Gamers descend on Melbourne

Melbourne's Telstra Dome will host what is billed to be the southern hemisphere's biggest gaming LAN on 11 and 12 January, with 1000 gamers and their computers expected for a weekend known as The Big Day In.

Organised by Melbourne gaming group Shafted LAN, The Big Day In is a product of the tremendous growth and industry support behind LAN gaming.

Shafted LAN is part of the AusGamers network, which has affiliated ‘clans' nationwide. AusGamers boasts 65,000 members and a Web site that attracts 3 million hits a month, according to The Big Day In marketing manager Doug Parsons.

Industry giants like Telstra, Microsoft and Cisco Systems provide network equipment and prizes for meets around Australia, of which several draw 400-500 gamers every month. It's this industry support that will go some way towards covering the conservative $33,000 cost (Parson's estimate) of organising the event.

Typical LAN gaming meets see hundreds of gamers bring their computers to a hall one morning, followed by the difficult task of connecting them to form a network. After this, gamers with the same games can compete in multiplayer mode without suffering the connection speed slowdown they might experience over the Internet.

Shafted and Multiplayer United (MPU), AusGamers' largest LAN gaming meet in Sydney, have long waiting lists and would use larger premises if they had the money. MPU, for example, is a registered business, but, like most groups, its meets are run by friends and do not operate for profit. Another large LAN gaming meet in Sydney, the non-AusGamers affiliated Sydney Gamers League, is able to hold its meets of about 500 people at Macquarie University.

According to MPU organiser Brent Artindale, the social aspect of LAN gaming -- the ability to sit with friends and meet foes in the flesh -- will only make it bigger.

"[An event of this size] is something we've been asked to do by the fans for a while now," said Parsons. "However, because of power requirements and occupational health and safety requirements, we've been unable to use larger venues for regular meets."

The day before The Big Day In will be setup day. Organisers will put together 300 tables, 40 servers, 10 power boxes, plenty of 24-port switches and a gigabit backbone fibre optic cable.

The weekend will require about 40 help staff, an electrician and five security guards.

The event will also feature console game competitions, stalls, and more traditional games like pinball and air hockey.

While some gamers may be sceptical of The Big Day In after Sydney business e cubed cancelled its planned massive LAN at Sydney Olympic Park this month, Parsons said confirmed numbers were important.

"I'm not sure those guys at e cubed had done this before. They only advertised two weeks before the event. We've been working on this since May."

One issue that does threaten the viability of LAN gaming meets is piracy. PC World has seen firsthand the number of pirate CDs some gamers use at meets.

Discussions with the Business Software Association of Australia have helped Shafted organisers put controls in place.

"Our meets work the same way as nightclubs. Our people will be around and will confiscate burned software if they see it. However, we won't be actively searching, there won't be invasions of privacy."

The speed of LAN setups and a mass of software also attracts file sharing fanatics.

"We also say in our terms and conditions that file sharing will not be allowed. We have network technologies that will detect peer to peer programs, and we will shut them down," said Parsons.

More information can be found at www.bigdayin.com.

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