Going Full Nerd For the Dude's Birthday: a LAN Party at iPlay

Steve from Minecraft
We spent weeks trying to figure out what to do for the Dude's birthday party since it's a BIG ONE. Double digits. Seriously. We have a ten year old as of 3:27 this morning.

Excuse me, I need a moment.
Ahem.

I mentioned yesterday that it's a bit of a tech birthday, since the Dude scored a Raspberry Pi computer and learned to use it to build basic video games at Code For Kids last Saturday. We bought him a monitor as one of his presents, so we will be fully equipped to keep developing. And given that it's a significant birthday, we wanted to do something pretty awesome for his party.

Hubby and I were at an event a few weeks ago and we met another couple with a kid about the Dude's age. They told us about the only possible option for a Minecraft-obsessed monkey: a LAN party. Nay, not just any LAN party. A Minecraft LAN party.

Let me break it down for you: There's a gaming lounge at the SensPlex in Kanata that hosts LAN parties. You gather up a bunch of people, head off to iPlay and they set up a closed environment where you can all compete against or play alongside each other in the same game. Like an old school LAN party, but someone else does all the work. It's called iPlay and we had never heard of it.

Now, the whole idea of LAN parties reminds me of my startup days, when developers would show up on a Friday with their own PCs, planning to plug into the network and play a bit after hours. Especially on weekends when they knew they would be onsite working toward a deadline (which can sometimes mean sitting around waiting for large volumes of code to compile or other people to finish their work) or upgrading the network (which usually entails sitting around waiting for software to install and systems to boot/reboot/boot/reboot...). Ah the good old days of DIY technical infrastructure. (Oh, not me DIY-ing, though. No one wants me touching a company-wide network :)

If you've never partaken in a LAN party, the iPlay Facebook page probably addresses what you might be thinking:
So... you can play computer games at home right? What is the iPLAY difference? Imagine playing in a group of 2, 4 or even up to 32 friends at the same time. Then, imagine that you are all playing the same game at the same time, interacting with each other on the battlefield or perhaps in an NHL hockey game or on the race track.
And these days their most popular party is the Minecraft party. Which means there are a ton of parents like us with Minecraft obsessed kids who have discovered this place. Only, I don't know any of them. I've told a bunch of people about iPlay since we booked the party found them, and absolutely not one of my nerd parent friends had even heard of the place.

Now that could partly be because we don`t hang out much at the SensPlex. Or it could be because iPlay only has a Facebook page. Or it could be because we've never seen a single ad for the place. But whatever it is, let me assure you: it's real and it's out there. And the prices are completely reasonable; I would even venture to say more reasonable than a lot of other party options.

Granted, they don't just do parties; you can actually grab a group of buddies and head over any time to do some gaming. Here's some basic info:
  • Hours: 3pm-midnight on Fridays, 11am-midnight on Saturdays and noon-6pm on Sundays
  • They have 90 different games available.
  • They run day camps during holidays. You have to keep tabs on the Facebook page for info.
  • The lounge doubles as a training centre for web design, Flash (who uses Flash?), graphic design, and computer illustration.
Meantime, you can head over to the iPlay Facebook page to find out more (although it's pretty light). The Dude's party is in a couple of weeks at which time I will post a follow-up piece with pics. And in the meantime if you need me, I'll be sitting in the corner hyperventilating over the fact that I had a kid a decade ago.