At the LAN of Thrones you pwn or you die (and then respawn). The best gear. The right attitude, a whole day of preparation. This was our battle. This was the Sydney Gamers League.
Last weekend saw five hundred eager gamers haul their PCs to the oldest and largest running LAN in New South Wales — the Sydney Gamers League (SGL). Running simultaneously alongside BarCraft and Sydney GameJam, the event featured plenty of action throughout its twenty-eight hour runtime.
What caught my attention the most was that they had advertised a five hundred seat capacity for the BYO PC section. It is a testament to the popularity of the event that every one of these was sold out forty-eight hours prior to the event.
For the sixth run of the event since its overhaul the theme chosen resulted in an event that was dubbed the 'LAN of Thrones'. Who would emerge as the king of gaming?
As a regular tournament attendee SGL is always a highlight event for me. With huge prizes advertised, the competitions tend to lure the cream of the crop as well as those curious about their status in the world of competitive gaming. Emerging victorious at SGL is no small feat.
The open roller doors which served as the entrance to the event disguised the venue within. If it were not for the crowd of gamers lining up and clutching lovingly at their PC’s, I could have walked past and thought of it as nothing more than a storage bay for a black-market parts dealer.
I was not prepared for the sight that greeted me.
The place was huge. Computers were being setup on tables that spanned as far as the eye could see. A small arcade area fitted with retro classics was tucked in the side. The bar could be easily discerned, with two large flat screens streaming what appeared to be Starcraft 2 nearby.
“I must be in the wrong place,” I thought to myself. “I don’t belong in heaven.”
Awed and hyped, I immediately set to unpacking my gear with my friends. Despite encountering some seating issues, setting up and configuring connections was simple. In addition to my usual gear I had also stocked water, fruit, a cushion to sleep on and several cans of deodorant.
If you need to ask about the deodorant you have not been to a real LAN tournament. The pressure of competing combined with the heat of multiple PC's often produces an odour that will hit you with the force of a thousand suns. I intended to spray down any AOE-odour carrying personnel who came within radius of my team. I play support well.
To better convey the events that followed, they will be written in time-stamped format.
Time: 3:00pm Status: Prepped and ready. My favourite time at SGL; the initial hours following setup. You can run around and meet new people, size up towers, mess with product displays. Gamers can be incredibly social creatures – it’s not uncommon for a random stranger to strike up a conversation with you about what you’re playing. Our first tournament was scheduled to start in an hour.
Time: 8:00pm Status: Full. Provisions were consumed. Energy levels restored to full power. As much as I enjoyed conversing with fellow gamers, it was not my main reason for attending. This was SGL. This was war. My team and I needed to compete, and soon. There were only so many pub games we could play and so much junk food we could limit ourselves to. The tournament was delayed.
Time: 12:00am Status: Going strong. Midnight is peak hour for the likes of us. No sign of the tournament delay changing.
Time: 3:00am Status: Weary. Sleepiness starting to kick in. Don't believe in coffee. Must. Push. On.
Time: 4:00am Status: Likely to troll. The hours rolled by as we randomly picked game after game until finally — at four in the morning, TWELVE HOURS LATE — our very first match for Heroes of Newerth was called out. The captain of our opposing team had to be the most polite person I have ever encountered at such an unholy hour. Especially since Heroes of Newerth players don't exactly have the cleanest reputation. I do not regret losing to his team at all. At four in the morning the loss did not sting so much. We had one life left.
Time: ??? Status: ??? At SGL, time loses meaning. Day and night roll into one. My keyboard became my pillow. One short snooze, and an extremely sore shoulder later, and I was back on my computer and randomly playing whatever game my mouse cursor happened to land on.
Time: 9:00am Status: Fuzzy. Our next opponents approached us shortly after sunrise. They wanted to ask if it was okay for them to substitute a player with somebody from a professional team.
"It's her call," my friend directly pointed at me, "She's the captain".
My fuzzy sleep-deprived brain barely registered the fact that they were staring. I attempted what I hoped passed as a fairly normal shrug.
"Sub in whoever you want, we'll play," I responded. Under normal circumstances it is likely I would not have said that.
Time: 9:30am Status: Serious face is serious. I have never concentrated so much on match then I had this one. This was serious. This was war. That was a cockroach scampering near my foot. That was my friends and I descending into a panicked mess. That was us calling for time-out mid game. That was the cockroach stomped dead. Farewell, friend.
Time: 10:30am Status: We won! We won we won we won we won we won! It appeared that lack of proper sleep and nourishment improved tournament performance. By some miracle of LANature we pulled off an incredible win. I restrained the giddy immature part of me who wanted to rub the victory into the faces of our obviously sore opponents. Some of them didn't even say anything to us post match, going for the cold shoulder of douchery instead. I heard if you cry more it makes you a better player.
Time: 12:00pm Status: Something something Counter-Strike The schedule clash was beginning to show its nasty side. After much discussion, my team opted out of our previous tournament (essentially leaving our hard-fought win in the dirt) to compete in the Counter-Strike: Source competition. The delay in setting up the server was testing and made me wonder if we should not have forfeited our previous tournament after all.
Time: 3:00pm Status: Exhausted. Several non-stop matches of shooting at people later, we were ready to leave. Hilariously enough it appeared that every other remaining team had similar ideas, and the tournament was ended prematurely.
Time: 4:00pm Status: Gear packed. Micro-sleep imminent. It is always hilarious the extent some people will go to in order to fit several PCs into the boot of their car. This is when the Tetris players shine. After some resourceful packing I bid farewell to my fellow gamers and let the exhaustion overtake me, promptly falling asleep in the seat of the car.
Attending SGL was unlike any tournament I'd ever attended before. The people, the composition of entertainment available and the quality venue make it an unforgettable experience. With some fine-tuning and better scheduled organisation SGL has the potential to become more than just a LAN party, but a gaming event of epic proportions open to everyone.