Arts & Culture

Party helps video game junkies enjoy face time

Playing video games might not seem the most social of pastimes, but at Geekend Northwest, that's exactly what they are.

"You can be a nerd or a geek in your own house," said Jeff Eidsness, one of the Geekend organizers. "Everybody has the Internet.

"At Geekend, we play video games and talk about computers and all that, but it's really a social thing. Being able to talk face to face with the guy you're playing computer games with really adds to the experience."

Geekend is a LAN party, and if that's all geek to you, a LAN is a local-area network and a LAN party lets gamers play games together and interact face to face via the network, which is like a mini Internet contained within one building.

"It's a whole different environment to go and be with your peers of all different ages," Eidsness said. "We're trying to foster some community in Shelton because we really need that. Video games are a common thread."

That's an appropriate goal, because the event is a benefit for SOCK (Save Our County's Kids), a nonprofit youth center in Shelton.

It aims to build community, too, and to provide young people with alternatives to going to unsupervised parties and getting involved in gangs.

"We have a mentoring program," said Bob Bottman, the SOCK facilities manager. "It matches high-school kids with younger kids in the fourth through eighth grades. We have after-school programs and a summer program."

The gaming event will last the full weekend, and once they have set up their equipment Friday night, many gamers won't leave the Shelton Transit & Community Center, where SOCK rents space, including a big gymnasium where the party will be.

"Last year, some people found a table that was empty and laid there," Eidsness said. "SOCK has couches, and people were sleeping on the couches. People do stay there the whole weekend."

For those who don't play but are curious about gaming or about SOCK, there's a free open house Saturday afternoon.

"The open house is to let people see what it's all about and ogle at all the monitors stacked across the desks," Eidsness said. "It's a pretty amazing sight seeing all these people and just wall-to-wall computers.

"People are going to be bringing laptops, they're going to be bringing desktops, they're going to be bringing consoles like Xboxes," he said. Some games will be projected on the wall, and late at night, movies will be shown there, too.

Last year, Geekend drew about 40 gamers, some from other states. This year, organizers are hoping for 100; about 80 have registered so far.

What games will they play? Whichever ones they bring, Eidsness said. SOCK provides the infrastructure, and gamers can take it from there.

But there will be four tournaments with substantial prizes, including cash. For those, the games are Counterstrike Source, Quake 4, Starcraft and Unreal Tournament.

"We're also going to have the Old School 50/50," Eidsness said. "We'll set up an old game like Pacman where people pay a quarter to play it, and at the end of the weekend, the person with the highest score splits the pot with SOCK."

Organizers hadn't yet chosen the game earlier this week. "Everybody has their favorite '80s game, so we're still trying to decide," Eidsness said.

Geekend Northwest

What: The second Local Area Network gaming party to benefit SOCK (Save Our County's Kids), a nonprofit youth center in Shelton, gives gamers the chance to gather, chat and compete.

When: 6 p.m. Friday through 8 p.m. Sunday. There's a free open house from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Shelton Transit & Community Center, 601 W. Franklin St., Shelton

Tickets: $30 in advance, $40 at the door. The open house is free.

More information: 360-432-3229, www.geekendnw.com or www.sock.org

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