On Memorial Day Weekend of 2010, a LAN Party was hosted by Tied the Leader in the city of Chicago. It was our 4th official event in what has become somewhat of a hometown for our virtual community. Present and accounted for were 30 attendees; including a posse of TTL Gunslingers and some esteemed guests.
We had sworn up and down that our clan would never see Chicago again, at least not as a function of our love labor. Hosting a LAN Party in this city had always served up a back-breaking challenge. The road to Chicago was mined with pesky hotel regulations, unrealistic expenses, and prohibitive union bylaws. Other official TTL events had found much easier purchase in the sands of places like Florida.
In the end, public outcry weakened our resistance. Rather than ban the Gunslingers from the city they had come to love, we turned our LAN recipe on its head in search of an alternative scenario. With a new blueprint on the table, the ChicagoL4Nd was announced to much rejoicing. What follows is a photo-essay that attempts to regurgitate a mere fraction of the experience that was shared.
To set a Gunslinger on a quest, first you need a Tower.
Previously, the center of LAN operations had been a historic hotel in the Loop business district. This proved not to be the smartest choice when your happening requires more electricity than NORAD. For this battle, we selected a Springhill Suites as our preferred H.Q.
Chicago has been called a city of neighborhoods. Our billet was strategically selected in one called River North. The new setting provided vistas that were as pleasing to the eye as they were to the lens. Ever the visual communicators, our guests fanned out in search of urban architecture fit to capture and share.
This homebase was far less lonely off business hours than the central downtown sector that we had come to know in years past. The immediate surroundings of the hotel bristled with options for night-life and hospitality. Of course, the poor fools that chose the ChicagoL4Nd as their early-summer vacation tried to conquer most of them, with varying degrees of success.
To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Good Game.
While these parties are designed to focus on socializing, they still revolve around the shared pastime of the partygoers. The task of wrangling enough audio/visual components to enable dozens of gamers to collide in real-time had always forced a strategy of begging, borrowing, and stealing from the local membership. To overcome this burden, we did what all great organizations do… We outsourced the solution!
Enter the Ignite Network. During all of our lost time, this state of the art LAN Center had resided just under our noses on the north side of the city. After some introductions and negotiations, we arrived at an alliance that would enable us to label their establishment as “territory controlled” for a portion of the weekend. This changed everything, and [by all accounts of those who attended] made ChicagoL4Nd our best event on record.
Of course, in solving old challenges, new ones arose. Hosting the LAN at a location other than the hotel required us to arrange transpo for the invading hoard. Fortunately, like any good crime worth committing in Gotham, you can always pile a bunch of jokers onto a school bus. What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger, after all.
To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Saloon.
The upside of abandoning the hotel as the gaming venue was the freedom to bring our own spirits. Our proven equation for success in entertaining combines real friends, fake violence, and all of the celebratory agents that make the LAN a party. With hotel staff monitoring our festivities, previous gatherings had been forced to adopt the Chicago convention of the Speakeasy. With a private function and our own rules, we were no longer forced to bootleg our cocktails under the table.
Upon our invasion of Ignite, something wonderful happened: They helped us. Our work was not over in migrating to their establishment. The existing network was rigged for PC gaming. There were adapters and connectors to apply to the local grid. Rather than cast an apathetic stare in our direction like the union electricians from days gone by, the Ignite guys actually rolled up their sleeves and made light work of our load-in.
Within record breaking time [mere moments], gamers were squared away and accessing Xbox Live. It was miraculous. Members who could not make the journey witnessed an avalanche of login notices on their screens at home. Parties formed up with ease and rolled out into the wilderness via an unbreakable network. No longer bound by the limitations of System Link, all of the games that we play were finally suitable for use in a live setting.
To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Tournament.
Casual gamers? Guilty as charged. Tied the Leader doesn’t really cater to pros. This does not mean that our people don’t like an incentive to make them sweat it out for the win. After configuring the network for digital zen, competitive sign-up sheets went live at the command post that rules Ignite from atop a raised stage.
LAN Master action thaxten ascended his usual pulpit as the ringleader of the affair. For two days, he would put ChicagoL4Nders through the paces of glory and defeat. Halo 3. Modern Warfare 2. World at War. Free-for-alls. Squad Battles. Each trial earned gamers points counting toward bragging rights and keepsakes.
