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The Proof Of The Pudding

In case I didn’t already make it clear, the décor and atmosphere inside Omega Sektor is fantastic, the reason for this is partly down to the “no expense spared” attitude held while building the centre, but also because of the huge involvement from the game publishers and developers who have given their support to the project.

The building's 400 PCs are necessarily divided into banks of about 20 – 30 units each in its own area or room set over to a particular sponsor. The deal these sponsors get means that the room is basically theirs to do with as they please in terms of the furnishings.

Current sponsors included Square Enix, of Final Fantasy fame, who had decked out a room with some gorgeous artwork on the wall, while Activision opted for an industrial cum military look to complement the forthcoming Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. The biggest visual assault came from THQ, who had created a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Zone (pun indented) complete with disconcerting mutant frescos and radioactive waste-leaking barrels, or at least glow in the dark gunge – health and safety intervened. The whole thing makes for a great experience and definitely breaks from the low-budget stereotype most of us have associate with LAN centres.

Of course console gamers haven’t been forgotten and Omega Sektor devotes an entire room to a slew of Xbox 360s, complete with a comprehensive selection of games to choose from. There are also two, Playstation 3s on the upper floor (apparently too expensive even for this venue) and a solitary Nintendo Wii. Of course when connected to a projector and a jaw-droppingly huge 70in screen the latter makes for arguable the most immersive experience. I’m not normally a fan of the Wii, but I found myself salivating as I nestled into the incredibly comfortable bean bags adorning the area to admire the spectacle.

I won’t deny that I was initially sceptical about the whole idea behind Omega Sektor and I still have some reservations; but just visiting for a few hours has started to remind me just how I got into gaming and why I loved the LAN centre so much in my youth (so to speak). If a few infrastructure changes can be made, the biggest of which is to add even just a couple of dedicated servers, then LAN gaming may just have found a new home.

In the end, I’m still undecided as to whether or not the time is right for a social gaming renaissance, but I am sure about one thing: whether at home, online or at a LAN centre, gaming’s popularity is only going to increase - and you can quote me on that.

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