January 27, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 64  

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Gamers square off in atrium

By David Lee

Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
I NAMED MY COMPUTER “BABY BLUE” IN HONOUR OF SOFT-CORE PORN. Attendees at Western’s Gibfest — not to be confused with Summer Ribfest — huddle around a “modded” computer this past weekend.

While you were at home last weekend, throngs of people that hadn’t seen the light of day in weeks emerged and took over the University Community Centre. It wasn’t a real-life version of Night of the Living Dead, though — it was Western’s Gibfest.

This past Saturday and Sunday, the UCC atrium played host to the campus’ first ever large-scale LAN party. Created by the Computer Science Students’ Association and the Western Electronic Gaming Association (WEGA), Gibfest was designed as a chance for over 100 Western students to play games against each other and have some fun.

Aaron Woodyear, president of WEGA, stressed the logistical aspects of the tournament. “Without transportation, [the event] wouldn’t have happened,” Woodyear said, referring to the club’s offer of a free ride to and from the event for any participant. “Over half the entrants required a ride to the event.”

Paul Tomlinson, manager of the University Students’ Council’s building services, pointed out that the newly-renovated Concrete Beach had its own part in getting Gibfest off the ground. “We’re getting power from Concrete Beach, because the atrium wasn’t designed to handle this kind of power.” WEGA also received a price break as a USC-ratified club. “We’ve only charged them for special equipment and labour, and even then only at cost,” Tomlinson added.

The tournament also had many sponsor-donated prizes which were distributed throughout the event. Both a PS2 and Xbox console were among the booty, along with a 19” monitor, “modding” equipment and T-shirts. The most highly coveted prize was an I-Pod donated by the Campus Computer Store.

Most gamers came well-prepared for the long haul, as the event was billed as being 24 hours long. Conor McGowan, a third-year history student, brought a typical load. “I’ve got water and blank CDs — [the tournament organizers] are giving away pizza later.” Representatives from CompuSmart were also selling an energy drink that — given the nearly all-male crowd — was appropriately called “Bawls.”

On the whole, females were absent from the tournament. Instead, the greatest female presence was on the desktop wallpapers of the gamers, which ran from scantily-clad models to animated characters in various stages of undress.

Besides letting gamers hone their skills, Gibfest was also a chance for many to showcase their modified computer cases. Many gamers brought rigs that featured temperature gauges, see-through sides and internal lights.

However, the “modding” aspect of gamers’ computers was subject to the same competitive nature as the games themselves. Upon sizing up another gamer’s system, McGowan was quick to insult. “My computer’s more industrial, not so much strip-clubbish,” he said. “His components are mediocre at best.”

As for other gamers, modding seemed to be a distant concern. “I put mine in the box,” commented Edwin Li, a second-year economics student. “It’s what’s inside that counts.”

Contestants trickled in throughout Saturday afternoon and the event’s focus soon became the popular Counterstrike, a team-based, first-person shooter that pits a team of terrorists against a squad of counter-terrorists across varied maps. However, some participants had hoped for a broader range of games. “People just kept on playing Counterstrike. After a while, it got repetitive,” noted King’s College history student Andrew Clark.

Despite the smooth start, some problems arose as the event moved into the wee hours of the morning. After another event wrapped up at The Wave, some of the exiting patrons threw random items at the gamers from the second floor. Soon afterwards, the fire alarm was pulled, though most gamers were reluctant to leave. “They were telling us to go, but there were people standing on the second floor catwalk,” Clark said. “I wasn’t about to leave my stuff just sitting there.”

Later, a second fire alarm interrupted the event’s tempo, and many gamers left before noon Sunday when the event was scheduled to end. Nevertheless, Gibfest ultimately succeeded in bringing Western’s gaming community together for some electronic fun. While the competitive aspect of gaming was not stressed, the event proved that a significant gaming crowd exists at Western and laid the foundation for future zombie... er, gamer tournaments.



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