The Big LAN, hosted by Mitcham Baptist, is one of its kind in Victoria. At a LAN Party there are over 100 connections to a local network, a twelve-hour program of staggered tournaments, a virtual reality room, prizes galore, food, stalls, welcome bags, and a host of volunteers to register, cook, serve, problem shoot and make a memorable event for local gamers. An event of this size is usually a commercial undertaking, but The Big LAN team have borrowed, pulled favours and networked to provide a low-cost gathering for gamers to meet face-to-face, while enjoying their shared hobby.
Jacob Rayment, a member of Mitcham Baptist, is the man behind the idea and the one drawing together all the elements to make this event a success. As a teenager, Jacob found it hard to engage in local hobby groups. “I didn’t play any instruments, the only sport I played was tennis which, as an individual game, didn’t really help me socialise, and I wasn’t really into the loud and energetic nature of the local youth groups. I much preferred to sit at home on my computer playing video games.” His youth pastor at the time noticed that Jacob wasn’t alone in his interests and started what became a popular video games event at his church. This had a positive impact and has contributed to Jacob’s inspiration for the Big LAN.
Jacob was brought up as a pastor’s kid, and closely involved in church-life. He has noted that the gaming community (which comprises over 2.2 billion people worldwide) has been viewed by outsiders as anti-social or asocial. And this perception has only imbedded more as online gaming has become increasingly accessible and isolating. “The reality is though, that gamers need social interaction just as much as anyone else, they need friends that share their hobbies. The goal of The Big LAN is simply to provide events that people can come along, play games, and meet other people with similar hobbies.”
At a time where many have lost trust in churches, it is hoped that an event like this might help participants to see Christians for who they are. But, Jacob’s vision provides a challenge for all involved. He hopes to see the church stretched beyond its usual activities to find a unique way of making itself available to the community. “I think that a lot of churches have struggled to progress as society has progressed around them. Everything is digital now and we need to find more ways of connecting with people where they’re at, and for a big part of the community (especially young-adult males) computer games is where they’re at.”
Look out for more from The Big LAN. After a successful first event in October 2019, and an excellent follow up in January, the aim is to run The Big LAN every quarter in 2020. “We hope to become a staple of the community and have Mitcham Baptist known as the place you can go for a good LAN Party.” Event information is available at https://thebiglan.com