All it took was a word, or even a knowing smirk, for the call to action to happen. The roommates milled about the living room or study, reading books or chatting or cooking dinner for each other and it would all start with someone declaring “To Paragon City!” For the next few hours, we’d ignore adult responsibilities and pummel henchmen into dust.
We composed fake character dialog, mocked each other in the friendliest sense, and even created our own phrases. When Mistress Façade inflicted her blind power on an enemy, my roommate would shout, “They’ve been blound!” This being a word he had decided was the past tense of ‘to blind.’ It stuck and never ceased to get a laugh. Gaining aggro was simply called making friends and our tank character was certainly a popular guy. We made our own sound effects and mocked terribly designed heroes that whizzed past. We wandered about Atlas Park and interacted with other heroes, emoting and engaging in repartee with complete strangers.
Our sprawling headquarters was meticulously designed with trophies of our victories. We didn’t power through instances or sit alone at our desks, grimly leveling our characters in the dark, in crippling silence. We bragged and jeered and did absolutely everything as a team. We shouted tactical advice and demanded heals and revives. If you walked into a session of the Protectorate Unlimited knee-deep in vigilante crime-fighting, you wouldn’t understand a moment of what was happening, but the jovial atmosphere would be indisputably apparent.
Since those days at the three-story house up on the sloped street, across from the dingy laundromat, I’ve never been able to return to MMOs in the same way. In fact, multiplayer gaming as a whole has never quite had the same feeling as it did for that year-long LAN party. Online gaming has taken massive strides with things like Xbox Live, PSN, and Steam making the act of playing with friends the easiest thing ever. But no more are the days of phoning your friend to read off an IP address or pack up your duct taped PC into someone’s basement or guest room.
In a way, this is something to be lauded. LAN parties were complicated and inconvenient, sure, but the experience is irreplaceable. Multiplayer, whether it’s competitive or cooperative, can happen spontaneously now, with a button press and a notification pop-up. But, with it, we have to say goodbye to the days where players would disappear from reality for a weekend to shout at each other and fall asleep at their desks. The days were playing online games with your friends looked more like a party than a lonely endeavor, albeit an often predominately gender imbalanced party. The modern inventions of Ventrillo and party chat are incredible advancements for social gaming. But nothing can quite replace that perfect storm of friendly jeers, vocal teamwork, and utter chaos that was the LAN party.
LOOK WHO CAME: