Here’s Why That Gamer Was Duct-Taped To A Ceiling

Here’s Why That Gamer Was Duct-Taped To A Ceiling

Few photos from the forum ages of online gaming live in greater infamy than one of what appears to be a human duct taped to the ceiling of a dimly lit basement, his arms reaching out to lightly graze the keys of a Dell mechanical keyboard.

Many have laid claim to this image. “I was there,” they say. “It was me, I took this photo,” others declared. We reached out to those people — most didn’t respond or couldn’t provide proof. But one thread surfaced: A group of small-town gamers who hauled computers to each other’s houses to play, among other games, Counter-Strike.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

The picture in question originates from Mason, Michigan, where a close group of friends who liked to build personal computers and organise LAN parties grew up. Through Reddit and email, we were able to get in touch with a large portion of the group, as well as obtain verification and additional images.

Through all our interviews, members of the group laughed at the claims of internet fakers and commenters.

Photo courtesy: Nathan Gamber

“I don’t want to say it’s a closely guarded secret,” said Brian Schaeffer, one of the LAN goers. “But half the fun of seeing that picture pop up on the internet is all the stories where people say, ‘Oh yeah I know the people there.’ No you don’t! It was a small town, a random group of friends, and we literally just got goofy one day.”

The group told me they would hang out together in various houses and, sometimes, even a tyre warehouse, lugging computer rigs to locations to play a variety of games. It was the summer of 2002 in the US, and at the time, Counter-Strike was the game to play. Others recount games such as Command & Conquer, both Renegade and Red Alert 2, as well as Battlefield 1942 (for those with the 512mb RAM to run it) and StarCraft custom games. Counter-Strike was the great equaliser. It could run on just about anything, and everyone had it.

For the Mason alumni, the night they taped Drew Purvis to the ceiling was just an average day, another LAN party with friends.

“It was still early in the day and the LAN had already become fractured,” said Nick Wellman, another LAN goer. “There were about 10 of us there, and we were already playing three, four different games. Tyler was looking around and said, ‘I think you can duct tape someone to that I-beam.'”

The duct-tape framework is assembled.

The duct-tape framework is assembled.

At this point, the teens gathered the necessary supplies, bought duct tape on a friend’s employee discount, and had the tallest attendee, Brian, hold the subject, Drew, aloft while the rest taped him up.

What you see in the now-iconic photo is actually the group’s second attempt to suspend their friend from the ceiling with duct tape. After about 10 minutes, the tape digging into his sides, Drew asked to be cut down. They revised their plan, adding pillows, and strapped him back up. Once on the beam, someone else had the idea to stack some tables up so Drew could still play on his computer.

“That is the funniest part about the picture,” Nick told us. “Gaming from the beam was a complete afterthought.”

Drew lasted about two hours suspended above his comrades before retiring to the ground (turns out a duct tape cocoon runs hot).

Brian, who happened to bring along his digital camera from photography class that day, saved some snapshots to commemorate the moment. Drew posted the photos to a gaming forum, where it would stay duct-taped to the memories of gamers for all eternity. (We reached out to Drew for this story, and made contact, but he didn’t get back to us in time before publishing.)

“We tried to keep a list of all the places we saw the picture pop up, but it just kept started showing up in more and more places,” said Brian. “It also speaks to how when something’s on the internet, it’s always going to be up there, you can’t hide it.”

For the Mason alumni, it’s a little reminder of a simpler time.

“It’s so funny, because if you see the Reddit threads, every time this picture goes around every couple years it’s like a little Mason reunion,” said Jonathan Watrous, another LAN-goer.

Those mini-reunions in the comment sections of this picture help keep the group together and caught up, long after it splintered and scattered to the wind. Some still try to get together, either online through modern games such as League of Legends or in-person.

“Not quite LAN parties,” said Brian of recent Mason get-togethers. “We’ve done some of those, but we’re all adults. Dragging the rigs around aren’t quite as easy as it was back then, and we’re all adults now, too. We had more time back then.”

The photo remains an indelible reminder of a time when rigs were dragged into basements and parents were kept awake by the mechanical clacking of keys to the cadence of Counter-Strike.

“I don’t see most of the people in the picture all that often, but this was before smartphones and ubiquitous social media,” said Nathan Gamber, another LAN attendee. “So it’s one of the few moments in that time that we’re reminded of every couple years.”


  • I miss the days of regular LAN parties. Now there’s just too much hassle involved.
    What games still have LAN?
    What games to people have?
    What version is everyone running?
    It used to be so much easier to distribute “LAN Copies” that everyone could use.

    • Oh boy, I remember the amount of battling we’d have to do with drivers and stuff, every time someone had to install a new game. This was mid-90s.

    • I would say its easier to do these days than it used to be, there just isn’t as much point because you need to be online for most games anyway. But everyone should have the same version with Steam, everyone has cars and can get their rig there easily.

      I got my new house smartwired and have fibre so my mates come round every couple months and we just use the dining table and a couple of trestle tables in two seperate rooms and spend the day/night playing games and drinking. Quickest LAN set up I have ever had or used and can always get straight into games without stuffing around for ages.

      • I would say its easier to do these days than it used to be, there just isn’t as much point because you need to be online for most games anyway. But everyone should have the same version with Steam, everyone has cars and can get their rig there easily.

