Taking a walk around campus, it seems like any other quiet New England boarding school: The ground is icy, and remnants of snowmen from a past storm sit quietly on the quad, little more than piles of snow now. In the cafeteria, the junior class is holding their annual semi-formal Winter Ball, attracting almost every student on campus. The dorms, antiquated 19th century homes, sit quietly on the edge of campus, their residents seeking companionship at the dance. Outside the school buildings, though, on the wintery air, an out-of-place sound carries by:
"Yo, whose name is The Madness? No team-killing, man! There's an enemy mech right there!" This is the second official Mindrot Gaming Club LAN party this semester. Huddled together in a multi-purpose room in the main school building, a dozen gamers followed their instincts and chose a few hours of friendly gaming over the dance. A Super Nintendo is being projected on the wall, and four people are trading off playing Kirby. In the center of the room, the rest of the group is gathered around the official club router, engrossed in a game of Mechwarrior 4.
It's almost a tradition, now, to have LAN parties on the same nights as dances, and none of the people in the room regret coming to this one. Mindrot has been the school's computer and videogaming club for three years. The original club was shut down for taking advantage of the school's non-profit nature and making buckets of cash off web design. In the wake of the controversy, six sophomores, including myself, decided to start a new club.
We struggled through picking a name, finding a faculty advisor and eventually scrounging up $120 for the club's 24-port router. For the past three years, we fought against dozens of events for LAN party attendance, a misunderstanding that resulted in the loss of over $100 and our club status, and, of course, numerous bouts of laziness during which none us felt like organizing a LAN party. But enough of us worked through adversity and pushed our club into becoming one of the largest and arguably most active on campus.
Halfway through the party, a girl walks through, looking for something to do. Almost immediately, three guys clamor to accompany her for the rest of the evening. The rest of the crowd sits quietly, temporarily uninterested in - and in some cases awkward and incapable of - winning favor with this lovely young lady. She's a new sophomore, and not a gamer at all; of course, everyone is welcome at the LAN party, but I know that all she'll do while she's here is ask if anyone wants to get some coffee, lure some unsuspecting guy out with her siren call and flirt with him meaninglessly on the walk, pulling him out of the fun he was having at the LAN. There is still one girl who's an active member of the club, which no one minds, but this new girl obviously doesn't care for the fun the rest of us are having. A few eyes trail after her as she leaves the room with her small entourage, but the moment is forgotten when the gaming starts up again.
The party progresses and a few more people wander in, having just returned from a race with the ski team. They join in quickly and while away the hours. As 10:30 p.m. and the end of the event approaches, parents call, wondering when their sons will be coming home. People pack up, and soon enough, we declare the party over. People say their goodbyes, and the other co-heads and I sit down to begin planning the next event.
I kick back in my chair, watching the last few people leave the room, lugging all manner of equipment down the stairs, chatting about how they did in the various games we played - another successful event. By this time, the dance is out, and we can hear people leaving to get picked up by their parents. Groups from the dance mingle with some of the gamers as they wait, and for all the apparent separation, I'm reminded our community isn't an isolated one. We decide on the next LAN date, pick up our stuff and leave - back to the dorms for boarders and home for day students. Carrying $2,000 of computer equipment on my back across campus earns me some odd looks from people, but they go back to chatting with their friends. It's just another Friday night on campus, and everyone has lives to return to.
Chris Maire is a hardcore gamer, recovering [I]World of Warcraft[/i] addict and high school senior. He's never written for any publication before, but he hopes this is the start of a trend.