LAN parties have been in existence since the dawn of online, Internet based gaming. Starting off as casual gaming parties between friends, usually hosted at someone’s home, LAN parties have now become full-fledged events garnering hundreds of players across various platforms from PC to console to mobile.
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to have been invited to spectate the 49th Ping Zero event, Auckland’s largest LAN and e-sports tournament. Now in it’s 14th year, Ping Zero is the brainchild of Major Havoc, who from humble beginnings of playing video games with some friends, recognised the value in hosting gaming events, particularly with the rapid uptake of the Internet and new technologies. From its launch in 2002, Ping Zero now attracts over 300+ gamers from all walks of life in an affordable (most other events like this generally cost a fair amount) event that fosters and cultivates social engagement, friendly competition and an interest in video gaming as a form of new-age sports (aptly called e-sports today).
The event itself was unlike anything I expected. The setup was fantastic, considering the location and the amount of funding that would have gone into producing the event. As soon as I walked in, I was impressed to see a large number of people completely focused on the screens in front of them, seated in an orderly fashion. I was also rather taken aback at how social many of the players seemed to be in between tournament breaks. Despite being a tournament to win cash prizes, the players at Ping Zero appeared cool, calm and collected. They were all really friendly and nice, even going so far to explain a bit about the tournament and the games that they were competing in. From what I heard from friends of mine who were competing at the event, present and competing for top place were some of New Zealand’s best players and teams. Impressive!
The games being competed in were not any simple game. All the games being played at Ping Zero are games that require strategy, a great deal of skill and teamwork. The games on show included Blizzard’s latest multiplayer game, Overwatch (which is super fun), Dota 2, CS:GO, Blizzard’s popular mobile card game, Hearthstone, Halo 5 and Street Fighter V, among others.
Not only were there individual players and general teams present at the event, but some of New Zealand’s largest computer, gaming and technology retailers too had teams competing in the tournament. I was pretty taken aback to see the number of players representing Mighty Ape, PB Tech and my friends at Good Gaming PC. It was pretty awesome checking out the gaming rigs that they brought along with them. I’m no expert in computers and have even less knowledge about PC gaming, but I was definitely in awe of how cool the gaming computers that were brought in looked and had I possessed a bit more knowledge on processing speed and general specs, I’m sure I’d have been even more wowed.
Overall, I was really pleased to have attended Ping Zero 2016. The atmosphere was really welcoming, the event itself was fun, and all in all, it simply inspired me to get into gaming and meet like minded people. That’s essentially what these LAN parties are about. Getting like minded people together to have a good time, meet new people and win the title of champion (along with a bit of cash). Ping Zero, among other gaming events held throughout the year, is certainly drumming up the hype of e-sports in New Zealand.
Super huge thank you to Major Havoc for providing me access to cover the event.