"High Score"

By Sandy Brundage



Salon Staff
November 9, 2001 1:30AM (UTC)

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I take offense to Sandy Brundage's fairly one sided representation of adult gamers in her article "High Score." She discusses how many gamers use drugs at LAN parties, and some "professional" competitive gamers may use them to enhance their performance, but I think she is doing so without fair representation of those who do not partake. The reality is, most gamers at LAN parties are there for a social event. The focus is gaming, but a large amount of time is spent trading "filez," swapping "pr0n," and visiting with friends you usually only interact with online. It is a social gathering of people with similar interests. And of course, people who use drugs often do so in some social settings; parties, concerts, while watching certain movies, etc. What makes LAN parties any different than Grateful Dead concerts or Raves?

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She make's a point of showing how gamers are using drugs... but that's not news. PEOPLE are using drugs, and PEOPLE are going to LANs, and PEOPLE are tripping to Hendrix. Of course there is less drug use at, say, a high school sporting event, because of our laws against drugs in a school environment. But is it a shock that more kids are getting zoned at 'NSync concerts, as the boys grow up and so do their teeny-bopper fans?

Sandy says drug use at LANs is becoming more prevalent. Yes it is, just like it is everywhere else. There are more police officers using drugs; more medical doctors using drugs; more politicians using drugs. And computers are so cheap now, even stoners can afford one. Perish the thought.

-- Jeff Pettorino

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There must be a shortage of worthwhile news to report if your site has to resort to claiming that LAN parties are havens for denizens of the druggy underworld.

I've been gaming since the days of the Atari 2600 (over 20 years) and I've been going to LAN parties off and on for the last three years. While I'm sure that there are occasionally a few people high on something, your portrayal of gamers as drug freaks is highly speculative. I have personally never seen drugs at a LAN party.

You'd be better to do a surprise expose of drug use at college football games (just how many of those tipsy college kids are legal anyway). Oh, but wait, that wouldn't be much of a surprise would it.

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Basically the author of this article is insufficiently intelligent to realize that some people game and some people do drugs. Here's the real kicker, some people do BOTH (ha, didn't see that one coming did you). So while some people are likely to have LAN parties where drugs flow like the waters of the Nile, it's not likely related to the fact that the party happens to be a LAN party and not the more traditional variant.

Our ancient ancestors used to gather around the fire and throw tans leaves (a.k.a. weed) on the fire and tell stories, perhaps we should investigate how campfires and drug use are such a problem. Maybe we should have those boy scouts tested for drugs use while we're at it.

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-- Andrew Smith

This is the worst piece of alarmist trash I have ever read. Ill informed, and poorly researched, it's only goal is to shed a poor light on gaming culture ... again. I've been LAN gaming since the days of direct parallel port connections and even back then, people were happily typing away trying to tarnish our images, blaming Satan and drugs for people getting together to PLAY. I'm sure more people in your office are wacked out on pot at this moment than I have ever met at a LAN. Seeing I have never in my seven years of LANing met anyone selling, or doing drugs, that's a safe bet. What's next? An article on how terrorist could use video game boxes to smuggle anthrax?

-- Matt Wilkerson

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I take great offence to your article's gross generalizations. I have been hosting and attending LAN parties for the last three years, and the only "substance abuse" is fast food. Porn is never allowed. Unlike the people you (supposedly) interviewed, gaming IS our drug. It's fast, intense, and challenging, and you make a lot of friends. I don't expect it to gain recognition as a sport, but I won't stand by and let you make it a crime. Your article dishonors your publication.

