On Labor Day Weekend of 2008, almost a full month prior to the time of this recap, the TTL Gunslingers and their allies completed their third quest for the Tower – that would be the Sears Tower, to be exact. On that occasion, the City of Chicago was home to yet another national assembly and LAN extravaganza. The following is a photo essay and full timecode recap…
>>>DAY ZERO: 28 August 2008
First Contact. Over the course of the past 12 hours, the Gunslingers had been arriving from various points beyond the borders of the Second City. Journeys from Holland, Mexico, Canada, and both coasts of these United States brought them together in violent communion. They ventured to what would serve as ground zero for a celebration of the community that unites gamers in a clan.
>>10:00 PM: Upon the conclusion of various dinners, much of the invasion force rallies at Miller’s Pub, an establishment adjacent to their temporary home base at the Palmer House Hilton. As always, the scene is standing-room-only. Fortunately, the Gunslingers are no strangers to contesting a territory and making it their own.
>>>DAY ONE: 29 August 2008
>>2:00 PM: Finally, after various forms of settling in and wandering the streets of the city, official festivities can begin. The kick off for ChicagoLANd 3.0 comes on the 34th Floor of an undisclosed location that just happens to be the real-life residence of the gamerblogger who would be their host for the next several days of noise and carnage.
>>3:00 PM: War stories are exchanged along with gamertags to accompany primary identities. Glasses are raised. The sun beats down on new and familiar faces. After an obligatory group shot in front of the ubiquitous skyline, the Gunslingers disperse in search of a feast of their choosing.
>>6:00 PM: Over the years, the group has become too large to decend upon any one establishment. No restauranteur in their right mind wants to hear “TTL, party of 40, please…” Some go to Fogo de Chao in a gesture to collect a small portion of the steak that had been won via Matchmaking for Halo 3. Yet others blaze a trail to a much storied slice – or two – of pizza.
For many, it will be an early night. The next day, after all, holds the promise of LAN action.
>>>DAY TWO: 30 August 2008
The LAN begins. Over the next 48 hours, the Palmer House will endure a storm of simulated violence and real friendship. Teams will be built and destroyed. High scores will be tabulated and calculated. Prizes will be claimed. Keepsakes will be sold at auction.
>>6:00 AM: That’s right. The crack of dawn is host to load-in. A maze of hallways and freight elevators lead from the dock to 2,500 square feet of private digital arena. All must be networked and configured before hangovers can subside, bringing gamers out of their rooms in search of that which was promised to them before they put themselves on planes, tranes, and automobiles.
>>8:00 AM: Six projector screens are erected and keystoned. Half-again as many television monitors are configured throughout the space. A meticulously conceived floorplan takes form, with a central nervous system and command center located in the dead center of the room.
>>11:00 AM: Opening Ceremonies. LAN Master Action Thaxten assumes control of the mission, detailing a challenge for all who have dared attend. A tournament is described in which participants compete for prizes in a decathlon-style event that yields many opportunities to put points on the scoreboard.
>>11:30 PM: The trophies are unveiled. The Gunslinger’s pistol is, of course, a replica – a fact that TTL Demagogue will end up explaining to 6 Chicago cops who invade his hotel room on a tip from an impressionable cleaning lady. The “LAN Cup” is awarded to TTL Fate, in recognition of outstanding acheivements logged at previous events.
>>12:00 PM: With the games of ChicagoLANd 3.0 officially open, eager gamers settle in for some free-form warm-ups. Profiles are entered into consoles. Seats are arranged. Games of every variety spark to life on various platforms.
Light guns begin to blaze high scores for Duck Hunt. Ever since [and even before] the inception of TTL, the old Nintendo chestnut has been a mandatory staple and a nostalgic throw-back at LAN Parties. It does, after all, count towards the assignment of The Prize.
Rock Bands are formed for jam sessions, filling the room with a range of accompaniment, from the best garage act to the very worst Karaoke. The bands disband as quickly as they come together, with chairs rotating in a musical fashion all their own between gigs.
>>2:00 PM: At long last, tournament-weighted Halo maneuvers commence, beginning with a Free-For-All tournament. The Gunslingers are lined up in front of the projectors in a bid to take each other down. The featured maps start out large and crowded. Through a bloody process of elimination, the more intimate spaces on the menu play host to the closing duels.
>>4:00 PM: Call of Duty 4 is given its TTL LAN debut. ...And the event grinds to a screaching halt. Tournament organizers are served with a painful reminder as to why the Gunslingers are, first and foremost, a Halo Clan. The truth is unmistakable: Debates on game aesthetics aside, no developer builds a platform for interaction that is as effortless as Bungie’s party lobby.
Confusion sets in as the veterans of COD’s class system rush to educate their noob partners in the art of the perks. The System Link menus throw the flow of the competition into complete and total disarray. Yet, the Gunslingers make do as the first exclamation of “Let’s do this!” fills the air.
>>10:00 PM: “Territory Controlled!” once again at Miller’s Pub. The bartenders begin to recognize this motley band of prize fighters in shirts with matching logos. The regular patrons start to quit out of the match to hold the corner by the windows.
>>>DAY THREE: 31 August 2008
A new entry in the LAN Tournament in unveiled: Chopper Diving in Grand Theft Auto 4. The rules are simple: Spawn a helicopter in a clear intersection using a cheat code. Climb to the operational ceiling of the craft. Gain some momentum. Exit the cockpit. In keeping with Olympic tradition, the event is judged by the hosts of ChicagoLANd 3.0 – who also provide color commentary on the preceedings.
Points are awarded for hitting the pavement – not the top of a building. A plunge into the water is an automatic disqualification [unless the diver is able to be killed by passing watercraft]. Timing and a sensibility for geometry are crucial. Highest scores are awarded for the best “splashdown”; taking into account brain stains, corpse slides, and property damage.
>>2:00 PM: Once more unto the breach in Halo 3. Ahhh, sweet home Halo 3 and its intuitive post-game Carnage Reports for easy scoring! This time, teamwork comes into play, with 4-gamer teams pitted against one another in a round-robbin’ trial of tactics and communication.
Squads are assembled using the results of the FFA from the previous day as a qualifier. In the end, three teams qualify for the finals, forcing a 4v4v4 on Last Resort – and the name of the map takes on an uncanny extra meaning.
>>7:00 PM: Pizza. At any other LAN venue, a cardboard box would do us fine. At the Palmer House, the Gunslingers are held over a barrel by a man dressed in a tuxedo, wielding golden cauldrons filled with sub-standard pie. This gamerblogger was already planning to buy drinks at Miller’s for anyone with the guts to cry foul. And well they should…
>>8:00 PM: A silent auction that has raged in the background for the entirety of the event comes to a close in a traditional town hall format. Items donated to benefit the Tied the Leader Foundation are sold off one by one from the auctioner’s block, with attendees outbidding each other in a battle of verbal cues. In total, more than $900 is pledged to assist in the rehabilitation of wounded combat veterans.
IN CONCLUSION: Game Over! A good time is had by all. What are becomming old friendships are reinforced. What have become new friendships are solidified. Good games are exchanged all around. A Gunslinger, who is also A Large Bear, claimes his prize. Casualties are held to zero. Power outages are, miraculously, a non-issue. By all accounts, ChicagoLANd 3.0 is a success.
CODA: Miller’s again? You people really need to be thinking about catching your flights home tomorrow. See you maniacs again next year. Chicago again? Perhaps…
There, after all, are other worlds than these.