Gaming for a good cause

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

Gamers are putting their controllers, keyboards and TVs to good use this weekend to help sick kids around the world.

Students from the Registered Student Organization, Association for Computing Machinery have hosted SalukiLAN, a gaming party for charity, since 2008.

Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Salukis will come together to hang out and battle for a great cause for 43 straight hours. This year’s three-day venture, ending at noon on Sunday, is an increase from the two-day events before.

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Scott Weaver, a senior from McHenry studying computer science, has been in charge of the event since 2012 and said the party was extended because of how long the tournaments last.

“Some of our tournaments run from eight to 10 hours, so we need more time to get them all in and done correctly,” Weaver said.

The event has averaged $1,000 in donations since its inception, with all proceeds going to Child’s Play, a charity that donates video games and equipment to children’s hospitals across the world. Child’s Play has raised more than $15 million since 2003.

Weaver said the event is the largest LAN party in southern Illinois and one of the largest in the Midwest.

Two hundred people have reserved seats for the event, which was the total of all attendees last year.

Weaver said most visitors are walk-ins, so he expects the event to hit its capacity of 350 people for the Student Center, as well as reaching the goal of $3,000.

Most of the gamers will bring their own powerful machines, but console and board games will also be at SalukiLAN.

With the large computer contingency, most of the tournaments are for PC games.

The largest tournament will see 12 teams of five compete at “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” a popular first-person shooter game that pits counter-terrorists against terrorists.

“League of Legends” is one the most popular competitive games in the world. More than 45 million people packed into the Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea for the 2014 World Championship.  

Weaver said there have always been a large number of “League” players, but they have been bad about registering ahead of time, so they do not have an exact projected total.

“Halo 2” and “Super Smash Bros. Melee” represent the console-based tournaments.

Even though there are tournament-specific games, Weaver said people can bring whatever game they choose and play it.

The team or individual who reigns supreme takes home a prize pack of goodies provided by various sponsors.

These goodie bags are much better than the favors passed out at the average birthday party.

Instead of candy and noisemakers, winners get some new computer hardware, like graphics cards, keyboards and mice.

A Hong Kong-based company called Sapphire Technologies donates prizes with help from Carbondale native, Ed Crisler.

Crisler, the North American Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Sapphire, is one of two employees for the company in North America.

Crisler said he has lived in or around Carbondale his whole life, earning an associate’s degree from John A. Logan College in 1989.

His first experience with a computer came at Morris Library in 1977, where he played an educational game called “Bugs Not Drugs,” which lets players run around as doctors, defeating diseases with the correct cures.

He said he has been hooked ever since and now travels around North America going to various LAN parties and sponsoring them.

“I get to be Santa at every LAN event I go to,” he said. “I’m 51 and get to play around like a 30-year-old again. And I get paid, which is great.”

This is the second SalukiLAN Crisler has helped with, after seeing an ad for the gathering before last year’s event.

He said these fundraisers are great because they allow gamers to give back and vanquish the bad stereotypes people have.

“When some people think about PC gamers, they imagine someone in their 20’s, living in their mom’s basement and having never seen a real girl,” he said. “That is just not true.”

Crisler said the demographic of gamers is more diverse than some people think.

The average gamer is 38 years old, possesses a Bachelor’s degree, earns more than $45,000 yearly, and is a married parent, according the National Purchase Diary, a marketing research firm.

Because of this, Crisler said it is great for people outside of the gaming world to come together and see how different reality is compared to their stereotypes.

Other prizes will also be raffled off, with those tickets adding to the total donation.

Pepsi has sent bottles of soda and Bawls, an energy drink company, has donated more than 450 bottles of its drink to help gamers stay awake for the 43 hours.

Aside from bringing in people outside the gaming sphere, the event also brings together gamers who did not know each other.

Nate Knight is the second SalukiLAN committee director, and said LAN parties help bring gamers together in person, instead of always playing online.

Knight, a senior from Energy studying computer science, said some of his favorite games like “Super Smash Bros.” and “Mario Party” only allow in-person playing, making them a jewel of a past time.

“So many games now have gone to the Internet and everyone can sit on their [own] couch and play with other people [across the world],” he said. “You can’t do that with “Smash,” everyone has got to be in the same room.”

Even though he wants everyone to come in and watch, everything will be broadcast on the game streaming site, Twitch.tv/salukilan.

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AMiller_DE

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