Vandy_LAN packs Featheringill Hall with gamers, organizers consider expanding
It’s important to realize that Dance Central rates users based on how accurately a motion-sensing camera believes they’re mimicking what they see on the screen, not on their finesse. So the first sight that visitors to Friday night’s Vandy_LAN event absorbed was a duo demonstrating the lightning-fast choreography and considerable energy it takes to beat the game.
But that was just the beginning. Jacobs Believed in Me Auditorium was transformed into the League of Legends room, its seats filled with players in front of colorful laptop screens, developing strategies and battling it out. Challengers in a Super Smash Bros. tournament packed the classroom next door, watching characters as diverse as Captain Falcon and Peach fight and waiting their turn to take on the winner.
Hearthstone. Forza. Street Fighter. Soda-swilling students from Vanderbilt University School of Engineering and across campus crowded around them all.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve packed in as much as we can for a one-night event,” said Jason Mayer (CS’16), president of Vandy_LAN, his eyes sweeping across a bustling Adams Atrium in Featheringill Hall. “We already have FIFA and Destiny in one room and Smash Bros. Melee and Smash Bros. 4 in one room. We might need to make the next event over two nights.”
Vandy_LAN started back in 2006, when local area network gaming – physically connecting computers to each other in one room – was common. Today’s games are web-based, but the group kept the name as an homage to its founders. Members added the underline as a nod to the new online presence when they resurrected the organization in 2014 after it was dormant for two years.
They hold events of the same name in the spring and fall, handing out prizes for tournament wins, including game systems, accessories and T-shirts.
Many of the student organizers and volunteers are engineering majors, but not all. Pam Xu, a third-year neuroscience major, sat at the atrium’s entrance, swiping student IDs as participants entered.
“It’s a lot of fun to see all these people come together,” she said. “Where else are you going to find this many people gaming?”
But does she game?
“I play League of Legends. Not very well.”
Jonathan Schenker (ES’16) brought his own game for Vandy_LAN visitors to try. He developed VR Pod Racing at October’s VandyHacks event. It incorporates the Oculus Rift virtual reality system so users feel like they’re really steering a futuristic vehicle through a Mars-like wasteland, and it won Best Game at VandyHacks.
“I figured not many people have had the opportunity to use Oculus, so I wanted to give them a chance to try it out,” Schenker said, coaching users through the tricks of steering their pods.
Mayer was on the team that won VandyHacks’ first-place award overall for developing a game called Cubey’s Dungeon, which uses a motion sensor to control characters. He said he’ll make sure the next group of Vandy_LAN organizers are well equipped to keep the event going after he graduates.
Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering