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The Competitive Side of Gaming: QuakeCon

One of the biggest gaming events out there started out small, but grew in a hurry. We explore what makes QuakeCon so fantastic.
This article is over 11 years old and may contain outdated information

Video game events aren’t always about high-end publishers showing off their best wares or holding parties with open bars and swag giveaways.  Sometimes they come from humble beginning;, the idea of a few fans that eventually grows into a phenomenon in itself.  That’s what happened with the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) events, which sees thousands in attendance each year in both its Prime and East locales (and coming soon to Australia) and the same goes for QuakeCon, a yearly event in Dallas, Texas that draws some of the most dedicated PC gamers from around the world.

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QuakeCon will be making its return this August to the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas, where players will bring their custom PC set-ups (it’s a bring-your-own-computer style of event) and take on other players in classic and traditional match-ups, featuring games like Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Quake III Arena and other versus multiplayer shooters.  You’ll see some of the world’s best compete here, but there’s still plenty of room for rookies to jump in and have some fun as well.  Even the greatest players got their start somewhere, right?

There is no attendance fee for QuakeCon, so it can fill up rather quickly.  It’s an event that has drawn in a number of sponsors that are popular with the gaming community.  Zenimax studios id Software, the creators of Doom and the Quake series, and Bethesda Software, the team that pushed id’s Rage back in 2011 and Doom 3: BFG edition last year, are both on board.  Other gaming-oriented companies will be in attendance as well, showing off their competitive wares (thumb sticks, custom built PC’s, etc.) for players to check out.  It’s an ideal place to find out where you can improve your game – especially if your old rig runs like crap.

But the main draw is obviously the LAN party, where dozens of games are set up in tournaments for players to prove who’s the best.  Thousands now throng to the event in Texas to see who is the greatest out there, the event wasn’t always this way…

QuakeCon got its start back in 1996, back when it was being run in a small room at the Best Western Hotel in Garland, Texas.  It began with just 30 people taking part in a small LAN party, with games of Quake and Doom II being the huge draws.  By the end of the weekend, via word of mouth from Internet users, it had grown to 100… and it would just go on the rise from there.

One of the bigger parts of QuakeCon is the involvement of id’s John Carmack, the lead programmer of Doom and Quake.  He hosts annual chats every year at the event, including its inception, where he held a 30-45 minute chat with attendees right on the porch of the hotel.  Obviously the stage has gotten bigger since that time, but it’s nice to see that Carmack has stayed true to the fan base from the very start.

Following the tripling of attendance, QuakeCon grew even bigger the following year and moved the venue to a larger hotel – the Holiday Inn in Plano, Texas.  This event saw 650 in attendance and hosted an even bigger tournament, Quake World, with a number of prizes up for grabs.  It was also broadcast live across the Internet, so it drew an even bigger interest than the year before.  (And here’s a fun fact: Carmack met his future wife, Katherine Anna Kang, during the event.)

QuakeCon went through a number of changes over the years.  More sponsors hopped on board, including the Cyberathlete Professional League and publishers like Aspyr and Activision (they released Enemy Territory: Quake Wars years ago).  The prizes grew immensely, going from smaller t-shirt awards to huge cash prizes, and more panels were held with id Software employees and other popular gaming guests.

The event would also become the home for major announcements.  It was in 2007 that id Software first unveiled Rage, a game that wouldn’t be published until four years later.  The developer also showcased its new technology here, including engines like the “id Tech 5”.  Other companies would also hop on board with its new tech;  for instance, Oculus Rift showcased its virtual reality 3D technology last year, immersing gamers in the world of Doom 3: BFG Edition and allowing them to swivel their heads and look around in real time.  (It’s a fine piece of technology, if you get the chance to check it out.)

The tournaments also became much higher profile than just a “simple LAN contest”.  Many top ranking players would join in to earn even bigger cash prizes than ever before,  Shoutcasters played a huge part, not only providing play-by-play for matches but also taking the stage so they could provide running commentary during the finals.

The tournaments would also go through a bit of changes, with particular challenges set aside for Capture the Flag, Team Championships (mostly with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) and Quick Draw events, where players would be randomly slotted to take on one another in rounds.  But it still leaves its doors open to those who aren’t so skilled at the game, so they can get better by playing against others.

Though official sponsors and tournaments haven’t been announced just yet for QuakeCon 2013, you can expect a high level of involvement from community and sponsors alike.  Oculus Rift is likely to return with a new first-person demo while id employees (Carmack included) should be on hand to speak about the developer’s growing tech (and, if we’re lucky, the previously announced Doom 4) and Bethesda Software will have a few games on hand – maybe even the oft-delayed Prey 2.  It’s grown into quite the hardcore gaming sensation.

You can get more details at the official site here.  QuakeCon 2013 will take place August 1-4, 2013.  You might want to set up your travel plans now – and see if you can take your gaming laptop as a carry-on. 

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Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.