Recently, my geekiness was called into question: ‘You’re not very geeky, Sebastian. All you talk about is sex. Sex, sex, sex. That’s hardly wholesome geeky talk. How about some Star Wars talk, or a list of all the comics you own?’

Let me tell you something, Little Miss I’m-a-bigger-geek-than-you : I AM A HUGE GEEK, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The thing is, like my sexuality, I am so confident in my geekiness that I don’t feel the need to constantly reassure myself, and you lot, that I’m a geek. So, please excuse me if I don’t always talk about a fantastic new range of marbled dice or if the digital Yoda was better than the original wobbly-eared bogey-coloured rubber model.

However…

This weekend I will be attending a LAN party.

A LAN party, for those of you that don’t know — for those of you not geeky enough – is a ‘gaming festival’. It can be small — just 5 or 10 people — or it can be huge. By huge, I mean thousands of people.

Dreamhack LAN -- Panoramic

Click it for a larger version. Really, click it. It even amazes me.

DreamHack, the largest LAN party in the world, has over 11,000 (eleven thousand) paying attendees. That’s 11,000  people transporting their computers from all over Sweden and Europe. The one I attend, the i-series, ‘only’ has around 2000 attendees — but really, it’s not like you walk around and shake hands with everyone there. The point is: when you stand up — you know, to check if your legs still work — all you can see is computer screens. And towers of consumed energy drink cans. And pizza boxes.

If you were to take a walk around a LAN to check out what the latest ‘case mod‘ fashions are, or what the other gaming areas are like, the first thing you’d notice is just how well everyone gets along. There’s a constant roar of chatter, and regular outbursts of shouting and roaring when a team wins a tournament match. The overall feeling is very much one of friendship and camaraderie. Geeks, ultimately, are still social outcasts. LAN parties are the only place where geeks can be themselves. The ‘cool’ facade drops. Let it all hang out — literally, in some cases.

We geeks are beginning to emerge, but it’s happening slowly. The massive success of video games in the last few years has certainly helped — it is becoming more and more common to hear discussion of video games (like WoW, or COD4) out in the ‘real world’. It’s still mainly in the 19-35 male segment, but girls are catching up!

Until LAN parties become the social norm — and we still have a few years left, trust me — the antithesis, the polar opposite, of LAN partying is clubbing.

I’ve clubbed. At university I clubbed and pubbed. I did the social thing, often 6 nights a week for 3 years. I get it and I understand why people enjoy it; why people enjoy drinking, and dancing, and losing their mind. What I don’t get is why people would club when given an alternative, like a LAN party, or simply going around to a friend’s house.

I’m going to list the pros and cons of each, so I can prove why LAN parties are so much cooler than the alternative:

Clubbing Pros:

  • If you’re ugly, you can probably get laid, with enough alcohol (in you, and the unfortunate recipient)
  • You can forget about all your troubles and woes — like Cheers, only with worse music — if you drink enough
  • The endorphins (the euphoria) from dancing are actually quite good for you!
  • A silent disco has a lot going for it but they’re not very popular… yet!

Clubbing Cons:

  • If you’re female, you’ll probably get hit on by ugly guys that think they can get into your pants if they ply you with enough cheap alcohol (and date rape is no laughing matter!)
  • You’ll get tinnitus, like me, which is permanent. Enjoy the ringing in your ears as you try to sleep. I hope you didn’t like listening to the quiet bits in songs.  Can you tell that I’m bitter?
  • I hear the liver transplant waiting list is quite long
  • You can’t hear ANYTHING in a damn club. Communication, other than the ‘point at the body part you want licked’ variety (which can be quite fun), is rendered completely impossible
  • Often, you have to listen to really shit music (though it does vary)

LAN Party Pros

  • You can hear yourself think — perhaps some clubbers don’t like having to hear their own thoughts? Or they don’t have thoughts… Empty, hollow shells…
  • Interactive fun! Video games are healthy for the brain.
  • Communicative (not, like, diseases) and team-building! Most of the games played at LAN parties are multiplayer games involving a lot of teamwork (read: shouting)
  • You can make money doing it! Pro gamers can take home thousands of pounds/dollars. Eventually they’ll take home the girl too! When there is a girl to take…
  • Headphones are required! You can even listen to your own music while you game! And then you can take them off to talk to people! How damn futuristic is that?

LAN Party Cons

  • Your gear can get stolen (though it’s rare, and security is generally quite good at larger LANs)
  • Sleep deprivation is rife (not quite as bad as liver failure though, is it?)

Wow, that’s a very short list of cons, isn’t it? That’s because LAN Parties are awesome. Clubbing only really has one thing going for it (the euphoria), something you could easily get elsewhere — on a roller coaster, or something!

From Thursday through Monday I’ll be at a LAN party. Admittedly, that’s less of a weekend and more of a ‘half week’, but a weekend sounds a little less geeky. Four of us will be going, and we’ll be sleeping in a 3-man tent. One or two of them actually read my blog, and I’m told they are slightly alarmed by my coming out. Wusses.

Ideally, we’d take some girls with us, but guess what — and this will come as a shock — LAN parties are about 95% male. It was about 99% a few years ago, with that 1% being ‘possibly female’ (it’s amazing how hard it is to differentiate between male and female geeks after a few weeks of growth and stagnation — even facial hair isn’t as much of a clue as it should be). Nowadays there are a few girls dotted around — proper ones, without beards — though they tend to be the token girlfriends of geek boys. There is the occasional bona fide geek girl, but they are rare. And coveted. I hope to get myself one, one day.

Geek girls, go to a LAN party! Don’t be afraid! Geek boys don’t bite — they just kinda… grab… when you least expect it. But don’t let that deter you! Even if you’re an anime girl (that’s only one step away from being a furry), you’d fit in at a LAN. LAN parties are like a modern-day Bohemian dream where everyone, no matter how weird and different from the societal norms can hang out and have fun!

I have a dream. One day soon the phrase ‘Hey, wanna go out clubbing?’ will become outmoded, replaced by ‘Hey, come over my place! We’ll crack open a few beers and play some Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft‘. It will be a better world; a world with less alcoholism and debauchery. Imagine, if everyone knew what it felt like to play on a Nintendo and grin like a kid, giddy with the magic of it all — wouldn’t that be a much more fun world to live in?

Sell your dancing shoes. Buy a console (and read my beginner’s guide to gaming!)

The best places to have sex, part 2
Time-Travel Thursday: My first girlfriend

Sebastian

I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.

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