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The Trouble with LAN Parties

Over the years you gather a lot of computers, or you do if you live with a family of awkward introverted geeks of various kinds, not the least of which is techno. Of the working computers at our house, we have at least three machines running Windows XP, one 98, a Linux box, and an aged PowerMac too old even for use by an elementary school (it was given for free to Nate during the school's spring cleaning, and came complete with a MathBlasters game and student compositions about volcanoes). Not too long ago Paul decided to hook all of the PCs together into a local area network. (The only technically-working computer left off is the Mac, which predates the Internet).

          This has been wonderful in that it's gotten all of the computers online for a relatively low price, and has allowed us to share our files, which is definitely a plus since it has alleviated the need for me to have my own printer. I'm the printer anti-Midas: every one I touch turns immediately to dust. Canons, HPs, deskjets, inkjets, bubblejets, blinkjets, nibblejets, jetlag... As soon as they learn they're going to be mine, they commit ritual suicide, and refuse to print anything but "ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES CANON 3901 A DULL INKJET. LAURA SUCKS!" over and over. But with the LAN, I can use my mom's printer from the comfort of my own PC! Everyone's happy.

          But the main reason to have a network is clear: LAN parties. Those magical events where everyone gets on a console and you all interact online through the network. Socially inept as my friends and I are, normal gatherings often degrade into LAN parties, as I go to check my email, Rory hops on the Linux box to see if his girlfriend's online, Paul's downstairs on the laptop (I don't even know he's home). Suddenly we all find ourselves talking on instant messenger, even though we're all in the same house. Rory and I are accustomed to holding two simulataneous conversations, one on IM and one called through the doorway of my room as he sits at the PC in the hall.

          Of course, when you think of a LAN party, you think of games. Normally those whose definition of "partying" includes the acronym "LAN" are not only technogeeks, but that specific and puzzling genus gamers. Gamers apparently enjoy connecting to each other's PCs so they can play against each other on Doom, Quake, WarCraft, Unreal Tournament, or some other macho, musclebound, penis-envy, hosing-down-the-decks-with-testosterone pissing contest.

          I, being blessed with breasts, have trouble understanding the draw of these games. Why must the boys always feel the need to be splattering each other's guts on the cold, anonymous steel wall with their cold, anonymous steel machine guns and bombs and shit? Girls would at least have the courtesy to kill with a knife, and to place perfectly-intact, lily-white corpse gently upon a marble column adorned with drapery of plum-coloured velour.

          According to my non-existent field research, girls (myself included) also tend to prefer games where there's little or no violence, danger, intrigue, or interest, and the main objectives are to make things look pretty, or, I don't know, to cook dinner. Oh, also, there's no time limits. Just, uh, do some stuff, take your time, and we'll see what happens.

          Cooperative games are also more along the "feminine" pole, I think, which is largely the reason that the male-dominated games of now are so competitive. Yes, games by their very natures have an element of competition, but do they have to be that kill 'em all, kill 'em already? I don't know about you, but when I make an alliance, I want to honor it, not worry about how I'm going to betray it before I get betrayed. Leave that for the boys; I for one want to make close friendships based on mutual trust and shared thoughts and feelings.

          It's a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle, this gender-biased gaming thing. Boys play the games, boys dream of making the games for other boys, companies run by boys hire boys to make more boy games for boys, who continue to play the games. Until girls become a powerful market, the companies aren't going to make products for them, and until there's a LAN game appealing to girls, said girls are never going to join the ranks of gamers. As such, they spend their time making friends, learning useful skills, studying, and generally improving themselves, and eventually they'll get good jobs, get good relationships, and win the day. THIS MUST BE STOPPED.

          To reverse this injustice, I propose the following games for femmey slumber/LAN parties.

  • Truth or Dare Online Now you can experience all the magic of truth or dare without the embarrassing necessity of being in the same room with the players. Keep your cool when discussing sex! No longer can your friends cry out "She's blushing" (although a really truthful player will type *blush!* at the slightest mention of her crush/significant other). Truth or Dare Online is different from any chat program only in that it has an automated program to keep track of who's asking and who's answering, and it keeps a handy log of all the truths revealed. Like with chat programs, however, you can't do dares. It's too complicated.

  • Makeover! Take turns being the knowledgable, sophisticated city girl(s), or the backward, bespectabled dork(s) in this two-or-more-player virtual experience. Teach your apprentice the ins and outs of cool! Get extra points if your once-nerdy protogee lures away your NPC boyfriend.

  • Date Simulator Girls love romance and dating, and now, with the Date Simulator (TM), they can do all of that shiznit without having to leave the comfort of their own computer desks. Yes, even nerdy girls can enjoy candlelit dinners with the 3-D simulation of the captain from the football team, all through the popular-girl avatar of their choosing. Of course, since only girls will actually want to play this game--boys preferring the more direct 'Raunchy Sex Simulator'--even the boys will have to be played by girls, which brings us to our next game:

  • SimLesbian Experimentation How many times have you made out with your best friend at a sleepover, only to have to go through the tired "I'm not gay" routine? Now, you can relive this exciting experience, without the guilt, lengthy explanations, and embarrassing rumors spread by your ex-best friend. Or the making out. But isn't it worth it to watch a pixelly representation of yourself make out with a pixelly representation of an anonymous online girl?

  • Birth Time Experience the joy of motherhood in this new game from the people who brought you 'Oregon Trail'. Players are expectant mothers in a hospital waiting room, forging friendships that will last a lifetime over the game's chat program whilst waiting for their offspring to be, ah, sprung. Who will be the first to bring new life into this world???


- Laura