By Billy Tuite —
PONG, the People’s Organization of Network Gaming, certainly has an interesting way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. On Feb. 6, the popular gaming organization united gamers from across campus for a 48-hour gaming marathon known as the Forever A LAN. The LAN (local area network) party took place in the Great Hall and all three ballrooms in the Memorial Student Center.
Obviously, the event’s title, a reference to the “forever alone” Internet meme, is a misnomer.
“I project we had about 260 people attend this LAN,” said PONG president Jordan Loeck. “This LAN was a little different because we opened seating on New Year’s day. The LANs usually fill up to 200 seats within the a few days of opening seating. This one took about two weeks to get to where it is.”
Despite the slower attendance registration, PONG remains one of the largest organizations on campus and beyond.
“Last time I did the research, we were almost the biggest publicly available LAN party that doesn’t have a cost to it in the U.S., almost worldwide,” Loeck said.
PONG’s immense popularity can be attributed to its dedicated members who are present for almost every event. Tyler Letlebo, a senior in Information Technology Management, has been a part of the LAN party scene throughout his college career.
“I just like all the craziness,” Letlebo said. “It’s always funny when you’re playing something like Team Fortress 2 and you kill another player in the game and you can hear them shout ‘Dang it!’ across the Great Hall.”
Dan Stranjord, a sophomore in Plastics Engineering, has also attended every LAN since freshman year and plays a wide array of PC games.
“I’m here for the people and the atmosphere,” Stranjord stated. “I really like all the group events like the Planetside 2 raid, the Garry’s Mod games and the League of Legends tournament.”
Indeed, while computers tend to be the platform of choice for most LAN attendees, Loeck is quick to point out PONG’s growing inclusiveness toward console gamers. According to Loeck, the Super Smash Bros. tournaments have begun to draw “surprisingly large” crowds.
“We’re working toward not being as PC-exclusive as we have been,” Loeck said. “Since we have the right equipment available on a regular basis now, we’re moving more toward encouraging console games like Smash Bros. and Halo.”
Regardless of platform preference, any gamer can be excited about the continued sponsorship support PONG has received from Twitch.tv. Aside from providing clothing and swag to give away to LAN attendees, Twitch has also boosted the morale of the organization.
“It’s revitalized the LAN quite a bit,” Loeck said. “People became very excited about it because Twitch is the biggest video game streaming website on the Internet. Having them even take notice of us here and support us was a big boost to everybody’s feelings toward PONG and even toward Stout.”
These boosted sentiments have widely been expressed by many of PONG’s loyal members, including Letlebo.
“With such a large community attending the LAN, it’s ridiculously awesome to see how many people do play games and interact with each other,” Letlebo said. “It’s always fun just to talk to new people.”
To stay updated with future pong events, visit their Facebook page and their website at pong.uwstout.edu.