If there are two things I'm certain of about myself it's that 1) I have a deep love for white chocolate 2) I really,really love my RPG/MMO grinds. Unfortunately,today will not be a post about white chocolate.For some strange reason,I really enjoy grinding in RPGs.Of course,I mean the act of focusing all your efforts to accomplish some goal(also referred to as farming).For RPGs,it's trying to get that item with the drop rate of 5% or trying to gain that elusive level up by.Accomplishing either usually means doing something repetitive like kill the same monster nonstop or explore this certain region to harvest this certain item.

I appreciate the art of the grind so much because it exemplifies how efficient you can make your playtime.For example,while playing a certain 2D MMO,I would measure how efficient my level up spot was by how much of a percentage to leveling up I could gain within an hour.In the later levels of this certain MMO,it 10%/hr would be considered really good.To put it into perspective,if I stayed farming that particular map,I could level up within 10 hours of game time if I could consistently keep that rate of experience farming.Which looking back on,is super gross to think that I was capable of doing that in one sitting.But it was neat to think that,when focused,I was able to map out how to best spend my time grinding out a task down to how long it would take me by the hour.

Of course,later on in life I learned that it was best to divide that time as it led to me enjoying the other parts of the game and decreased the rate that I would burn out or grow sick of those tasks.In a funny way,it helped prep me for tasks such as working on projects.More so, the penalty of attempting to grind out all the work in one go and end up figuratively dying from it.But that's just me.I do weird stuff with my time like this and rant about how fired up white chocolate gets me!
Throughout the history of LML, the one question I've heard the most is "Why do you play Little Mac?" Little Mac is considered one of the worst characters in the game overall due to his horrendous recovery and substandard aerials. However, this is balanced out with his complete dominance on the ground. In order to be successful as Little Mac, you can't just simply rush down people like many people do in For Glory. The key to Little Mac is to wait patiently and look for openings, exactly like the gameplay of the "Punch-Out!" series. In "Punch-Out!" if you make just one mistake it could mean game over. This is perfectly migrated into Smash in the fact that if you make one wrong move as Little Mac, it could mean the end of the tournament for you. The reason why he's so bad in the air is simple: he's just a normal guy! Think about ourselves, as humans. We can't do anything amazing like jump or punch in the air because we can't create any sort of force. That's why I love playing the Bruiser from the Bronx: Little Mac, in my opinion, is the most human of the Smash roster. And besides, who doesn't like to see the underdog take a shot at the title? I'll continue to grind and punch my way to the top of the leaderboard!
Having not played the prior installment of the series (PvZ: Garden Warfare), I feel like I'm entering a whole new world.  I remember the old Plants vs. Zombies on my 360 where you'd fight against waves of zombies while trying to develop an optimal micro game.  Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 plays as a third-person shooter and tower defense. Right off the bat I was thrown into combat as the sunflower, a utility based plant whose purpose is to provide healing for the plant team, as well as dumping on the DPS when the time allows.  Fighting my way through this wildly animated street to the next checkpoint, I familiarize myself with the sunflower's kit as well as his limits.  It wasn't long before I was swooped up in a helicopter and taken to Crazy Dave's backyard.  Here I was given the options of questing, changing classes, and heading right into online multiplayer.  After testing all of the plant types (and zombie types) after only a few minutes of gameplay, I found myself drawn to Citron, one of the three new playable plant classes.

 This time-traveling, bounty-hunting orange appears to have a clear-cut goal in combat: to drop his EMPeach ability on a clump of enemy zombies to damage and slow movements.  The ability also acts as a silence which appears to act as a counter to certain zombie-types.  With the help of his Peel Shield, he acts as a decent guard for more range-based plant teammates such as the Cactus.

In total there are fourteen playable classes between the Plants and Zombies and it appears that certain class archetypes share a counterpart (Peashooter and Foot Soldier as beginner classes, Sunflower and Scientist as healers).  More so, it seems that there are counter picks for many classes (Engineer counters Chomper, Cactus counters Engineer, Citron counters Z-Mech.)  Every character functions differently with unique move sets, health, abilities and most importantly, purpose.

I noticed immediately after playing online that I would need to get accustomed to all of the classes.  Feeling comfortable on a few classes is just fine, but in an online competitive setting it's appropriate to be comfortable with any option.  In doing this, I'll have that much more of an edge when rotating classes online.  That is if the practice pays off!

