The FragSoc LAN is the largest real-life social event in the gaming society’s calendar. Members meet up in Physics two or three times a term, with their PCs and game consoles, to chat, play games, and watch esport events. The most recent one was at the end of Week Two, and I headed over to Physics to find out what the experience is like.
The event runs all weekend, and FragSoc have the whole of Physics (and occasionally, the Law and Management Building on Hes East,) to themselves. On one side of the large space is the PC gaming area, with rows of hulking PC towers awash with RGB lighting: it turns out if you take your PC out of the house regularly, it’s helpful to have it look good. One guy had brought a widescreen monitor and a case so large and white it looked like it was about to take off. Society Chair Dhillan explains that LANs are even bigger in winter. “Summer LANs are a bit quieter because everyone’s busy”. That, and the fact that like every society, FragSoc suffers a slow drop in attendance over the course of the academic year.
The LAN begins with a casual game of Overcooked. The atmosphere was very relaxed: FragSoc LANs heavily emphasise games with a low skill ceiling, and I really enjoyed myself. The co-op game places you in a kitchen, trying to construct meals for extremely picky customers. The game requires just three buttons, but the kitchen gradually becomes a mess of dropped food, ill-constructed dishes, and messy plates. You all play as racoons, obviously.
Gang Beasts is another couch favourite: a four-person game in which slightly overweight wrestlers try and punch, headbutt, and kick opponents off the map. One wrestler is shaped like Donald Trump, and dump-tackling him off an iceberg is extremely satisfying. Afterwards, I find myself in an impromptu CS:GO game. It’s the most fun I’ve had playing Valve’s shooter: the secret to my enjoyment? Absolutely everyone is bad at the game. One of my teammates decides to handicap himself by using a Steam Controller, and the other sets himself the task of using only pistols. We start behind in rounds, but mount a meteoric comeback and get to watch our opponents live as we cap off the final kill. There’s a massive pizza order in the evening, and we all eat junk food watching the sunset through the windows. As the evening rolls on, people start playing individual preferences in groups: DOTA, Guild Wars, and PUBG all make an appearance. The night concludes with Overwatch free-for-alls, including an original game mode, where gravity is set very low, and everyone is turned into a tank. I win, but it’s 2am by then, and I head home, flush with victory.
The second day was even more relaxed. We watch a bit of eSport together on the massive projector, and I get carried to my first Fortnite win by some hardcore FragSoc committee members. I am also persuaded to try League of Legends for the first time. I get destroyed, but it’s fun nonetheless. Gaming at university can be a lonely hobby but LAN felt different: FragSoc’s big message for these events is that gaming doesn’t have to be anti-social. LANs allow nerds to meet up and chat without pressure. Everyone is really happy to chat and chill. Dhillan says that despite most players now being online, gamers still welcome the chance to socialise in real life. Online gaming still can’t really beat in-person relationships. It’s an experience to which I’d love to return. The next FragSoc LAN is on the weekend of Week Eight.