Magic Under The Wires At QuakeCon, the Biggest, Baddest Bring-Your-Own-Computer Party Around
|Not at all like doing it at home.|
It wasn't the kind of convention that I was expecting. I thought people might be dressed in theme with monster masks and plastic machetes, but the crowd looked pretty normal: a diverse group of hardcore gamers who'd come from across the world for the four-day "Woodstock of Gaming." I realized that the population was almost entirely male, and my observation was confirmed later by a guy who told me (after I'd inquired about intra-QuakeCon romance) that most girls who came were with their boyfriend/husband, very brave, or being paid.
Never having played many computer games save for The Sims circa sixth grade, I didn't know much about gaming culture, but it didn't take long before I picked up on a few QuakeCon traditions. Most important at the convention is acquiring the coveted annual T-shirt with the QuakeCon logo and year. Because you can only get the T-shirt at the convention, wearing one shows that you were there, or at least know somebody who was. People hoard them so that they can sell them on eBay for up to 30 dollars. To wear an old T-shirt at the convention is to walk like a veteran through a crowd of n00bs; it is an instant ticket, as one boy told me, to "street cred."
|One guess as to who's named "Virus."|
|No way can you buy this at the Apple Store.|
According to two boys working a makeshift information desk, gamers will sleep on top of their computers in order to hold their seat through the next day. There are rules against it, but in a room this big, some people get away with it anyway. One boy told me that he wasn't very worried about getting up to walk around and leaving his equipment unattended. "Security is good, even though the cops are lazy," he said. I asked if people fight over where they get to sit in the BYOC room. "Nah, people only really fight for the T-shirts."
One of these fights is a competition called "What Would You Do?" According to QuakeCon legend, Michael Taylor was on stage here in 2007 when he decided to deliver a swift kick "down there" to a friend next to him, a move that sent the crowd wild, and made the boys the most favored competitors in the challenge. This year, I watched as this year's challengers ate chocolate and pancake syrup-coated spam.
I began to wonder: did people come from around the world just to get a free T-shirt? The answer, of course, is no -- QuakeCon is a time for gamers to come together and shamelessly share their geek pride and passion. They play against one another, file-share (also technically against the rules), and hear speeches from executives at id Software on the most recent news about upcoming games.