Gamers get in sync at biannual LAN party held in Plumley

Twice a year, Norwich University’s Local Area Network (LAN) club challenges the student body to battle in combat, speed through races and survive on other planets. The biannual video game parties have something for everyone, drawing a diverse crowd of students.

The Local Area Network club allows students to hook up their computers to a network in close proximity so games can be shared, enabling players to compete against one another. Students are required to bring their own laptops.

LAN parties have been taking place at Norwich for many years, but are said to be declining in popularity due to new video games and the way they are played.

“It’s a tradition that the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) and security clubs have been doing for the past 10 years, and now it’s getting to the point that we are still calling it a LAN Party but it’s more of a video game party,” said Meg Rioux, 21, a senior majoring in computer security information assurance from Leicester, Mass.

The last LAN Party took place Nov. 9 at Plumley Armory. The event started at 6 p.m. and went until about 3 a.m., according to Rioux. Each student was asked to pay an entrance fee of $4, and the money taken in went toward the food that was purchased and sold at the event, as well as toward the clubs on campus.

The LAN Party allows students to play their favorite video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, Madden, Call of Duty and Super Mario Brothers, against each other.

“What’s really great about it is it seems like everyone is having a good time. Some people are playing Rock Band, and others are playing Portal,” Rioux said.

However, when students enter Plumley Armory, “peer-to-peer” computer sharing must be turned off. For those unaware of what peer-to-peer is, it allows computers to act as a server for others without the need of a central server to share files, or in this case, update games.

“Our network doesn’t allow peer-to-peer because people can do illegal things with it. A lot of the newer games require peer-to peer now, but you can shut it off,” Rioux said. If peer-to-peer remained on the server providing Internet to the students, it would crash and the users would be kicked off the network, he said.

Though students are not allowed to use peer-to peer, Rioux said, “It’s a nice way to get to play the games differently.”

The recent LAN event brought in close to 80 students, according to Rioux. Though it is a gaming party, a disc jockey was provided so students could request songs throughout the night.

While the party brought in a fair number of people, the club is still looking to increase the amount of people who attend. “We get mostly rooks, but this year was probably the best year we have had for the number of civilians present that weren’t freshman. There were at least 20 kids who weren’t freshman,” she said.

Although some students may think that the LAN event is only for gamers, there is something there for everyone, and the event also provides a chance to meet new people.

“It’s really fun even if you like League (of Legends), you can play that in your room, but it’s a chance to go down and meet new people and talk to them (during the game),” Rioux said. She added, “I had a lot of fun and played with people I didn’t know.”

However, some find the predominantly male atmosphere isn’t for them. Liz Gemmiti, 21, a senior finance major from Toronto, Canada, doesn’t feel comfortable going to the parties. “Going to a school that is mainly guys, it seems a little awkward as a female to attend a LAN. Plus, I’m not that much of a gamer to attend one publicly, and I like gaming in the comfort of my own living room.”

Though Gemmiti does not feel comfortable enough to attend the event, other students enjoy the party. Benjamin Rose, 19, a sophomore majoring in computer science and computer security information assurance from Goffstown, N.H., said he liked the idea of playing in a big crowd. “It’s a lot of fun getting to play video games, aside from in your room; you get a large amount of people who are all enjoying themselves,” Rose said.

Besides attending the event, Rose also helped get the event together. “I was in the lab multiple times until midnight or two in the morning working on the server and trying to make it work enough for the LAN Party.”

While Rose helped get the server ready for the event along with Rioux, Michele Kellerman, 19, a sophomore majoring in computer security information assurance from Old Bridge, N.J., is in charge of putting the entire event together. “We get together games, we organize tournaments and sell food,” Kellerman said.

Another contributor was Anson Hastings, an employee for the NU Information Technology Department. Hastings helped set up the networking for the party and the servers, and has been participating for four years and finds the LAN Party is important because he helps preserve the social part to gaming.

“What computer gaming has turned into is all Internet-based gaming. Instead of playing against people at the same table or room with you, gaming is playing against people across the world, providing more people to play with, but losing the whole personal, playing-with-your-friends part,” Hastings said.

For the next LAN Party, Rioux and Kellerman are hoping to use the event as a fundraiser. “We have a couple projects in the works and that requires money, and all the parts are extremely expensive, so we need to fundraise more for the money and to pay for ACM memberships for the students in the club,” Kellerman said. She added, “We were thinking about doing a Wounded Warrior Project but that’s not confirmed it’s in the works.”

The latest LAN Party raised close to $350. “Some of that (money) went toward a thank you gift for our advisor and all the work he helped us do, but we walked away with about $300,” Kellerman said.

Rioux is an avid video gamer and was one of the only few females in the club until the past couple years. “It’s all guys in the club, and I’ve been the only girl for a couple years, but this was the first year I was able to play a game (at the event),” Rioux said.

Because Rioux is a senior, she won’t be around next year to help plan the event, so she showed Kellerman the ins and outs of planning it. “I took over because she is a senior; continuity wise, she can’t plan it her last year and have all of us be confused on what to do next year,” Kellerman said.

Kellerman said that she “wouldn’t have been able to plan it without her (Rioux), and now I can teach the person who does it next year.”

Unlike Rioux, Kellerman is not an avid gamer, but is the president of ACM and finds it to easier to make sure everything goes well at the event because she isn’t distracted by the games.

“Somebody had to rally the forces and I’m that person because I don’t want to video game, so I’m not going to get distracted by wanting to play. It was better for me to focus on the actual planning and making sure everything ran smoothly,” Kellerman said.

Over the years, the LAN Party has changed and developed due to new games.

“The focus has been on older games like Ancient Empires and War Craft, and now League of Legends, which has become a big thing.

The focus has changed from older LAN games to focusing on those (like League of Legends),” Rioux said.

In order to adapt to the new developments in video games, the club must offer games that aren’t just LAN games to keep students interested she said.

“Last year was the first year we used consoles,” Rioux said.

Like Rioux, Hastings has also seen a change in the gaming industry and has seen it affect the LAN party over the years.

“The overall style of computer gaming has changed over the past 10 years. LAN party was essentially everybody (picking) one game to play, and one person would host it on their own computer or server and everybody would play together, against each other, on that one machine,” Hastings said.

Today, a Facebook page allows students to poll what games they would like to play at the event most, which is where the club gets its ideas on what games to provide for students.

Besides adapting to the gaming industry and the way people play, Hastings has also seen a change in the amount of people attending the party.

“A couple years before I was involved, (the party) was big enough that there would be students and clubs coming from Vermont Technical College and local colleges coming here to play, and it’s shrunk a lot from what it used to be, but it’s still fun,” Hastings said.

Though the LAN Party is a chance for students to have fun, it provides a learning experience for the younger students.

“We are using the networking and servers as a (learning) experience for our clubs next semester to really go in depth on it because we struggled with it initially,” Kellerman said. “In our major and our industry it’s a big deal, so we are using that as a learning experience on what we can improve.”

For the future, the LAN club is exploring new ways to adapt and improve through fundraisers, and providing tournaments to students.

“Because Internet gaming is more popular than LAN gaming, we kind of have to change our tactics and offer a backbone network,” Hastings said. He added that this will be a way to “cater to the people who want to do LAN gaming, the people who want to do Internet gaming, and the people who want to do console games.”

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