-- Mike Kozar

You talk about the CPL like the gaming community cares about it!? We have existed and will continue to exist long after the CPL dies. and the people who play in the CPL don't do it for the money, maybe some of them do but most I've talked to play for the fun and notoriety. And let's not forget these are the same people (the CPL) who after Sept. 11 changed all kinds of shit in CounterStrike during their competitions to not have one single thing even remotely resembling or promoting terrorism, let's not forget THIS IS A GAME OF TERRORIST VERSES COUNTER TERRORIST!!!!!!!! I mean "defuse the communication device" and "silent grenades" because we can't have an explosion sound. This was the most inanely stupid thing I've ever heard in my life. The CPL shot themselves in the foot on that one. If the CPL was a soda can I'd piss on it. And I know anyone who has read that article that doesn't sway so far to the left they need supports to walk would feel the same. Oh and one more thing, the last couple of LAN parties I went to 4/5's of the people were under the influence of SOMETHING.

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-- HeLLRaizR

I have been going to LAN parties for years, but I've never seen anything like what Sandy Brundage describes. It's usually just the normal smelly, nerdy guys eating, drinking, and talking trash until their wives or girlfriends come to collect them.

Where did Ms. Brundage find these LAN gaming drug dens? And more importantly, why the hell wasn't I invited?

-- Aaron Batty

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What kind of skewed sensationalistic journalism is this? LAN parties are a lot more tame than a lot of other youth activities that take place around the country. It's a fairly healthy social activity that many kids, as well as adults participate in. In my experience, most LAN parties do not involve drug use. The author of "High Score" would have us go on another modern witch hunt for drug users, thus alienating even further a segment of society (the gaming geek) that is just now gaining it's social footing.

Yet another example of journalistic integrity being thrown out the window. You should be ashamed.

-- John Dick

Well I don't know what kind of writers you hire but they've obviously never been to a LAN party.

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Guys getting blow jobs in the middle of an auditorium? Please. The one thing your author forgot to mention is the online "community" is overrun by horny prepubescent 14-year-old boys with an overactive libido and exaggerated imagination.

People will exaggerate because they think it's "cool." In the future spare us the hype reports. This is the same as people claiming that TV would be the downfall of the civilized world.

Next they'll be claiming we sacrifice virgins at LANs or something equally preposterous. In the future stick to writing articles about things that really matter. Instead of these puff pieces written to elicit responses like mine. Surely you can sell subscriptions without the sensationalism.

-- P. Lemoine

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As a lifetime gamer and an ex-journalist (with my Bachelor's of Journalism, I might add), I must confess, I went through several emotions when reading your article "High Score."

At first, I was shocked and then outraged and then simply disappointed. What could have been an investigative article on a small trend that may or may not be expanding turned into propaganda, nothing short of "Reefer Madness!" for the gaming generation.

Are there gamers who are taking drugs? Certainly. Is it anywhere near as prevalent as your writer attempts to make it out to be? Certainly not. Wild speculation, second-hand information and exaggerated language are all this story has. The one thing it lacks? FACTS.

Gamers are not some group of Goth freaks like some people would have you to believe. They are not all loners. They are not all rebels. They are not all geeks. They are individuals. They range from the hardcore gamers who are taking Computer Science classes and hoping to be the next John Carmack to soccer moms who want to blow off some stress. Your next door neighbor could be a gamer and you may not even know it. Your sister, your brother, your best friend, your parents ... any of these people could be gamers.

And, like any cross-section of society, there are some druggies. But, unlike the picture your "story" paints, they are certainly not the majority. In fact, I think that you would find the percentage of people who use drugs at/before/after LAN events is the same as people who use drugs at/before/after watching a sporting event, or a rock concert, or any other large gathering.

Your writer lacks insight into this community. Gaming is an international phenomena. You don't go to a little league football game, catch one person cheating and accuse the entire sport of football of being rigged. The article lacks substance, lacks depth, lacks merit and lacks focus. What it does have is overly-broad sweeping statements, blatant exaggerations, flowery prose that is entirely unsubstantiated, and a whole hell of a lot of hearsay.

Maybe you should take an honest look at the gaming community. Maybe your writer should travel to a few dozen LAN events across the country before writing such ridiculously overblown yellow journalism. Having been going to LAN events for, oh, ten years or so, and only having seen one solitary drug incident (for which the person was booted and banned), I find this trash to be insulting.

