Update 16-May-16: Originally posted in 2014, see below for the 2016 launch story.

It all started on yet another day at work, when my colleagues and I had a casual talk about video games - and one of them, Rochelle was her name, said we should get together for a LAN party sometime. That’s where the spark came and I said “Why not do it here?”.

That was nearly 18 months ago. Since then, countless hours have been spent calling the banners to back an obscure initiative - opening a gamers club at the workplace.

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Eventually, we kicked off with a pilot. We took a meeting room with 12 PCs and armed them with GPUs (we chose AMD Radeons primarily because of their power rating and value) and headsets (Plantronics headsets proved to be a good mix of value and quality), acquired a server and a dozen licenses for Unreal Tournament 3, and started building what we dubbed the “Check Point Gamers Club” (we even put a small automatic air freshener and a portable speaker for a better atmosphere!). A few months later, on January, 2013, we held the grand opening and were swamped with players (literally - the AC was broken and the room was packed!). I noticed people were just entering the room and leaving, which prompted me to write a small script to display how much time was left until the match ends. I loaded my script on the server and connected it to the projector, and people finally understood that while the winners stay, the losers go - and the stations are finally free. We were open twice a week, for 4 hours at a time, when the first 30 minutes were dedicated to helping the newbies out. We also advertised the club throughout the company as much as we could, and started our own mailing list.

And here’s a club favorite: “Which team am I in?” “—What color is your wall GLOWING in?”. I brought some LED lights from home, to decorate the room with the team colors, after people just couldn’t get the red vs. blue thing. I’m reminding you that these are enterprise software devs and sales reps we’re talking about here, not pro gamers. :)

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However, as time went by, we just didn’t see the same levels of enthusiasm we were used to. People were getting tired of playing the same game over and over again. And while we added more mods and maps, and people still had a great time, we had to change something. Unfortunately, changes need budgets, and a budget requires justification.

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The majority wanted new games, and we couldn’t deliver.

We waited patiently until we’d reached the 100-player-mark (of enlisted employees). When that finally happened, I went on to pitch a bigger club, with a bigger budget, in a much bigger room. I wrote down an ambitious list of things I’d want in that room, such as gamepads, a sound system, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I confidently went and asked to use the second biggest conference room in the building (“Hey, we have a hundred players!”), and, eventually, got approval to use it.

When the budget approval arrived, we were more shocked than excited - someone is actually funding a huge eSports event, complete with audiovisual decorations, in a software company!

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But now that we had our sights on a bigger room - we had to do everything by the book, down to authorizing the server we wanted to install in the room and harden its security to only access the LAN. A lot of time was spent to make sure we got everything right. During this time, we started preparing the base image for the gaming stations. Once all the games were installed, I recalled the IT security team demanded that the users mustn’t have admin privileges, nor be able to use external storage devices. And that’s when I ended up staying in the office overnight, tweaking and customizing everything on the base machine from the GPO (which dictates what you can’t or can do on a Windows machine) all the way down to the sound themes. I felt like I was back in high-school, excited from hearing game-themed sounds all over the OS functions! I went home happy and pleased, and proceeded to design a few teaser posters to advertise the upcoming opening event.

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The thing is - we never saw how the base machine clones to other computers with roughly the same hardware - and started getting blue screens of death on all the stations except the one we worked on. We already set the grand opening for a week later! This led me to run a 36-hour-long stretch over the weekend at the new club room, trying to sort the software out, but to no avail. Eventually, 3 days before the launch date, I finally managed to do some registry magic by combining very specific parts of the registry from images that worked onto my image’s registry. It was ugly, sure, and it meant we had to go and reconfigure some aspects of every machine manually, but it worked.

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So, yesterday, at long last, we reached the opening event - only this time we weren’t swamped by dozens, but by hundreds of people dying to get their game (and drink) on!

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Never stop believing, guys!

Update 07-Jun-16: Following hardware changes to the gaming PCs in the room back in late 2014, we were forced to close and rebuild the image used by the stations. We took that opportunity to aim for a full-fledged, guns-blazing relaunch, and secured budgeting for a dedicated XBOX360 with Kinect (XB1 Kinect games aren’t that good, unfortunately, and we wanted something for casuals too), some new game licenses (including favorites such as Rocket League and the new Unreal Tournament), LED repairs, brand new high-end headsets, upgraded GPUs, internal marketing materials, and a lot of pizza and beers :)

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I also reached out to Epic Games for some support, and, boy, did they deliver.

Here’s what it looked like when we launched the “2016 season”:

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Yes, the room was very dim, so I put a USB flashlight under the Kinect sensor in the “Kinect & Lounge Area” at the back. Lucky the XBOX has a USB port just for that!

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