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All Night Game-A-Thons
Written By: Tikerman

Ah, excitement is in the air. Arrangements have been made, work skipped, parents notified, if applicable, and supplies collected. The host is ready for his guests. The stage is set for an all-night gaming extravaganza. This past August 1st, yours truly invited a few of his good friends over for a night of games, snacks, and movies. Since such an event is…well, a lot of fun, I thought I'd share with you a few key elements to having a great all-nighter.

The Setting

Time and place are the first issues to be considered. For school/work's sake, Friday-Saturdays generally work best. However, if a common vacation period is shared by all invitees, then there isn't much reason it can't be held during the week. More important than the time, however, is the locale. He or she among the company who has the best place for such an occasion should host. Usually a basement, den, or game room works best. While the family room of most houses boasts the largest TV, other less desirable members of the family may find it easy to intrude upon the group's good time. Or, for that matter, younger gamers will surely want to keep out of nosy parents' radar, to enjoy a cuss-filled gaming party.

The Food

While most of the attention of all members of the group will be on the television set, they may get hungry from time to time. Although the extravaganza might last up to a full 24 hours, a few pizzas will generally suffice in terms of meal-quality food. Several bags of everyone's favorite snacks to munch through the night are a necessity. The most important factor of feeding the gamers, however, is the drink. If everyone's going to stay up the whole night, lots of high-caffeine pop will be mandatory. If a standard sized refrigerator is out of range, a mini-fridge or cooler full of ice should do the trick to keep pop close at hand. The gamers' tastes are the most important factors in selecting beverage, but I must say that Mountain Dew is quite an effective stimulant/thirst quencher.

The Games

Of course, the most important of all elements. The reason everyone's getting together! The games are the centerpiece of this orgy of bright-lights, loud music, and sugary drinks. The obvious rule to selecting games for the event is to get games with high multi-play quality. Don't just depend upon the host's collection either; the game-a-thon should be a sampling of the crème de la crème of every gamer's library. Ask each invitee what they can add to the shindig.

Fighting games, in my opinion, make the best multi-play for occasions like this. Shooters come a close second, followed by racing, sports, party games, and the various other adventure multi-players out there. But don't just concentrate on the games that boast the best four-way brawls. Many games marketed for their one-player greatness can still have a multi-player mode that can be tons of fun for all involved.

But this isn't just about the group. The individual can get some spotlight too. Even if a game is strictly one-player doesn't mean it can't get some attention. Stuck somewhere in Metroid Prime? Perhaps playing it with your best friends around you can do the trick. They may offer important advice, strategic aid, or perhaps you'll just want them to see you cream the last boss. Pass the controller around to see who can beat a level with the fastest time. Perhaps through the combined efforts of you and your whole gaming group, you can beat a game you never thought you would.

But don't stick to one thing for very long. Especially with a bigger group, the whims and desires can be very transient. Be ready to drop out in the middle of any one thing to pop in something else. There's no telling what the group might desire next. Always be prepared with a very, very wide collection of games, even if you might never get to most of them.

The Equipment

Games don't play by themselves, you know, so you'll of course need all the proper electronics. A TV of course is a necessity, but if you have more than four total, perhaps you should look into a second one. A DVD and a VCR should quench your movie desires, and Digital Cable, both for one of the TVs and a nearby computer, will not leave your guests craving. The big three game systems, Playstation 2, GameCube, and Xbox, will certainly suffice for graphically stunning games. But don't get caught up in the looks; oldies but goodies such as the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, and maybe even your dusty old SNES can offer some nostalgic fun. Some kind of switching device is of course necesarry. An ABC switch might not have the capacity you're looking for if you've got all that, but system selectors are available with six or seven slots, each with multiple connection-types available. This is especially important if you want to go quickly from, say, Super Smash Bros.: Melee on the GameCube to Halo on the Xbox.

Wireless controllers, such as Nintendo's Wavebird for the GameCube, are definitely a huge plus. Wires can get tangled, leading to trips, accidental unplugs, and messy clean up. Definitely go wireless for as many of your controllers as possible. Speaking of being disconnected from your console, don't forget about everyone's favorite handheld, the Game Boy Advance. The GBA offers plenty of 2-4 player action for everyone's enjoyment. Or, if anyone desires to get away from everyone for a bit, and cool down, the GBA can be stowed away to a corner, and played privately for a while.

The Non-Console Entertainment

While Playstation 2, Xbox, and GameCube may take center stage, other avenues of entertainment are important. The first that comes to mind is movies. Good comedy is usually the best, but as I said earlier, you never know what your friends might want to see. Bring a wide variety of comedy, action, and adventure movies even if much of it never gets watched. Better safe than sorry. Although it's usually safe to forget about the romance.

It's not often, but occasionally something on TV merits turning off the games and movies. It's always good to have cable available, and better yet, digital cable, especially with all those movie channels. Gamers may want to check out G4, TechTV, or Adult Swim on Cartoon Network.

While many ignorant gamers think they can be satisfied with just their consoles, the PC offers a whole new forum for gaming. Especially with a high-speed connection like DSL or Cable, you may want to have your friends gather 'round to see you whip some Korean kids in WarCraft III or one of the veritable slew of first-person shooters available for the PC these days. And the PC isn't just about games, either. The internet offers tons of hilarious videos and sound bytes available for download (through strictly legal means, of course). Or maybe you'll just want to play some Solitaire.

The PC also can serve as your number one source for music. Pop your favorite CD into the drive, or perhaps play some of the completely legal MP3s you downloaded in a completely legitimate manner, and your party will be cranking to your favorite rock, rap, alternative, Euro-pop, punk, classical, or heavy metal group.

The Emergency

It's also important that you have a good contingency plan. Any number of accidents, mishaps, natural disasters, or raging gun battles can ruin your whole night. For example, you'll certainly want to be prepared if the power goes out. The whole night's festivities depend solely on electronic devices, and such a disaster could ruin the day. You might want to have a basketball or a football ready. Or, if it's already dark out (or if you're really not into physical activity), some board games, cards, and a few candles could keep your party going until everything's okay again. You might also want to stock some plywood, duct tape, and bottled water, but that's not really for the party.

In Conclusion...

I must say my own bash went quite well. I as host, more or less, followed these guidelines, and as a result the party was successful. But that's not to say if you don't do these things your party will suck, or if you do your party will be great. Obviously it's up to you to make your game-night the best, but I just thought I'd impart my experience in the matter on you all. Let me end up this little info session with a list of must-have items at any gaming fiesta.

    • Super Smash Bros.: Melee (GameCube)
    • Halo (Xbox)
    • Mario Kart (N64 or GBA)
    • Mario Party (N64 or GameCube)
    • Metroid Prime (GameCube)
    • FPSes with good multiplayer
    • Fighting games (esp. brawlers)
    • Racing games (esp. with battle modes and the like)
    • A good computer with high-speed modem
    • DVD player or DVD capable console
    • Multiple television sets
    • Friends!

Posted: 11-20-03
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