        Not to mention advances in laptops. A group of us still get together and game every month or two and we all use gaming laptops. About the same cost to buy a desktop, runs pretty much everything, portable…I can’t see myself going back to a tower, tbh.

        ….but I’m off topic.

        • It’s definitely physically easier these days – LCD monitors are so much more friendly to move around then the old CRTs. For those who take it a bit more seriously the range of small form PCs is also much greater and that’s not even counting performance laptops.

          Where LANs have difficulties now-a-days is the lack of proper LAN support. It’s a feature simply cut from many games.

          Even with streaming, VOIP etc you still don’t get that same magic as you do from a LAN party.

          • lol. To this day I can’t believe I used to drag around an old 22″ CRT to LAN parties. But I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

      • Yeah. I think it’s easier than before, but people mistake outgrowing it or losing interest for the technology getting too hard. I mean I look at the issues people are frustrated by and it’s all stuff my friends and I would have loved tackling as teenagers. Making things work was half the point of doing it.

        The people I played with grew apart, free time became harder to find, I lost interest in those genres and I gained the option to play online without a room full of people. As much as I loved LAN parties that sort of video game sleepover thing isn’t for me and my friends anymore.

      • I see you to are a man of culture. UT99 GOTY is friggin amazing. I still have the cracked copy I used back in high school. Managed to piss of the school IT on a frequent basis by installing it on every machine I could find and LAN’ing the whole lab.

        • I still remember Facing Worlds team deathmatches over lunch with the IT admins setting it up for us and joining in (they were a cool bunch who a couple of us used to actually help out, and that was their way of saying thanks). God I miss those days. Just don’t get the same vibe at group gaming sessions without the LAN support.

  • This article made me happy, and then sad. Those simpler times, where friends could easily gather together and stay up all night playing the vidya without worries of work or kids or anything else.

    Quality investigative journalism here. Who’d’ve thunk we’d ever see the story behind that picture, so long after it was taken?

  • I’m forever searching for new games that have couch co-op for console, definitely a serious declines in games over the past 5-10 years. But on a positive note, going to mates place in celebration of the end of GamesDoneQuick week for some casual LAN (Y)

    • there’s plenty of local multiplayer fighters, most recently Jump Force, and you can use this app called Parsec on PCs to play these games with people around the world, cause Parsec allows the person connected to your PC to see and input from keyboard mouse or controller. It’s worth looking into

  • ADSL killed LAN parties. Sad disadvantage of having faster internet :'(

    Those were the best memories i had gaming

    • ADSL didn’t kill LANs, people becoming flakey with commitments killed LANs. It’s so hard to get a small group of friends together these days because all they have to do is send a last minute cancellation text.

        • So basically you guys are complaining about aging then? ???? Oh hey, don’t get me wrong, people ARE flaky. I mean, I used to have a great 40K squad to stomp Ork skulls and whatnot, but then they started cancelling repeatedly because of their selfish commitments like family and partners and work. Personally, I don’t care if your bald kiddo took it’s first steps, or if you’re boss is going to fire you, and neither does your God Emperor!

  • Man, miss those times of dragging my PC to a friends place with 4 others every weekend to play games of UT2k4, Halo CE, DoW, Bootfighter WindomXP (props to those who know that one!) and even going online sometimes to (poorly) play some CS. And then every other month we’d cart our systems off to a big LAN like InLAN or occasionaly IgniteLAN or WiLANga. Heck InLAN still runs but on a much smaller scale these days but thanks to work I’m never able to go, would be so easy for me these days with a freshly built ITX system in a DanA4 case instead of my old super flashy “gamer” tower that weighed a ton.

    Now I feel sad…and old…

  • I miss the SGL days when you had to stay up at night to register before all the seats were filled up.

  • I’ll never forget The Big Day In LAN at the then Telstra Dome back in 2003.
    1000+ gamers and Counter Strike on the big screen at the grandstand. Good times.

  • I remember LAN parties between 98-2002, my mates and I used to try and hold them regularly but yeah it was always a struggle getting every computer talking to each other over a home network. We usually wasted 2-3hrs trying to get it all working. By the early hours of the morning we were playing for a good 4-5hrs straight because it took so long to get this thing up and running. Those were the good ol’ days. Would of been better if it all just worked straight off the bat! hah.. Good times!

  • Lol at the losers who want attention so much they’ll lie about being the duct tape guy or being present at the session.
    We live in such a narcissistic culture.

  • “…every time this picture goes around every couple years it’s like a little Mason reunion,” said Jonathan Watrous, another LAN-goer.

    Pretty soon, we’ll be able to hold similar reunions in these reposted Kotaku articles.

  • 18 years ago a gamer was duct-taped to a ceiling. Several years later an article about the incident was added into permanent rotation on the Kotaku website on or around the anniversary of its initial publication.

  • I think it has something to do with the long weekend. The journalists or whatever take time off and repost old material so they can still meet their quota.

  • It’s the annual “Here’s Why That Gamer Was Duct Taped to a Ceiling” post!

    Welcome back everyone. 😀

    Dates this article has been reposted:

    July 2017
    January 2018
    January 2019
    March 2020
    June 2020
    April 2021

    • I think it’s been around for a lot longer than that. It’s just that the comments section was reset in 2017.

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