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EverLAN Summer 2004

Gamers festivate in Colorado Springs

IF YOU'RE LIKE me, your idea of a LAN party probably involves five to ten of your friends, a small network, and lots of pizza and caffeine. To call EverLAN's Summer 2004 event a LAN party in that mold doesn't come close to doing it justice. Yes, in a sense, it is a very big version of the sort of LAN party I have from time to time in my basement. There is indeed a network, lots of pizza and caffeine, and plenty of sniping in CTF Facing Worlds. But when upwards of 500 people attend and hang out around the clock for the better part of the weekend, an informal LAN party might get just slightly out of hand. Instead, what you have in EverLAN and other events of its caliber are all-out gaming festivals, half LAN party and half digital Woodstock.

The essence of a gaming festival
These sorts of events are growing like mad in popularity and scope, and EverLAN is a prototypical example of the unique combination of elements that coalesce to make them happen. Andrew "Everman" Soeldner and his team of volunteer staffers have worked tirelessly on evenings and weekends to pull together all the arrangements, a real grass-roots effort by some true-blue gamers. At the same time, big-name corporate sponsors have hopped on board by the truckload to support the event. The list of sponsors includes a long list of PC gaming hardware companies, including title sponsor ATI, plus AMD, Abit, Chenbro, Kingston, Plantronics, CTX, and Belkin. Mountain Dew and LoveSac, the maker of oversized bean bags, also sponsor the event.

The view from almost anywhere in Colorado Springs is breathtaking

Inside the Colorado Springs expo center, a massive facility that was formerly a home improvement warehouse store, hundreds of casual gamers fork over 35 bucks for a spot in the BYOC (bring your own computer) area that dominates EverLAN floor space. The glow of cold cathode-generated light emanates from an army of modded PCs here, as gamers hunch at their PCs with headsets providing immersion. Many of them compete in tournaments in games like Battlefield Vietnam, UT2004, and Warcraft III, where first-place prizes are typically ATI Radeon graphics cards or AMD Athlon 64 processors kicked in by the major sponsors.

Even on early Sunday morning, the BYOC floor was active

Meanwhile, a handful of the nation's elite professional gaming teams compete in the Counter-Strike National Invitational Tournament for a shot at cash prizes. The first-place team will take home $10,000, while second, third, and fourth will walk away with $5,000, $2,000, and $1,000, respectively. These teams are far from casual about gaming. They practice for hours and hours each week, and the elite teams are sponsored by multiple PC hardware companies, which help foot the bill for the teams' travel and expenses.

The decidated tournament area

The major tournament matches take place in a designated area separate from the BYOC floor and situated on its own network segment. This area is stocked with eight rows of identically configured gaming PCs, decked out, of course, with ATI Radeon X800 graphics cards and AMD Athlon 64 processors. Fans of the pro gaming tourney watch the matches at their computers in the BYOC floor, on large projector screens in the lounge area, or online via the Internet.