Of University LAN Parties

Our third annual LAN Party here at UAH where I work at was around a month ago, and I’m proud to call it a great success.  We had approximately 500 attendees this year, making it our biggest yet.  Now that we’ve had this a number of times and have gotten the chaos of the event down to a science, I’m able to stand back and admire the monster we’ve created.

It’s grown from a small section of what was basically a library party to an entire carnival of its own in a span of two years. Where once small mom and pop stores laughed at us in our face at the idea of sponsorship, we’re now gotten enthusiastic support from the likes of Harmonix and Barnes and Noble. Even our surrounding campus community is getting in on it, our Admissions office was a huge help this year because they saw the value of the event as a recruitment tool.

I don’t know if it crosses the line between something healthy and vanity, but the LAN Party is the thing that I take the most pride in at my job. Mostly because it combines just about everything I’m professionally enthusiastic about. Graphic design comes into play when I make the promotional material, web design for the site for the event, and also a holdover from my days living in dorms when I really got a lot of enjoyment out of campus event planning. It’s both humbling and adrenaline pumping to see this monster continue to grow every year.

Technically speaking, this was the happiest I have been with our set up so far.  We experimented with this a bit earlier this year while helping out with a much smaller event, but we finally got our Rock Band set up perfect this time around.  We had a complete four person set up on an actual stage that is often used for real concerts in the same space.  The participants would look at a large flat screen in front of them to see their notes, and the same image was projected behind them for onlookers to see.  We even had the audio coming through the powerful house speakers and had actual concert stage lights on stage with the participants that flashed and changed colors in sync with the music.  Everyone seemed to love it, and I can’t wait to do it again.

We did have some hiccups with the PC LAN section of our party, but we’re almost certain that this was due to some faulty equipment that was lent to us.  We’re hoping that increased funding down the road can help solve this problem when we’re able to buy our own equipment to dedicate solely to future LAN parties.

I hope that universities and even high schools can see the value in these type of events. First and foremost, we provide this event for the campus community.  It’s a great social environment for both on and off campus students to take part it, students seem to continue to meet new friends that share their interest in gaming.  Also as I stated above, it’s an enormously effective recruitment tool.  Out of the 500 attendees we had this year, approximately one third of them were composed of local high school students.  They seemed to be psyched about the idea that this is a yearly event for us and that they’d be able to take part again as a student of UAH.  On that note, it’s also great for student retention.  Student life at a university is far more than just about academics, and it’s great to give students a reason to continue to coming back for more than just the prospect of an earned degree.

For anyone looking to do a similar event at other high schools or universities, my biggest advice would be to overplan.  These things can become far more popular than you might imagine, and you will likely have more participation than you plan on.  Also, ensure that you have enough support.  Due to the size of our event this year, this was the first time that we really ran short on help.  Having multiple tournaments with the need for a person to handle sign-in’s at the door ran us a bit ragged this time around, and we’ll know to look for more volunteers or even pay for additional support next time around.  But perhaps my biggest piece of advice is to not look at this like a job.  It’s an incredibly rewarding event for everyone, including the organizers.  Even though I didn’t have much time to actually play any of the games, it was still hard to believe I was getting paid to do this.

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