ShackCon 2.0: A gathering of like-minded 'idiots'

ShackCon 2.0 kicked off this weekend in Vegas after months of planning. We tell you what you missed and why the event is so special to the Shack faithful.

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A person coming in off the Las Vegas strip into room 1419 at the Platinum Hotel would probably see just a party, with people chatting in one corner about important topics of the day, another corner watching the television intently, while yet another group sat at a table playing a party game. Upon closer inspection, however, they would find that this was not your average social gathering. This was ShackCon 2.0. The real topics of the day were Diablo III's end-game and how the next generation of consoles would compete with each other. The group at the television? They were playing Spelunky on XBLA, Soul Calibur V or Street Fight x Tekken. And the party game isn't something you'd normally play with the wife and friends at a wine & cheese party. These were strategy board games with such titles as Dungeon Lords, Alien Frontiers and Cosmic Encounter. Twenty-nine people from around the United States (and at least one from Canada) crammed into a two-bedroom suite to celebrate games and the Shacknews community that has been growing for more than a decade.

Chungathebunga, jimmy_legs and laurgasms chill out in the party room at the Platinum hotel.

The get-together was spearheaded by Lauren "laurgasms" Kates, a Shacker for about 10 years. The core group of Shackers used to congregate at QuakeCon or through regional Shackmeets to talk about games and socialize, but Kates said that by 2010, she felt it was time the group had an event of its own. And the plans for the first ShackCon began to form. Last year's event in Vegas brought 55 people for games and socializing at different venues in the city. It was more of a structured event, Kates said, with much of the time planned out with specific events during the four-day informal convention. Not long after that event ended, Kates (and a few other dedicated Shackers such as Travis "H@rvester" Booth and Brandon "BlackCat9" Rotkel) began planning this year's shindig. "I'm a masochist," Kates said of her desire to plan an event such as this. "It's the only chance I have to hang out with these idiots." ShackCon posts in Chatty began roughly four months before the event. People who attended last year's gathering were anxious to return, but in the final tally, the turnout was about half that of last year. Kates was not deterred. "Nerds can only get vacations away from their families once every two years," she said. It made this year a bit more informal, but no less fun.

Omnova, ctrl-phreak and Blackcat9 talk about games, and all the food.

Among the activities planned over the five-day Con--besides the games and socializing--were buffet lunches at a couple of the more upscale hotel venues, an outing to the Tuscany Hotel to learn to play craps, a trip to the Pinball Hall of Fame and a night out at the Cirque du Soleil production Ka at the MGM Grand. Stephen "Haxim" Elaschuk came down from Edmonton, Alberta, to hang out with the friends he has made on Shacknews Chatty since he joined the group in 2008. "You get to know each other through the posts made and it's a great chance to hang out with like-minded people in person." And while everyone may be friends, the competition can be intense. I had the pleasure of sitting in with Ulreh "deathlove" Vogt, Phil "hawkeye" Kates (laurgasms' husband), and Haxim in a strategy game of Alien Frontiers. I had never played before, but the explanation of the game as "Yahtzee in Space" made it easy to grasp. As I pulled ahead in the late game, the three friends had no qualms about ganging up on the new guy to keep me in line. I won, but not without withstanding some good-natured ribbing about noob luck. At the TV, Thom "ThomW" Wetzel and Matt "askedrelic" Behrens, friends from opposite ends of the country, paired up on XBLA to tackle the recently released Spelunky, while Kates and Patrick "jimmy_legs" O'Shea worked some kitchen magic to create hors d'oeuvres for the hungry crew gathering for the Friday evening party.

Hatchet165 (standing), deathlove, Gaplant and NinjaGamerGirl play a card game with a guest.

Tony "at0micgarden" Capecci, a Shacker since 1999, explained his infatuation with ShackCon simply: "derp, derp, derp," a meme the Chatty crew has used to describe something stupid. And to keep with the inside jokes of the evening, an occasional call of "Free Haxim" would rise above the din, with raucous laughter following immediately after. Haxim was banned for a month by the mods for some overzealous trolling, an event even he laughs at, reflecting the good-natured, yet occasionally contentious, camaraderie of the Chatty group. So in the end, what is it that drew them all here? "Having spent so much time with these people, I love them," said Andrew "Omnova" Schenck, who has been a regular since 2003. "You don't build relationships like this every day. It's a great way to continue the friendships. None of that would be possible without Shack." It's a sentiment that carried through from long-term Shackers such as CJ "hirez" Miller, who has been a regular since the days when Shacknews was Steve Gibson's Quakeholio in 1997, to the newer members such as Robert "Gaplant" Scott, who has been a lurker since 2010. "Shackers have been more of my best friends than some of my best friends in real life," said Dustin "Clasifyd" Leen, who came from Palm Bay, Florida. "On our deepest level, we are all exactly alike."

H@rvester and trOmblyj are dressed to the hilt for dinner at Gordan Ramsey steak house.


    Check out what Shacknews members have to say each week in our regular Chatty column every Saturday.
    Contributing Editor

    From The Chatty

    • reply
      July 7, 2012 9:30 AM

      John Keefer posted a new article, ShackCon 2.0: A gathering of like-minded 'idiots'.

      ShackCon 2.0 kicked off this weekend in Vegas after months of planning. We tell you what you issed and why the event is so special to the Shack faithful.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 9:38 AM

        Nice job Keefer!

        • rms
          reply
          July 9, 2012 7:19 AM

          yay! Good reading, and enjoyed the pics

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 9:40 AM

        Where's the video streaming? Good article!