Among what was thrown at me in my brief introduction to the game, I was genuinely happy while playing.  I'm not the biggest FPS or general shooter gamer, aside from a handful of shmups.  However, the feel of the game, the pleasant graphics and refined mechanics of the characters left me suggesting the game to anyone who would listen.  This is something I haven't done enough of as a LAN Mob employee but it feels so good to have a solid foundation for a new game and to have some input.

I'd recommend this game to anyone passing through, especially if you're trying to find a new game to play with a friend.  You'll find yourself on a quest to find your favorite class type and harnessing a mastery over that class (I'm looking at you, Sage, you cactus/imp fiend). With several different game modes, boredom isn't an option.
We held two Street Fighter V tournaments over the weekend, which was a great reminder of how awful I am at this style of fighting game.  I had flashbacks to the old video arcades of my childhood, where there would always be one kid monopolizing the machine as he shredded opponents while a crowd gathered awaiting their turn.  I had a perfect losing record on those machines, and would often wander off to a Pac Man machine where my pocketful of quarters would stretch further.

The new game features beautiful character and level design, but is light on content otherwise.  New characters & campaign downloadable content is expected later in the year.  There is still a lot of excitement surrounding the game in the shop and amongst the staff.  We're looking at ways to draw in new players; SFV will be a part of our free "friendlies" night offerings starting this Wednesday.

Hearthstone is a game I get a lot of enjoyment out of.  You'll find me streaming Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 PM here at our Twitch channel.  90% of my gaming life has revolved around MTG, WoW & poker, so Hearthstone is a game that has managed to merge all three.  The game has become a bit of a Wild West with a diverse set of cards.  You can easily sit down for a set of 10 ranked games and never face the same deck twice.

Blizzard recently announced the addition of a "Standard" format for Hearthstone ranking, which will only allow the last two calendar years worth of sets and will become the official ranking.  "Wild" ranking will still exist as an unofficial format.  I understand the reason for the change - the card variety makes it impossible to balance the game at a competitive level.  I still feel this is going to boil the fun factor down to something more stale along the lines of MTG standard competition, which removes a great deal of what makes the game fun to play.  Dropping old sets should at least open up some new card possibilities that would be otherwise horribly broken.

The LAN Mob team tries to get together at least once a month to play a game as a team building exercise.  Gaming is a great platform for working on communication, teamwork and identifying underlying problems.  Last week we were able to fit in a match of League of Legends, a game we all enjoy playing & spectating.  We all had a lot of fun fighting our way to a win, and Sona kisses were blown everywhere.

Super Smash Brothers for Wii U has become a game I'm investing a few hours a week into between playing & spectating.  With the Pound 2016 sponsorship we're giving away, and the year-long sponsorship event, Sm4sh is getting a lot of our attention this year.  I can feel myself improving week to week, but am still light years behind our top competitors.  If the old adage of 10,000 hours of practice to reach mastery in any life skill holds true for Sm4sh then I'm only 5% complete on that achievement.
     I've been looking forward to this week for a while! Tomorrow, one of my favorite game companies, Ska Studios, is releasing their newest title, "Salt & Sanctuary". "Salt & Sanctuary" will be a 2-D platformer action game and is being called a 2D Dark Souls. I'll most likely be streaming it whenever I can! Ska Studios' earlier titles of "Dishwasher" and "Charlie Murder" were some of my favorite games of last generation, so "Salt & Sanctuary" holds high hopes for me.

     Also dropping this week is "Pokken Tournament" for the Wii U. This game has been so weird to watch in early development all the way to it's release. The game is a 1 on 1 fighting game with a multitude of our favorite Pokemon as playable characters, such as Pikachu, Lucario, Mewtwo and Chandelure...wait Chandelure?? Anyway, the game looks pretty sweet but has some weird requisites when it comes to controllers and playing locally. Once we figure it all out the game will make an excellent addition to LAN Mob!

      Lastly, the newest League character, Aurelion Sol, may release this week. Sol is a AP god dragon thing, with a really unique kit involving a lot of passives. Looks like a really fun character to play, and I look forward to watching the League Bros play him at the lock-in, if the stars align.

