A group of Toronto gamers will be playing Quake 3 Arena, HalfLife CounterStrike and other titles this weekend on a network that rivals that of many corporate enterprises.

LANMash 2 will start this Friday at 2:00 p.m. and run

non-stop till Sunday evening, drawing roughly 300 gamers to the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Centre in Mississauga, Ont. As its name suggests, it’s the second annual LAN party — a term for playing networked games over a LAN connection — for organizer Kevin Marr.

Last year’s LANMash, which drew 135 people, ran on a 10-100 network with 13 Gigabit-per-second fabrics. LANMash 2 is shooting for a 10-100 network with 56 Gigabit per second fabrics. “”I think it’s the first LAN party to have Gigabit to the desktop,”” said Marr, whose day job is a sales manager with MicroWarehouse Canada.

The network is being supplied by 3Com Canada with a main LAN of six 3Com SuperStack 3 4250T 48-port switches and a secondary Gigabit Ethernet LAN via a SuperStack 3 4900 24-port switch.

“”We’ve sponsored (gaming) tournaments through previous years. (But) it’s actually the first one, I believe, that 3Com Canada has sponsored,”” said 3Com Canada channel manager Gavin Fick. “”Much like any business, games need to move a great of data and video across networks without any latency.

“”Data packets are data packets, so it’s really about passing them as fast as you can and with a high degree of accuracy,”” he added. “”It really won’t matter what types of games that they will be playing.””

LANMash 2 is chiefly a four-person operation, said Marr. One of his co-workers at Microwarehouse, Nathan Marriner, is helping him set it up, along with two friends in the gaming community, Kirill and Derek, both 19. Marriner and Marr ran their own 50-person LAN party and met up with the other two who ran a comparable group — they joined forces to start LANMash.

Derek is the tournament’s wiring specialist and will help establish the 3Com network, along with other volunteers, some of whom will be playing this weekend. “”Basically it’s all done by people under 22,”” said Marr.

“”Given the nature of the people that are involved, there’s a lot of talent within the organizers, so they are helping out a lot and 3Com will be participating and checking out their configurations and making sure that everything is running smoothly,”” said Fick.

The 300 gamers will bring their own PCs to the event. Organizers stress the minimum system requirements are a 400MHZ Pentium with 64MB of RAM, but recommend 2.6 GHZ with 512MB of DDR. Postings on the Web site already list one entrant boasting about his “”watercooled P4.””

One thing Marr wants to avoid at LANMash2 is a plug-in-and-tune-out mentality. He’s seen a few bug-eyed stares at other tournaments he’s attended, he said. “”There were people quietly sitting in a room playing with headphones on and it was incredibly boring. Last year, when we did LANMash, we really decided to make it different.””

This year, Marr plans to pick up the pace and encourage people to mingle by providing an open bar a few hours a night. “”To tell you the truth, we want them to have a few drinks and loosen up . . . I’ve gone to LAN parties and there’s three days of zombies sitting at their boxes.””

LANMash2, won’t have the cash prizes of some of the larger gaming tournaments across North America, but Marr promises a looser atmosphere and giveaways like demo copies of Tron 2.0, a game based the forthcoming sequel to the 1982 Disney movie. “”Powered by gamers”” is the LANMash motto, said Marr.

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