Never ending battle playing games

I have come to the realization that I will never have enough time to play all the games that I actually own to their glorious wonders that the developers of each game have intended. Like many others, I horde games. Mostly when steam sales come along and I get excited like a little school girl.

When Steam first came along in 2003, I was one of the first early adopters; mostly because at the time I was offered the free expansion to Half Life that Valve was basically giving away if you register for a Steam account. I followed suit and grabbed my group of grade school nerd friends to join in on the action as Half Life, Counter Strike, Quake, Tribes II, Diablo II and Starcraft still ruled our lives at that point. We always had LAN parties, practically every month like a camping trip. Since most of my friends demographics were from the middle class, we all had parents with large houses and enough room to put a few tables and have 8 friends play some games.

Touting and bragging about Steam and my free expansion pack, even though it had been out for a while, one of my friends Marc hosted a LAN party at his parents house the following weekend. He just built his first computer after I helped him pick the parts. A brand new Pentium 4 Northwood with Hyperthreading, just like mine, paired with geforce4 ti 4400. I stayed away from the FX series, skipped them altogether and even advised all of my gaming friends as well. There wasn’t many games then that a year old ti card wouldn’t handle anyhow.

Like all the LAN parties at that time, we would drag our boring beige boxes with our beige CRT monitors; maybe a black one here or there. Marc and I were the exception, we both had our own home built, custom computers with a cool, automotive gloss paint computer boxes with mirror finish chrome power supplies, a side walled plexiglass to show off our hours spent on cable management and UV lights for the hell of it. I even had a temp sensor on the front with a switch to turn on additional fans. Between us two, we had more power than the rest of the group combined. Paired that with my monster 21 inch Dell monitor that I lugged around as a petite 80lb Asian kid.

The first three hours of any LAN party was table placement, PC hookups and how to network them all. As my father worked for NorTel, I had access to the latest network equipment. I always brought a 24 and an 8 port switch, capped at 100 speed, but that was lightening fast then when most home networks were using 10. Plus I felt super useful bringing in a 1000 meter roll of CAT 5 cable and made my own custom length cables for everyone.

After the first setup, making sure the network actually networks, then its time for Pizza and Mountain Dew. We also discovered Bawls energy drinks the year before and would always make a trek to CompUSA, which was the only source of it in the Raleigh area. It was the original energy drink before redbull and we swore by them that it helped us game, when in hindsight now, probably did worse for our gaming performance.

Marc was one of the few friends at the time that also had a projector, so we would hook that up and setup Dance Dance Revolution with pads and all. Mostly to get off our chairs and relax from gaming or put on some sort of movie or TV show without audio, then pair it to some techno music. We’d play games till 4 or 5am when sleep attrition would grab a few of my friends and either sleep at their table or under it. Those who thought ahead brought a camping mat and pad. I was one of the few who rarely slept and would stay up the entire time.

Counter strike and Day of Defeat was the most played games as we were able to easily setup a local server and play without having internet issues; a feature I truly miss. Marc’s DSL line couldn’t handle all of the computer’s bandwidth and mostly was capped by the terrible router that couldn’t even handle the connection amounts. As long as we all had the games, access to Steam, we could easily all login to our newly setup server and even have one or two friends not at the party to log on and play with us.

Most times, we started our LAN parties Saturday afternoon and leave the following day, but this time around we started early on a Friday and stayed well past Sunday evening till our parents finally roused us from Marc’s basement to get us home and ready for the next school day. I always hated wrapping up a LAN party, mostly because by the time I packed up, less people were around to help me move my crap.

Nowadays I rarely go to a LAN party. Everyone is getting older and prioritizing gaming less and less with each passing year. I have a few diehard gaming friends who still dedicate a significant amount of time, but they all have moved away to various parts of the US and rarely see them these days. Plus with faster high speed internet everywhere, we still can game online once in a blue moon; making LAN parties seemingly rare like whale watching.

Games always had this ability to bring nerds together, even in a single player game as we all share stories of the same story; it was that instant connection of having a similar experience or challenge and whatever fallout outcome from there on. Even now, talking with friends and even new people, we can easily connect of fond memories of a gaming past and that’s the great thing about games these days; everyone’s a gamer, but with so many great games these days, that comparative recounting of a gaming memory is less frequent as so many conversations these days are “have you played this game yet?”

As of now, I have over 360 games installed, yet I have only played about half of them. The days of the past of only having a few options made it easy to devote time to them. Some games I know will take tens of hours, others hundreds, to enjoy and thus my dilemma tends to be, should I play games I know I how to play and enjoy or risk the time to learn a new game to see if I actually like it.

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