Gaming event at Indiana Tech can be a family affair – Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

 Michele Waldron has been gaming all her life.

The 43-year-old former emergency medical technician and online health informatics student can’t remember a time when she wasn’t a gamer. She and her fiance, Matt Bearman, both of Fort Wayne, sat next to each other for the two-day FortLAN VII, a sold-out gaming event that took place at Indiana Tech.

For Waldron and Bearman, it was a family affair. On the other side of Bearman sat Ethan, his 16-year-old son, a junior at Northrop High School, who was with about four of his friends, one of them an exchange student from Germany. 

They were seated in a large room on the second story of Andorfer Commons where more than 100 men and women intently played games like Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, HearthStone and Global Offensive.

Gamers come equipped with their own flat screens or lap tops and the computer towers that provide the power for the games. Usually downloaded, the video games feature outsized heroes and heroic creatures, good and evil, that test the mettle and skills of the games players.

There’s all you can drink of sugar-powered soda for $2, caffeine-powered drinks called Bawls, also for $2 and endless snacks like chips and nachos, straight out of the big bag. A tournament like this wouldn’t be normal without pizza and pop on Saturday night for $5. It also wouldn’t be a tournament without an array of games-oriented prizes that teams vie for.

Another hook thrown into the tournament was the charity drive for canned goods aligned with a similar drive at Indiana Tech. The food will eventually be delivered to The Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne, said the tournament entrepreneur and organizer, James Fislar.

Fislar, a 42-year-old insurance agent by day, keeps the tournament clean, but there’s little need for it. Gamers tend to be a quiet group who may or may not emit emotion when they get knocked out.

“You don’t get killed,” said Aidan Fislar, his 11-year-old son and sidekick who offers a free tour not only in the gaming room that by Sunday starts to smell like old mashed potatoes, but the auditorium where gamers will assemble for the divvying up of prizes.

Fislar, who remembers starting his gaming career in the mid-90s with Nintendo, also designs computer towers, one of them with five plastic dragon cut-outs crafted by Fislar in his garage.

“I’ve seen that one featured in a couple of magazines,” said Mark Pratt, 24, of Fort Wayne and a graduate of the University of Northwestern Ohio who was there with gaming buddies from school. All were graduates or students of the same university studying in similar fields like network services and computer security. Gaming is a natural pastime for them and a way to have fun together, they said.

If anyone needs to rest, gamers can sleep under their table, on an air mattress or sleeping bag in the nearby chapel or go home like Pratt did for a few hours.

“We’re just having fun,” said Tom Poland, 29 from Lima, Ohio, another UNO grad. “There’s lots of interesting computer set-ups. It’s just a really neat experience.”

Video games have been blamed for a lot of things and the typical culinary fare is one of them, but Waldron said she only attends a couple of events like this a year and who’s to worry if she drinks a delicious, cherry-Coke flavored, caffeine-fueled Bawls drink to stay up and enjoy the camaraderie?

As for the violence in games, the gaming nation at FortLAN was at peace and no one expected anything close to a barroom brawl.

“There’s violence in TV, music. There’s all kinds of things out there,” Poland said.

And there’s the international aspect of it. Waldron has met people online playing the game, Ark Survival.

“We have friends we talk to from all over the world,” she said. 

jduffy@jg.net

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