    "Shooters" are a huge genre of video games in every way possible. Headlining almost every statistic available (hours played, best sellers, most preordered etc) it's obvious that the genre gets plenty of play here at the LAN Center. On a typical day games like Call of Duty, Counter Strike, Halo, the latest Tom Clancy titles, Fallout and even Far Cry are checked out and being played more than any other genre/sub genre. "Shooters" as a genre are very interesting to me, as out of all video games I've ever played, it is my least explored genre.
       First off, what classifies as a "shooter"? Ironically enough, I really dislike leashing a game to it's genre. It feels unfair to me, despite it simply being a classification. I think sometimes it results in a game being unfairly judged because it is compared to games of that genre/sub genre. I'll write about this too (stay tuned!) I guess I would say that a " shooter" is a game that values reflexes and swiftness that involves gun play. Going even deeper, I would say there's a category called "online shooters" which abides by the description, but in an online pvp environment. So, that being said, online shooters are basically our bread and butter at the LAN center, like it or not. Like I said above, my personal experiences in the realm of online shooters is pretty unexplored, but the shooters I did play were some of the most competitive and thrilling games I ever got into.
        My start in the "online shooter" world was probably one of my favorite games of all time, Shadowrun. Before Shadowrun, I played 007, Syphon Filter, Time Splitters and Serious Sam, but these games were limited to local multiplayer, and despite loving these games, Shadowrun's multiplayer hooked me. To those of you that haven't played Shadowrun (2007), the game was kind of similar to Counter Strike, but fantasy oriented. You started rounds with money that you earned from kills and objectives the round before to buy technology, guns, skills and even magic. In Shadowrun, you got to pick what Race you would play in each map, with humans, elves, dwarves and trolls running around flinging magic and shooting guns and swinging katanas, each game felt so different. Shadowrun meant a lot to me. Shadowrun solidified friendships I had and created new ones. I played with anyone I knew that had the game. I played at least a few matches a week for years (I'm serious!). I think Shadowrun is responsible for any competitive spirit in me today. My team and I were incredible. When we did lose a match, which was rare, we'd message our opponents and scrim (so to speak) and got even better. Unfortunately Shadowrun dropped its main server only 5.5 years after its release, or I'd still be playing it to this day.

         Thanks to Shadowrun, I did play a handful of shooters that I really really loved. Gears of War 2, TF2, Gotham City Imposters and Brink all infactuated me deeply, and I played all these games ALOT. I loved Gears of War's style, TF2's uniqueness, GCI's goofiness and Brink's intensity (Trust me, Brink wasn't a bad game). Nothing ever felt the same as Shadowrun, but I still play the occasional shooters. The main reason for this blog is I very frequently get asked about my knowledge of shooter games, and my answer is usually "not much". But when it comes to Shadowrun, Brink, GCI, TF2 and Gears, I know quite a bit! I'm currently playing Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 as my shooter fix and I love it, so far. So to anyone reading this, if you have any suggestions of "shooters" I'd like, send em my way! Clearly there's a part of me that really likes these types of games, but I haven't been very impressed by many recently. Maybe, with all your help, I can replace the void that Shadowrun's depature has left.
"The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are, the more leisure we have."   -William Hazlitt

Since the beginning of time, or at least since the beginning of LAN Mob, the job description of your average LAN Mob employee has been a work in progress.  Originally the idea was as simple as learning how to work a POS system and interacting with customers.  Both of these were true (obviously) but the job has been evolving constantly and hectically which leaves us wondering if we're doing right by our community.

There were many days back in the startup process where the end goal (opening) seemed so unbelievably far away.  Now that we've been open and running strong for 6 months, all we strive for is constant growth.  The end goal isn't any one thing, but rather the opportunity we have to make it anything more than what it is.

For every hour that passes in a casual day, there's two hours of stressful work behind many of the services we provide today.   Each of us have worked longer days than we may have liked, some more than others (Bossman just recently had his first day off in over 9 weeks).  Although we sit in a working environment with one another, the idea of calling the staff a "team" has never made more sense to me.  There are sacrifices that need to be made to ensure we are functioning at 100%.  Cancelling plans is only the beginning.  You become consumed by the action-packed weekends and love every second of it, even if you're just here to lend an extra hand.

