Techno music pulsing in the air, brightly colored LEDs flashing in rows and random patterns and towers of energy drinks stacked against the back wall. While these might seem like sights encountered at a concert or club, this past Saturday they greeted those who attended this year’s GT GameFest.
In essence, GT GameFest is a cross between a game tournament and a giant LAN party—an event where groups of gamers get together and play games over a local area network. Anyone interested was encouraged to come to the Klaus Advanced Computing Building Saturday night to either compete in one of the tournaments being held or simply hang out and play games.
GameFest officially kicked off at 6 p.m. Saturday, and continued though the night until 8 a.m. the following morning. Snacks and two meals were provided throughout the night as well as a steady supply of caffeine to keep things running smoothly.
While just playing was free, entrance fees for the tournaments ran $5 for one or $10 for entrance into all the tournaments. Those who did well in the tournaments, however, were reimbursed for their efforts, as over $1500 worth of prizes were awarded by the end of the night. Prizes included jump drives, mp3 players, DVD recorders and gaming headphones, among others.
Gamers that needed a break from gaming could walk down the hall and enjoy a few action flicks, anime movies and AMV collections at Anime O-Tekku’s Riki-Oh film festival, which also lasted throughout the night.
The event was quite large, with 172 registered attendees and dozens more unregistered gamers who decided to drop in for a few hours of gaming. The event was undeniably well-advertised.
Announcements and artwork were chalked on sidewalks all around campus, several of the organizations involved sent out notifications and the FIREWall (the CoC newspaper) had published an announcement for the event.
It also managed to lure some of Tech’s newest students. Aurel Lazar, a first-year Computer Science major and a first-timer to the event, described his initial excitement about the festival.
“I heard about the GT GameFest from the chalk drawings by the College of Computing building, and I went and looked it up online to see what it was all about and was pretty pumped about what I heard,” Lazar said.
Despite all the ads, however, word of mouth did its part to raise attendance. Troy West, another first-year computer science major, ended up attending on a bit of a whim. “Out of nowhere a friend of mine calls me at 7:50 [p.m.], [and says] he needed a fourth player for the 4 versus 4 Halo 3 tournament, so I said ok and ran over there…unfortunately the games that I play on my PC were not on the list so I only stuck around for the Halo 3 tournament from 8 [p.m.] to 12 [a.m.],” West said.
Lazar entered two tournaments: the 2 versus 2 Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and the Defense of the Ancients—a version of the popular PC strategy game Warcraft III—tournament from 11 to 2.
“My favorite part— aside from playing the games, of course—was being in an environment where so many of the other people around me were as passionate as I am about video games. It made me realize that I am not alone in the way I express and engage myself while gaming,” Lazar said.
His teammate, Arlen Chen, also a first-year CS major, had a positive experience at GameFest as well. “It was pretty awesome. I’m probably going to go to every one from now on,” Chen said.
This sense of camaraderie is, apparently, not an accident. “GT GameFest has always been a successful event that really helps to build community [in the College],” said Elizabeth Collums, the program coordinator for the College of Computing’s Office of Outreach, Enrollment and Community.
Despite the anti-social stereotype gamers are often tagged with, there was a definite sense of community at the event. In between rounds, gamers could often be seen swapping war-stories, talking about new and upcoming game releases and, of course, engaging each other in a bit of smack-talk.
Nintendo Wiis, Xbox 360s and TVs were provided, but those wishing to play PC games had to bring their own machines.
While many simply brought their laptops, some gamers pulled out all the stops and brought massive, custom-built desktops equipped with HD monitors that often measured more than 20 inches across.
Popular games this year included the perennial favorites Halo 3, Counter Strike, Super Smash Bros, and Star Craft as well as more recent releases, such as Call of Duty 4.
In reality, though, if it was a game that formatted well for multiple players, odds were good that someone at the GameFest was playing it.
This year, the event was hosted by the gaming Special Interest Group of the Association for Computing Machinery in collaboration with the Entertainment Software Producers, and was sponsored by the ACM, ESP, Anime O-Tekku and Bawls energy drink.
The event was completely student -ran. “For GT GameFest, we provide approval and occasionally help to arrange setup, but ESP and ACM did a great job of that on their own. It was very much a student led activity,” Collums said.