The LAN of Oz

Rock Chalk LAN brings computers and carnage to the KU campus

A primer: LAN stands for "Local Area Network."

BYOC means "Bring Your Own Computer."

DotA is "Defense of the Ancients."

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And BBAMFIC:well, you probably don't want to know what BBAMFIC stands for.

Now that you've been given a crash course in the lingo, you're ready for the 1st Annual Rock Chalk LAN Tournament! This computer frag-fest at the KU Union welcomes all comers (as long as you BYOC) to participate in Counterstrike and Warcraft III: DotA contests for cash and prizes. Organizers Michael "Super Calvin" Gisel and Chris "Yoda Stank 6" Hoffman joined us to discuss the culture of LAN parties and their upcoming tournament's quest for the BBAMFIC.

lawrence.com: How did you fall into LAN parties?

Chris: It's just something you pick up playing games as a kid. At first it's Mario Kart or whatever, but then you move on to bigger and better stuff. The idea for the Rock Chalk LAN Party is that we hope it appeals to those people who are hardcore about LAN and to those people who are more casual. Everybody has their own little zone and we're hoping to pull people from all over. We just want people to have a good time making their characters and killing people.

Mike: Killing people in a virtual sense, of course. I have LAN parties at my house all the time. Basically, it's when me and group of my friends who like to play the same games will bring all of our computers to a central location and network them together so we can all play with each other. It's possible to do it over the internet, but on a local network it's much faster. It's also a lot more fun to play with your teammate right next to you.

How did you make the leap from LAN parties at your house to the Rock Chalk LAN Tournament?

Mike: It's been something we've always talked about. I've worked at the Union for about two years now, and we've always joked about how it would be fun to have a LAN in the ballroom upstairs. We've been to a lot of events all over the country-St. Louis, Louisville, Dallas-pretty big events that are a lot of fun to go to and are a great experience for all gamers. We always wanted to be a part of that. I've always been an organizer, so it's been a lot of fun to organize. It's mostly just for fun, honestly.

Why not LAN over home consoles? Why not backgammon or Chinese checkers? What the hell's wrong with you damn kids?

Mike: There's nothing wrong with those games! I love those games! There's always been a debate about PCs versus consoles. I love all kinds of games, PC and console, but with PC gaming-and I'm sure someone's going to strongly disagree with me-you seem to get the crazy hardcore gamers that really love to do this kind of thing. With consoles you have more casual gamers. The console people probably wouldn't come out and pay for a LAN tournament. We have more pull with PC gamers.

Chris: Personally, it comes down to genre. I like to play Madden and FIFA and basketball games on the X-Box, which is just better suited for those games. At the same time, I like to play strategy games like "Counterstrike" and "Call of Duty" on a PC because it's easier to control on a computer than it is to control with a joystick. It's a convenience factor.

It doesn't seem overly convenient to drag your computers around with you to these parties. Contrary to popular opinion, do you actually have to be somewhat physically fit to lug equipment to a LAN?

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The Frag Pack (L to R): Nick Altieri, Jason Kroge, Chris Hoffman and Mike Gisel

Chris: I wouldn't necessarily say "physically fit." You get used to it after a while. It is unfortunate if you're stuck in the year 2000 and have a 90lb monitor-that can be physically grueling. You will see people at these conventions that dropped their monitor. You give them a pat on the back.

Mike: It gives you chills.

The Rock Chalk LAN is going to have 5 hour marathons each day. Piss jars? Diapers? Colostomy bags?

Mike: There will be bathrooms right down the hall.

Will there be drug testing? Does Red Bull and Monster count as doping?

Chris: We won't be testing-do what you got to do.

Mike: There is a strict ban on alcohol, though. Besides, your gaming ability goes way down when you're drunk.

Is this an underground sport, destined to be on the fringes forever?

Mike: There is an underground community, so to speak. It's virtually impossible to make money at this. The CPL, Cyberathlete Professional League, folded. MLG, Major League Gaming, is still around and actually signed a contract with ESPN for broadcast rights. It's still trying to emerge into the mainstream, but it's been trying to emerge for years now.

Chris: There are some people that make a living at this. The most famous gamer in the world, Jonathan Wendel-aka Fatal1ty-lives in Kansas City. He's the poster boy of competitive gaming. He even has his own brand of computer hardware. The problem I've noticed with this culture breaking through is that there's a big difference between the people who want to make money off of it and the people who just want to play. If you sign with a team, some people consider that selling out. And the people that sign with the leagues rarely associate with the lowly gamer. There's a constant clash.

How heated do these LAN tournaments get? I'm guessing one of the appeals of LAN gaming is that you can yell directly at other players.

Mike: Yeah, or punch them. We're not really playing up that level of competitiveness for our tournament. We just want people to have fun. In case it does get too heated, I've actually hired one of my friends who used to be a bouncer.

Chris: It can get pretty serious. The funny thing I've come across is the difference between online gamers and LAN players. You get a breed of person called an "e-punk," who talks a lot of trash online but is totally quiet in person at a LAN party.

How competitive do you guys get on a personal level?

Mike: I'm always trying to be the best at whatever it is that I do, and a lot of LAN players are that way. There's a lot of strategy that goes into these games.

Chris: Some of these guys, and I used to do this, will play 3 or 4 hours every night. It can get pretty serious. The game that we're going to play at Rock Chalk, Counter Strike, I compare to a sport. There's a lot of teamwork involved, there's a lot of communication involved and there's a lot of skill involved. You have to put a lot of time into it if you want to be competitive because there are a lot of people out there with nothing better to do but put a lot of time into it as well.

Favorite video game of all time-GO!

Mike: Portal. I'm one of those guys who thinks of video games as art and I love what they did with Portal.

Chris: It's not that easy for me-I'd have to say Starcraft. It got me into PC gaming.

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