Rooting each combatant at their own dedicated station, the tournament events flowed with greater ease than ever. Gone were the delays between games while players tweaked their controller settings or arranged their player’s icon and call sign just so… The flow of adrenaline was steady. All the while, Ma Deuce 50 labored over the construction of his “beeramid”.
Not every moment was host to fierce competition. These events are not intended as the poor man’s MLG. These are parties. Gamers make the trek to step out from behind their avatars and enjoy one another’s company. As such, here is a requisite shot of Gunslingers laying down their weapons to channel their inner rock star.
The little details were what made this party truly special. When not huddled around the screens depicting the best action, our guests enjoyed the Ignite bar. Snacks. Juice. Smoothies. Coffee. All were treats for which we did not have to plan or provide, thanks to our hosts.
To set a Gunslinger on a quest, you need a Prize.
Through the contributions of a new recruit tagged TTL DDay, our guests had access to a treasure trove of gear – a literal cache that we came to know as “schwag mountain”. Most of the booty was doled out in response to donations made to our charitable foundation. The rest was awarded as giveaways to those gamers who carried the day in our digital thunderdome.
The entire contest was spreadsheeted down to the very last kill. Free-for-all qualifying rounds determined brackets for team-based competition. The Gunslingers designed their own tournament. Squads duked it out in pursuit of various objectives chosen by Clan Captains. The more games a player would play, the more points they earned toward the ultimate goal.
Months of planning always boil down to one perfect moment. A hush falls over the room. Spectators erupt simultaneously into cheers as the action spikes. It is only then that you know that your LAN Party is a success.
Here we see Locomotive defending the Gunslinger’s honor in the final round of the Halo Slayer Tournament against [then] Community Ally Big Country. Over the course of day one, 28 gamers had been whittled down to 2 survivors. Off Loco’s right arm is REACH tester and TTL Strike Team Captain L Askan, inspecting the runner up’s gameplay for bugs.
In the end, it was Big Country who established himself as Supreme Slayer on the Halo front. He strutted into the Gunslingers house and bested them all at their own game in a relaxed recline. He would finish Third overall in the ChicagoL4Nd tournament. T’was a good weekend for Big, who scored himself a clan invite and a Fiancee.
Surprise guest TTL Pony took Second Place overall. When he wasn’t dodging the smackdown from his rivals, he was racking up points on numerous fronts. Having previously claimed for himself a Trophy Pistol as Grand Champion at ChicagoLANd 2.0, he took home a leather holster and gunbelt to match. Repeating history made at AtLANtica 3.0, Pony edged out his competition in a marathon FFA match of COD: World at War.
...And then there was TTL Killer, previously the Grand Champion of AtLANtica 1.0, proving the truth behind his chosen namesake. This longtime LAN Party journeyman – once having travelled all the way to AtLANtica 2.0 from an Air Force base in Japan – took top honors at ChicagoL4Nd. Some attribute his success at these events to his clean living. Others profess that the legendary Warthog Pilot in his Halo Squad sponsored Killer to victory on his back. Whatever the cause, for the second time, Killer went home with the ceremonial replica awarded to the overall victor at all offical TTL LANs.
While the weekend may have been all fun and games, it was not all games all the time. There was fun to be had off the grid. The Gunslingers saw the inside of a lot of pubs. Apparently, a local hockey team was also in the process of securing a trophy for themselves. Cocktails known as ‘Carbombs’ may or may not been consumed in large volume. Malt vinegar may or may not have been shot in the place of malt liquor. Memories are foggy, and stories are inflated by gossip.
In the face of numerous failures to collect on the debt owed to us by BUNGIE for Steaktacular medals awarded in Halo 3, we took matters into our own hands. A mass-reservation at Fogo de Chao has become a ChicagoLANd tradition. It was all but demanded by certain veterans that the rite be upheld on this occassion.
Some gamers even ventured beyond the confines of their natural habitat to visit a place called “outside”. This may seem difficult to believe. However, photographic evidence is being provided as proof. They even seem to be enjoying themselves, despite the unfiltered breeze and direct sunlight.
All good quests come to an end…
It was inevitable that each Gunslinger would find their way back home. Planes, trains, and automobiles would scatter us to our rightful gaming stations across the globe. One returned to Canada. One returned to Europe. Others ventured back to every corner of the continental mainland of these United States. Several of us just limped back to the other side of town.
No matter the distance traveled, we say thankya to everyone who made ChicagoL4Nd better through their presence. Good Game. See you online. See you next time.
To the proprietors at Ignite, we shall return…
...for ChicagoLANd V.