-- Cliff Hicks

Let me state that I don't particularly like your site to start with because of your obtuse, unrealistic and extremely liberal slants.

Let me also state that I am a "hardcore" gamer. Let me also state that I smoke marijuana on a social basis. My friend/partner/landlord host LAN parties monthly at his home.

Our LAN parties are labeled as "Adults Only" because we engage in adult activities. These might include porn, coarse language, alcohol. No drugs are allowed in the household at any time, let alone our "LAN Party weekends". This includes myself, and I live there. I respect my friends' attitudes toward drugs in general.

Your article makes gamers out to be a bunch of stoned-out pothead losers with no respect for much of anything, including laws and common decency. The broad picture you paint is highly inaccurate and gives a reader the impression that a large percentage of LAN parties are as you describe with a multitude of discarded pizza boxes, stale smoke hanging in the air and the smell of a sweat sock.

While I have friends that opt to live in this squalor, our household and our events are not as such. I have been to many other events in other locations that are not that way. They are clean, well-organized, above-board operations with the focus on gaming, fun and camaraderie that gamers share. We don't pass around "warez" copies of every game we play, promoting software piracy. We may drink some beer, but nobody gets sloshed and nobody under 21 drinks. Nobody is ducking outside to burn a joint. Nobody's doing coke for three days straight and then stumbling into work the next morning.

I, much like one person quoted in your article, enjoy playing some of my favorite PC games with a buzz. Anyone who enjoys both toking and gaming probably does, as well. I'd be foolish to believe that all LAN parties are run the way we run ours. I've been to a few that are less-than-savory. But remember that not everyone fits that particular mold.

I welcome anyone from salon.com or any other organization to attend one of our events. Feel free to peruse our Web site.

-- John "Darque Pervert" Olsakovsky

I have to hand it to William Gibson. Once again his vision of the future has borne fruit. I refer to the short story "Dogfight" that he and Michael Swanwick wrote for Omni Magazine in 1986. Back then Gibson and Swanwick were writing about video game competitions and performance enhancing drugs.

I do chuckle at the phrase "Cyber-athlete". Are we so post-modern that a gamer sitting on his ass in front of a computer is an "athlete"?

Ancient Greece has influenced much of what Western Civilization thinks of as "athletics". I've seen the statues and pictures of runners, wrestlers, and discus throwers. I must have missed the depictions of the keyboard jockeys.

-- Nick Baban

"As computer gaming enters the mainstream, its drug subculture is also coming of age."

Did we forget, that the many people who played early online computer games like Quake 1, and other games from the past as far back as Atari, are also growing up? They aren't the same age as they used to be, and it's not just some drug phenomenon that is helping gaming. It's the increasing average age of the gamer in the community itself. As the people who grew up with games get older, they carry that with them to adulthood.

I would have liked to have seen how drug use at LAN parties differs from drug use at Frat parties in college, corporate parties (say gaming industry, which I am a part of), or even high school get togethers. I don't think it would differ too much... at least not enough to make it odd in a LAN party.

My last complaint would just be the whole way you painted a LAN party. I've been to many large and small LAN parties and alcohol is much more prevalent at them than weed. "He slips Alan the $30 cover charge and sets up the rig." I can't help but laugh at the idea of a LAN party being painted akin to a satanic cult gathering. I also can give a number of reasons for "a guy getting a blow job in the middle of an auditorium from a girl he just met," the least of which would be that a number of the gamers are lonely people. Even if there is drug use (I've been to those LANs too), it is almost never a pressure situation. No one cares for the most part, because the drug is not the reason to be there and have fun. It's the gaming.

However, I did like the parallels drawn from Jolt and Bawls over to drug use and fringe activities. It very much does hint at the prevalent culture in "hacking" and computer geekdom. :)

-- Michael Dickey


Salon Staff

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