Casual Games at Laclede's LAN

Hey, it’s Tony, also known as Loddy. I’m the Tournament Director at Laclede’s LAN, which means I design, schedule, and run most of the competitive tournaments at our LAN parties.

I thought I’d take the opportunity today (and by “opportunity” I mean “it was my turn for a blog post”) to talk about the process we go through to select games to play at the LAN. Instead of addressing competitive tournaments though, I’ll be discussing the activities we offer people who aren’t quite as competition-minded.

Competitive players, at least as I am describing them, generally come to the event with a tournament in mind that they are there to participate in. They might try to participate in others, but they have a team put together for one and for them, it’s one of the main reasons for going.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who come to the event that actually spend a lot of time away from their computers; they talk to other attendees, hang out with staff, and walk around to get a good “sampler platter” of all the things we have to offer. “Casual” events are designed to make sure these sorts of people have plenty of distractions to satisfy their urge to walk around and try a bunch of cool stuff.

Obviously someone can fit into both of these categories at different times, but we generally think of them as two different audiences just for the sake of discussion. The competitive tournaments are staggered on the schedule to allow people a bit more time to mill around and try things while others are occupied (and also to keep me from trying to start five tournaments at the same time, which would likely be a disaster).

Our current casual experience comes in three main flavors:

Hardware Attractions

These areas generally center around a piece of hardware or an interesting game of some sort. When we first did this back in 2004, it took the form of me bringing my GameCube or PS2 and setting up some couch multiplayer or Dance Dance Revolution. Today, you’re more likely to find a Virtual Reality setup, but console areas have also been used off and on. The idea here is to give people a break from PC gaming. If you’re like me, you like to switch gears a lot when you’re chilling out with games, so areas like this give people an opportunity to play other games they like, or in the case of DDR or VR, maybe try something brand new.

Also known as the Waggle/Gimmick Booth

Also known as the Waggle/Gimmick Booth

The downside to areas like this is they generally are not good at amusing more than a few people at a time, and in VR’s case only one at a time. This is not a big deal, since attendees don’t have to actually use the hardware to see and appreciate that we are offering it, but we have a couple of other engagements that are better at this, like:

Flash Tournaments

Flash Tournaments actually started out as a way to get people to hop into our casual game servers, which we’ll discuss next. For instance, we might have a Battlefield server going, and just suddenly say “BraveSirRobbin is currently in a helicopter in the BF server. The first one to shoot him down gets a prize!”

You can almost hear him screaming

You can almost hear him screaming.

Not only was it pretty hilarious to watch BSR attempt to survive an entire server of RPGs aimed at him, but this gave our casual side a sense of spontaneity and encouraged people to join servers early (if you were already in the server playing normally when the challenge was announced, you were a lot closer to your BSR-exploding RPG than someone who was not participating). Over time, Flash Tournaments have become their own thing, focusing on games people have probably never played and actually keeping track of the winners over the course of the event.

BraveSirRobbin now picks a curated selection of a few games he finds particularly worthy, and runs small tournament brackets in them, keeping track of the winners for an ultimate showdown at the end. This has become so popular among the LAN-goers I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some people consider Flash Tournaments their main reason for attending.

Casual Game Servers

Flash Tournaments allow for more participants, but the highest capacity casual event is our game servers running more casual fare. Recently this has been games like TF2, UT2004, even stuff like Quake or Half-Life Deathmatch (I think Dino D-Day has been played as well). Selecting these games gets tougher as the game industry grows and people’s taste in casual games diverge more and more. We’ve identified some priorities to follow:

This is probably the area where we could use the most help. Although our casual servers do get playtime, we want to make sure this area gets the love and attention it deserves.

Tell Us What You Like!

So we’re asking you! What game servers would you most like to see available at the LAN (and if we can’t make a server, we’ll figure out a way to get people together). Please hop on our Facebook page or Discord and let us know!

Until I hear from you, this is Loddy, signing off. ;)