The sound of laughter drifted up the stairs from the basement of the Way Public Library. Following it, one found themselves in the Tech Lab with two rows of computers and eight eager faces waiting for the games to begin.
The event was a LAN, or local area network party for StarCraft, a strategy based science fiction game now considered one of the greatest video games of all time. The quarterly event, something of a tradition at Way Public Library, was originally conceived by Travis McAfee, the systems administrator for Way Public Library, himself an avid gamer.
“I’ve been gaming since Pong,” explains Travis. “Now that I’m older, I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can occasionally bring what I do for a living and what I do for fun together in a unique way.”
Looking back at PC gaming
The event has an interesting history. McAfee, a longtime fan of StarCraft, organized the event after Blizzard, the game’s developer, released a free version. It was originally intended to be a one time event, but McAfee quickly found out that others shared his passion for the ongoing battle between the Terran, Protoss and Zerg. “I thought this would be a great opportunity for people to get together and reminisce about the golden age of PC gaming. Then everyone had so much fun I was told I had to keep scheduling it. That made me happy!”
Indeed the event has been a success since it began, due in no small part to the diverse crowd it attracts. Gamers from all walks of life, from players in their 40s to college students in their twenties, showed up on the 15th of August, joining together in a communal experience.
One of the most fascinating things about this event is it highlights the often overlooked social aspects of video games. Scrutinized for supposed ill effects on players, video games are often overlooked as a social event, serving as a platform for people with common interests to compete and mingle. People traveled great distances to attend this event.
Travis also spoke about how the event boosted library attendance by attracting gamers. “We’ve established ourselves as a great place for both children and seniors to come to find information and entertainment, but younger and middle aged adults can be elusive for us to attract. This event draws people from that age bracket. It feels great to offer them something unique.”
One attendee, veteran gamer Greg Sparks, a fan of StarCraft, spoke about the company of the other players. “I was first intrigued about the event just to play StarCraft again and actually have my brother join me for an evening. The group that attends is fun, which makes it much better. Additionally, Travis does an excellent job organizing the event.”
Awards were presented to those who played well. McAfee, eager to show off the new 3D printers in the tech lab, printed out some trophies for event attendees modeled after the emblems for StarCraft’s various factions such as the Terrans or the Zergs. A triumphant Ryan Ebright left the game with one of the trophies after a string of victories.
The social aspects of video games can be overlooked by those who haven’t participated in the art, but they are a real component of what makes games an important part of the lives of so many people. It highlights one of the aspects of what makes video games so appealing — making an experience worth remembering with both the game itself and the people you play with. Travis quipped, “I definitely love getting to know the personalities of those who come. We have a common experience from our youth. This gives us an opportunity to experience some nostalgia with people we might not have met otherwise.”