Computers filled the Marshall Student Center Ballroom on Sunday as roughly 150 gamers shouted strategy over the noise of clicking keyboards and mice.
Tony Vega, president of the USF Video Game Club and a junior majoring in statistics, said it was the first local area network (LAN) party in the club’s three-year history.
“The difference between being in this gigantic room of people playing the same games, and just being at home, is here you get to meet those people,” he said. “It’s a place to show off your skills, make friends and make rivals.”
LAN uses cables to link computers through a local server. This direct connection allows faster speeds and therefore less “lag” than the Internet, Vega said.
Jorge Fernandez, a third-year medical student, said he attended the event to compete in “League of Legends,” a tactical computer game pitting two teams against one another in a battle of swords and sorcery.
“It’s definitely different when you take out that Internet barrier, when you drag your system to a LAN and park it in a room full of hundreds of people,” he said. “It’s you and your four buddies versus five people sitting across from you.”
The skill involved in high-level competition strengthens the idea that gaming can be a sport, Jorge said.
“Just like in football or in soccer, there are moments in the game that require a lot of teamwork,” he said. “There are a lot of those should I, could I moments. It’s a thrill to get in there and see if you can end on top.”
Despite the stigma of gaming lacking social interaction, Jorge said he’s met many friends through gaming and hopes public perception will become more accepting over time.
“It’s really exciting to live in an era where people can make video gaming their career,” he said. “I feel like e-sports offers people a chance to be competitive and have a lot of fun doing something intellectually stimulating.”
The hosts held tournaments throughout the day, offering cash prizes provided by local gaming stores.
Michael Fortino, owner of Armada Games, said his hobby shop sponsored the event to support the local gaming community.
Although his store specializes in board games and trading cards, such as “Magic: the Gathering,” he said there is a large crossover from the online gaming community.
“At the root of it, it’s all games. It’s what people choose to spend their time having fun doing,” he said.
Gamers often have niche interests, Fortino said, and choose to socialize with those who share them.
“Everybody in this room today knows they’re coming to an event where everyone in the room has similar interests,” he said. “Whether at a game store or a LAN party, the goal is to create a comfortable space and a welcoming environment to accept you for whoever you are, for whatever you do or whatever games you like to play.”