How I Turned My High School Into A Quake 2 Mega LAN

How I Turned My High School Into A Quake 2 Mega LAN

Quake 2 has always had a special place in my heart. It’s not the most popular game in the series — that adoration is always reserved for the titanic and singular original. Some don’t care for its swing into hard sci-fi and industrial map design, and I can completely understand why. Quake 3 would later steal its multiplayer thunder and improve on it in every way.

But, when I was in my final years at high school in the early 2000s, Quake 2 deathmatch was the game that ruled our IT classrooms.

There were some games that came in and out as pirated copies made their way around the quad — Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Unreal Tournament — but we always went back to Quake 2 deathmatch.

Ours was one of the larger public high schools in NSW’s Northern Rivers. To make the school even larger, it was connected to the local TAFE college, situated next door. If you’re an internet detective, you may be able to figure out which school it was from that information alone.

To serve its then-nearly 2000-strong student headcount, the school implemented numerous computer rooms across each of its fields of study. There was a computer room in the mathematics and history buildings. A computer room in the Design & Technology wing, near the art, wood and metalworking classrooms. One building on the TAFE grounds was used by the high school for senior student classes, and it also had a computer room. All of these computer rooms were filled with ex-government PCs running Windows 2000. 35 PCs to a classroom — this was a public school, after all, they had to pack us in.

There was a computer room in the social sciences building as well, but it was filled only with Macs. In an era when Apple had just launched the coloured, translucent iMac, they were already dinosaurs and not great for games. We didn’t care for that room.

Our IT classes were well behind our level of technical understanding because it was the early 2000s, and Australian education was only waking up to the need for better computer literacy. At all of 16 and 17 years old, we (my IT class of around 25 turbo nerds) might as well have been unstoppable hackers to the school’s underresourced and underappreciated IT staff. Anyone who worked with computers at the time can tell you how laughably insecure many networks of the era were, and ours was akin to a locked door someone had left unlatched in the breeze. We’d tell our IT teacher we needed an admin login to use the software required for our classes. He’d oblige us by typing in his details right in front of us, and we’d watch his fingers on the keys to decipher the password that controlled the network. If they figured out the inmates had gained control of the asylum and changed the password on us, we’d just ask him to log in again.

We used our admin powers and forbidden knowledge for good, though. We had no interest in snooping through teachers’ files and creating headaches for the 20-something sysadmin trying to outwit us. What we wanted was installation control, so we could fill hard drives with games to play in class and on our lunch breaks.

We wanted this because our early experiments with multiplayer had revealed an exciting fact about the school’s network. Our original theory was that the school had made each computer room a self-contained network because we knew we could play together if we were in the same computer room. But what if we were in different ones? What if all the computer rooms were actually on the same network?

Time to push our luck. Copies of Quake 2 had already spread among the computer rooms, so we could always play no matter which room we were in. IP addresses were collected via calls and texts on cheap, then-new Nokia mobile phones.

A server was created in the TAFE building. See if you guys can join it in the DT room.

I can see it.

They joined. Myth confirmed.

It was a LAN. It was all just one big LAN.

(This might have been obvious to anyone with any technical nouse, but this was 2001, and we were figuring things out as we went.)

Recess and lunchbreaks were transformed overnight. Word got around that we’d figured out how to get games running across different computer rooms, and suddenly loads of people wanted in. Computer rooms were crowded in a way they hadn’t been before, and everyone was playing Quake 2 deathmatch. Legends were born — my friend Cameron was an esports-level savant, an artist with the railgun, and became the man to beat. If you could beat him to 50 kills, you had hard-earned bragging rights for the rest of the day. Screen names were set in stone — I settled on Rhun as my handle in those computer rooms, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. Rivalries were formed and occasionally got heated — one kid got so tilted he did the ten-minute walk from the TAFE computer room to the maths rooms just to throw his bag at my friend and try to pick a fight.

Glory days, friends. A golden age.

The school knew what we were doing, of course, but they weren’t yet cluey enough to stop us, and it was (mostly) keeping us out of trouble, so they looked the other way.

When we finished Year 12 in 2002 and were released into the world, we left our copies of Quake 2 to the kids coming up behind us. I’m sure the school wiped all those machines and was glad to be rid of us.

Anyway, a Quake 2 remaster dropped today, and it’s got all the multiplayer modes we used to play in the package. Maybe I’ll try to round the boys up this weekend and play one more for old times’ sake.

Thanks for coming on this trip down memory lane with me.

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