club would suggest I was Brock the “never take my letterman jacket off” jock guy. But I wasn’t.

My solid schedule of nerdy honors classes would suggest I was Melvin the “took my SATs two years early” nerd guy. But I wasn’t.

My refusal to drink and do drugs might give you the idea that I was Johnny “don’t fuck with me I’m straight edge” guy. But I wasn’t.

So I ask again, where did I fall in the high school social strata?

Well ladies and gentleman, I invite you now to know, understand, and appreciate exactly what I did when I was not on the fields or courts or behind the books.

I was a gamer.

The key to this story is to understand that in the waning years of the 20th century, their existed a tiny gap in our technological lifespan where the communication channels of the burgeoning internet were slow and came bundled with loud modem sounds and screams of siblings telling you to get off the computer so they could use the phone. In this brief snapshot of time, I found my social circle.

What is a LAN party?

There was no option, to circumvent annoyingly slow modem speeds, we would have LAN parties at someone’s house. Laptops did not exist at this point. So you packed up your 32 pound monitor, three foot tall computer tower, keyboard, mouse, cables, network cable, speakers, chair, and a table and “gamed” at your buddies house.

Speakers were frowned upon so most of us acquired 5.1 channel surround sound headsets that would loosen a vertebrate with every fatality. Imagine walking into a room with 10 glowing computer monitors, with 10 young adults staring at them and not a single sound to be heard except for rapid clicking and then without warning…

“Ahhh FUCK YOU man, I was reloading.”

“Dude, who took the chain gun?”

“Eric! Stop fucking stealing all my porn! I can see you doing it!”

“Alright guys, you ready … lets go.” And no one moves a physical muscle.

The Early Days

We began modestly with a core group of guys. LAN parties were simple, you showed up, plugged in, and were gaming in a matter of minutes. Organizing a party was no more than telling your parents that you were going to have a few friends over.

For most of us, our virtual identities were established and I myself adopted l0c0luke with zeros and which I still use to this day for many online identities. Ballnchink made a name for himself early. BadKarma was never far away for that head shot. The twins of congerific and Congerking were bastards behind the Gatling gun and were always good for a good turrets blurt out. A virtually living legend was born in the form of Raven who’s blood coursed with Pepsi and was, in all forms, the comic book shop guy from the Simpsons. Dahpimpsta received some of the nastiest jewish slurs to have existed. And the godfather of them all was BuckWilder who amazed us all with his own apartment designed for gaming and a hot girlfriend.

The times they were a good.

The Pinnacle

From those humble beginnings was born a wild beast that would thrash through my weekends for the next three years. Our community and momentum had grown and it was not uncommon to have a dozen or more gamers at a LAN party. But one hot and humid summer afternoon, the gaming gods aligned, and the ultimate LAN party of all time happened. My dad had access to dangerously high-powered networking equipment and a desire to watch his electric meter spin faster than anything we had seen before. We had an excess of space, tables, chairs, and most importantly, time.

The gamers arrived. We stacked them on top of each other passing out extension cords and power strips and vague directions of where to sit. I had bunkered down in my air conditioned bedroom with a select few friends as the mayhem and noise heightened in the living room. By mid afternoon we had 24 gamers piled into the house, overflowing onto the patio, and sitting on the kitchen counters. Faces were lit bright with rocket launchers and an endless quantity of porn, music, and movies to be shared/stolen.

The power went out several times under the weight of 5000 watts being consumed a second which was followed by howls and shrieks that would bring a chill to even the most comfortable gamer sitting in an air conditioned room on a separate power circuit.

Despite the whining Asians I didn’t even know, and the pleas for more power, and the constant knocking for entry into the air conditioned room, and the small fortune spent on power, it was a perfect gaming day. A day that will never be repeated and a day that would bring our nerdy social circle its high watermark as we all gamed our way towards the end of an era.

The Money

I can remember the day clearly when I sat down at the gaming table and the guy next to me looked at my screen, and then looked at me, and then laughed as if I had just urinated in my pants while talking to a girl. I had never felt so bad and it was all because my video card was not 3D accelerated. That night my dad and I sniped an auction on EBay for a new one and it was all down hill from there. Video cards, ergonomic mice that had fans inside to keep your unnaturally sweaty palms dry, water cooled computers that gave you super abilities, headphones that caressed your scrotum while you played … if you had the money, you could kill better than your friends, and that’s all that mattered.

The Deceit

Clandestine alliances were formed and it became very clear in our virtual world. Did you feel betrayed when your girlfriend cheated on you? Did you feel depressed when your dog was hit by a car in front of you while it’s blood splattered on your new white shoes? Did rage engulf you when the lunch lady refused to accept pennies as a form of payment? Well all these things hold no relevance after you have just spent two days locked in your room with four other guys trying to beat a game that culminates with your “buddy”, who has been sitting to your left for these 48 hours, literally stabbing you in the back (in the game) and taking all that you had worked so hard for. My virtual avatar slumped to the ground, and my real human heart shattered. I wanted to cry. I wanted to break ball massaging mouse pads. I wanted to give up.

The Alcohol

Gaming is a very exact social activity. There is not much room for error when strafing around a blind corner and rocket jumping to the other side of the room and switching to your sniper rifle in mid leap to claim a headshot and then landing with your knife drawn for a bare handed kill. Well giving a bunch of pasty skin youths alcohol and then asking them to do these professional feats of assassination is simply laughable. Watching your friend stumble across a narrow bridge and drowning in the lava without turning on his force field just makes you shake your head in shame.

I remember waking up one morning with my left cheek flat on my keyboard and only one headphone on after a particularly late night of gaming and beers. I had been firing some sort of loud weapon that was jarring my headphones for the last 5 hours. I thought I was being attacked with a large explosive on my right side for the next two days.

The Depravity

When Diablo 2 came out, I lost a week of my life to Beelzebub himself. I left my room only for short food breaks and soccer practice. A few of my friends never left and slept as they played in some sort of half sleep, half button clicking trance. When we had finally “won”, we all realized in a moment of depravity that indeed we had all lost, and lost significantly.

The factions were rife and organizing a multiplayer game was practically impossible. Some people came over only to steal music and videos and porn and programs. Others came over only to use your recently installed ISDN line to play with other LAN parties around the world.

The LAN Party was losing it’s cool and no one was fighting back nor did they want to.

Our gaming existence would eventually become extinct and we were to be no more. The high speed Internet arrived and the need to interact with other people was less and less appealing. Many gamers chose a solitary life of independent gaming that in many cases would last for many years. Others, like myself, chose to walk away with a tip of the hat to the beast that motivated me for three years and give her a polite “Thanks, but no thanks.”




Published inLukePodcast