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 10:14 AM

          Last year our huge dinner was streamed as well as other small moments. I enjoyed spot posting at the events with pics.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 9:50 AM

        Next year. Next year I wanna do this.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 9:56 AM

        Awesome, great to see the community in the spotlight.

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 10:02 AM

          They've been talking about the community a lot lately. It's pretty awesome.

          • reply
            July 7, 2012 10:14 AM

            That's the best part about shackmeets.

            • reply
              July 7, 2012 10:37 AM

              Has shacknews covered shackmeets before?

              • reply
                July 7, 2012 10:59 AM

                I remember it covered before from old alumni in places like Evening Reading.

                Also I think there was one for that meet that Gamefly did in TX or something after they bought Shacknews.

              • reply
                July 7, 2012 11:01 AM

                No. They aren't as elaborate and harder to cover. The Orlando one I went to was dinner and Dave & Busters. I doubt there will be any coverage there.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 10:00 AM

        Great write-up, Keef. I hope I get the chance to attend ShackCon one of these years!

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 10:09 AM

        nice pants jimmybro

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 10:14 AM

          Pretty sure jimmylegs should get also get medal for Best Hair.

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 10:18 AM

          They changed hands (or legs) a few times last night.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 11:15 AM

        great article man, thanks

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 11:18 AM

        SPOILER THAT SHIT!

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 1:39 PM

        Haxim is Edmontonian?!?! WTF!

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 2:10 PM

        Next up: the pinball hall of fame. Owner was a great interview. Lots of good quotes.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 2:27 PM

        Keefinator, seriously, you are awesome. This ShackCon story is awesome and I didn't even realize there was a separate "Chatty" column that the team has been doing. Please continue these awesome things. +Respect for all of you.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 2:49 PM

        Are you all back from the pinball hall of fame already? Are we all going to meet up to go over to the Cosmopolitan? I've been out of contact since last night, and nobody's in the partysuite.

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 2:57 PM

          We are still at the pinball HOF. We should be done soon but not sure when. There appeared to be a split vote about going back to the hotel before the buffet.

          • reply
            July 7, 2012 3:12 PM

            I'm hearing the buffet is at 5:30 not 4pm - so head back to the hotel.

            • reply
              July 7, 2012 3:40 PM

              Yeah we're hanging out at the plat keeping out of the oppressive heat.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 3:39 PM

        Nice John! This is a great article,

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 3:52 PM

        Woot. Awesome writeup!

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 3:59 PM

        But how much alcohol was there in that suite?

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 5:02 PM

        Awesome, very cool thanks for this :) \m/ good times I bet.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 5:25 PM

        Great article, wish I could have made it. At first it got canceled due to scheduling conflict and then all of a sudden I could go at the last minute but there were prohibitive costs and timing.

        Hopefully this article will make ShackCon 3.0 awesome!

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 5:32 PM

        Take plenty of pictures so someone else can get caught looking moronic and take the mantle from me

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 5:36 PM

        Awesome; I saw the images and said, "Hey! I know some of these people!" I wish I could go, but hopefully I'll see some of you at next year's PAX East.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 7:51 PM

        Heading back to the hotel to write one more story then leaving Vegas and ShackCon behind. Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome. It was sincerely a pleasure.

        Here's hoping I can actually LEAVE Vegas ...

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 7:55 PM

        Still holding out for the ShackCon KeyWest!

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 8:03 PM

          We can only hope ;)

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 8:44 PM

          Ha! When Mercury Accounts get exclusive beta access.

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 9:39 PM

          Still holding out on a ShackCon on the east coast somewhere less Floridian.

          • reply
            July 7, 2012 10:30 PM

            Canada?

          • reply
            July 8, 2012 5:24 AM

            that works for me too I guess.

            I was born in Vegas, spent a lot of time there. I don't need to go there for vacation.

          • reply
            July 8, 2012 9:18 PM

            where do you go that everyone would be willing to want to go to and there's tons of shit to do and isn't super expensive?

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 11:25 PM

          It is this weekend. It is currently still awesome! though I am not in Key West, I'm up at Duck Key

          • reply
            July 7, 2012 11:39 PM

            Duck Key? Not bad. Know the area well. Big fan of Islamorada, Penekamp State Park, and the southernmost tip of the United States ;)

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 9:44 PM

        Characters are one dimensional. Their actions are too predictable. The story and plot are stale.

        • reply
          July 7, 2012 11:40 PM

          That's what happens when you don't read it all the way through to the end. It gets better as it goes on.

      • reply
        July 7, 2012 11:30 PM

        No mention of RAGEcon?

        that's the, you know, free version of shackcon for non $300 jeans wearing shackers on the east coast.

      • reply
        July 8, 2012 12:58 AM

        I hope one day to be able to go to a ShackCon. I have a goofy work schedule and Las Vegas is so far away from me, but man I think it'd be fun. You all attending, I hope it's a blast. To all those who organized it, you guys kick ass. That's why we have one of the best communities around.

        • reply
          July 8, 2012 4:44 AM

          It is definitely worth the trip. Even if it was only to beat haxim, deathlove and hawkeye in a game of alien frontiers ;)

      • reply
        July 8, 2012 1:13 AM

        Harvester, how do you not wear that every single day?

      • reply
        July 8, 2012 1:32 AM

        Damn, Harvester.

      • reply
        July 10, 2012 12:14 PM

        Hi all! This is the person who was NinjaGamerGirl's guest. I just wanted to thank you for not kicking out the loud annoying guy that night! :-D It was pretty fun listening to your Cards Against Humanity game! I hope I can get to know some of you better and join you next year!

      • reply
        July 11, 2012 9:40 AM

        HAH! My face is hidden, like a ninja!