LAN parties are gatherings of people (called “gamers”) with their computers to play network games, but has turned into a culture where gamers socialize, play online video games against one another, even have poker tournaments and in general have fun. LAN parties have grown in popularity in recent years as computer games like Doom, Quake and Halo have allowed gamers to play online with others.
OCModShop is interviewing Jason Harper, one of the owners of LanParty Northwest: one of the largest LAN party organizations in the Pacific Northwest. They regularly host smaller LAN parties (called Garage LANs, or gLANs), and semi-annually host large 400-MAN events which has drawn press from MTV2, Tom’s Hardware and local Seattle newspapers. OCModShop is proud to welcome Jason Harper…
Jason, How did you get started hosting LAN parties?
Here’s the story… we started out because there I’ve been an avid gamer as far as I can remember. I remember my dad in his 30s playing Atari and throwing Atari fondue parties, and I’d be upstairs crying my eyes out because I wasn’t allowed to participate because I was too young. I couldn’t stop there: I started playing with that Atari…
The Atari 2600?
Yeah, Atari 2600. So, having games in my life I ended up going to college and I went to the Art Institute of Seattle to make video games, so I got a degree in Computer Animation and Multimedia. I never ventured out to get the actual job in the industry, so instead of working in the industry was to start a company that had to do with games.
I heard about LAN parties in the past with Doom, I had heard of Quake and QuakeCon and decided to venture out and find a LAN party to call my home. I made a trip down to Tacoma after attempting to sign up for another LAN party that probably got like 20 people on their sign-up roster and they went ahead and not have their LAN party (LANGamesNW.com). So anyway I ended up at the Tacoma LAN Group, the TLG, and convinced a co-worker of mine, Dan Gilbert (also known as DECIM8) who later on would be a big contributor to Lan Party NW to go, because I found out he was playing Diablo, and I was trying to get him into first person shooters. He had no idea what I was talking about. So, I drug him down with me to Tacoma and the two of us made their largest garage LAN to that date, a whopping 12 people. Their parties would run 12 hours, from noon to midnight.
On the way back we were talking that we could do something similar on our own, except we would make ours twenty-four hours. So, the first garage LAN (gLAN) was created then. I bought a domain, lanpartynw.com and we (LPNW) decided to announce our parties. Our first lan party was February of 2002.
How much did it cost to setup?
The initial costs: I bought a 16-port switch, I had a 4 port hub, a few network cables and we borrowed tables from friends and from work. So overall costs were a few hundred dollars, if that. At the beginning, we had 10 people sign up, and out of that we had 2 actually show up. Those two were surprised to find out that LanPartyNW was not a brick & mortar store yet it was a garage. That was their first (and last) lan party they both came to.
When did it start to pick up again?
The very next lan was scheduled for March 2002. We had 24 people sign up for a 30-man garage lan, and all 24 showed up, which blew us away. Fooman, the Grinch, BeverageNinja, Bashildy, Kale.. they were our first ones, and they kept coming back. So that was our first use of the term LPNW Veteran. I decided the third event that any gamer came to would be labeled a LPNW Veteran. We had plaques made out of stainless steel and that would motivate them to return.
How many of the originals are still coming?
Haha, one or two I guess.
Bashildy moved off to California and got a job with EA games, so he’s working as a slave. He’s working 80+ hours a week last time I talked with him without any sign of an end. We also have a few Micorosft & Nintendo employees come to the parties.