Recently we've been streaming individually.  There's seldom a night that you won't catch us live on twitch.tv/lanmob.  We've started doing this because 1.) we love video games 2.) we love our community 3.) we have a stream so why not, right?! 4.) there will always be more that any of us can do.  Becoming complacent in the sum of the efforts that we've made this far will not push us further.  Even last week when I had my first LAN Mob League of Legends stream, I wished that I had streamed longer, or had played better, or had a better overlay for the viewers (spoilers: I did, I just didn't realize it! I'll be back next Monday!)

There was a man from Syracuse who wandered in to the shop a few days back.  He had known about LAN Gaming centers and the first thing he said to me was "This is the best thing that's ever happened to Rome."  Whether or not that's true is entirely up to us.  Our duty is to provide entertainment and value to the community and we are constantly working to improve that.
I have lived in and around Rome, NY for most of my life.  This was not by design - in fact by high school I was settled on completing a Computer Science degree and moving to Silicon Valley to make a million dollars before the age of thirty.  Life sometimes doesn't go as planned, and through a series of events, here I am.

Housing Tells a Story

The Central NY area as a whole has its charms, and you could make a convincing case that it's a nice place to settle down and raise a family.  Drive in any direction from Rome and you'll find healthy real estate markets, rising in price but still affordable compared to much of the country.  The city of Rome itself has suffered from depressed and somewhat stagnant housing prices, and depending on who you ask you may get a variety of reasons for this: low average income, soft local job market, above-average taxes, or an aging population causing a glut of houses on the market.

With bargain prices on housing you would expect to see more families settling down in the city.  Instead the trend seems to be to settle down in the sprawling suburbia around the city - Westmoreland, Floyd, Westernville, Lee, Taberg - some Rome Labs employees will commute more than an hour from Syracuse and beyond.

An Image Problem

Much work has been done through projects like the Main Streets Alliance and the outgoing city administration to give the city a facelift.  A seemingly strong culture runs through the city, from the Capitol Theatre to Ft. Stanwix and RACC.  So what gives?  Spend a little time on the Rome, NY Topix forum and you'll see another side to Rome; a culture obsessed with gossip, drugs, welfare and slander.  It's like a bad episode of Jerry Springer where a handful of very loud voices drown out any positive discussion that could take place regarding the city.  This is a small part of the overall population, but we've let this culture take root in the city and have done little to guide the dialogue of what our values are as a city.

There are other ways to change the discussion.  The whirlwind of negativity that is the Rome, NY Topix forum is a perfect example of people with way too much free time on their hands.  Rome has been bereft of night life activities for some years now, and especially so with under-21 persons.  When Walmart has become a viable Friday night entertainment option (and this is for many kids), we're fundamentally failing our community.  If these young adults don't take the first chance they get to leave town for someplace with more activity, they're at risk of being pulled into a undercurrent that's been slowly sapping this city of life for more than two decades.

It Takes a Village

We're happy that LAN Mob is in a very small way helping towards this problem.  Gaming is a healthy way to build life skills, from communication to teamwork and perseverance.  This gives people of all ages an outlet on the weekends and an entertainment alternative in a city that's desperately lacking.  We need more spaces like this where we can build community in a positive way and continue to make the city a more attractive place to live & work.
Hello! My name is Drew, and I work at the one and only LAN Mob Gaming Center. I'm currently a Junior attending VVS High School, which makes me the youngest member of our team. But what I lack in age I make up for in being a troll! All jokes aside, working at LAN Mob has been a life changing experience. I've made many new friends, and have been able to experience memorable moments ranging from crazy Smash plays to spending hours gaming and being exhausted with people during lock-ins. On the subject of Smash, I'm also the resident Little Mac main of LAN Mob! I lived in Hamilton NY, but moved into the area around 2 years ago.

My first memory of gaming was playing games like "Final Fantasy VII "and "Legend of Dragoon" on the original PS1 in the back of my Dad's semi while we drove across the country. I'm currently addicted to "Guild Wars 2" and "Tom Clancy's: The Division" and have almost clocked in 1000 hours on Guild Wars 2! (I don't have a problem, you have a problem) I met the LAN Mob crew through a mutual friend, and we bonded over our love for video games and memes. I started out volunteering and running the Twitch stream, which led to the job, which led to me writing this post! I love competing with all our regular competitors in the LML, and will continue to sandbag 24/7!

This post is part of the LAN Mob Introductory Series.  Check out some more introductory posts by clicking these links: Enrique | Slooze | Bossman Sage | Connorkaze | Spydude
I'm a football fan and have been for the greater part of my life.  My Buffalo Bills obsession began as a kid with the heartbreaking "wide right" game, and 25 years later I'm still holding my breath waiting for a Super Bowl win.  Before LAN Mob started to devour all of my free time I had rarely missed a game in over two decades.  I'm the type of devout fan that has allowed the train wreck of a franchise to remain in Buffalo all these years.

Super Bowl Sunday has become a bit of a holiday with my family.  An excuse to partake in fried foods and beer and even if you're not that into the game, there is always the new commercials.  Some of the other employees here at LAN Mob are also big football fans, but some are not, and that's fine.

One such non-fan employee happened to be scheduled to work during the big game earlier this month, and just before his shift began stopped at the local Wendy's for a quick dinner.  He was blissfully unaware of the game, and the conversation went somewhat like this:

Wendy's employee: "Why are you here?!  Who do you want to win the game!?"

LAN Mob employee: "I don't care."

Wendy's employee: "Ohhh you don't like sports?  So do you like YUGIOH or Pokemon better?"

*Wendy's staff laughing in unison*

LAN Mob employee: "Can I just have food..."

I know for a fact this LAN Mob employee is a huge fan of spectator sports, but not of the traditional sort.  He finds most athletic sports to be rather mind numbing and of little interest.  But he also happens to be a skilled gamer who can play a handful of games at a competitive level.  He will sit for hours intensely watching Twitch streams of competitive games - League of Legends, Smash, Melee, Street Fighter & more.  These feature players and teams at the highest level of performance who have sunk thousands of hours into their craft competing against the best in the world.

So what can we learn from this?  The fact that local Wendy's staff are real dickheads?  Or that in 2016 bullying is still alive?  Those are both sad truths, but the most important takeaway is this - the explosion of e-sports has still not reached critical mass.  With any new trend there is always a turning point where mass acceptance is reached, but the fact remains that too many people are still tied to their cable TV boxes, consuming the reality TV and sports being spoon-fed to them.  The Internet and sites like Twitch, YouTube and Netflix have created a new sort of on-demand entertainment for people willing to make some effort to search out content that interests them, but it's still being under-utilized.

We feel pretty strongly that with e-sports rise we're on the cusp of an emerging market, and this is why we're investing heavily in things like sponsorships (see our Pound 2016 sponsorship page), Twitch.TV and YouTube.  We also know for a fact there are local gamers out there who have world-class talent to show, and we're trying to find these people and help them move up to the next level.  This is a big part of our company culture and will continue to be so going forward.  So if you like Pokemon or YuGiOh, you can come hang out with us, we won't judge!  We'll show you some other games you might like, too!
Stress is something everyone deals with and that's no news to anyone. Stress management is a little deeper of a concept, however. People deal with stress completely differently than other people, some better than others, some seem unable to deal with it at all. A few weeks ago I reached a pinnacle of stress, probably the most stressed I've been in my short existence. Don't worry, this isn't an article pointing out the unique stress of working at a LAN Center (GIVE STREET FIGHTER A CHANCE), it's quite the opposite. All my stress was adding up from working 2 jobs, moving out of my parents house, sick father, new puppy, etc etc. It was an awful feeling and I slowly realized what the problem was. Amidst the sea of both menial and critical tasks, somehow...I forgot to play video games! Outside of Smash brothers and the occasional random party game, I wasn't playing any games with the ferocity and hunger like I was used to. It was dark days in my brain, as I fully surrendered myself to a new lifestyle devoid from the digital adventures it was so used to...and I didn't even know it!

Dramatics aside, after some readjustments in schedule and lifestyle I feel like everything is back to normal. I'm purposely making more time in my schedule to play a variety of games, both single and multiplayer (thank god for handhelds). So, it looks like I need to play video games to stay a functioning human being. That's how I cope with the everyday stresses of my life! Now, when I'm behind the desk at LAN Mob, and in the rest of my life, I obviously know a lot of people who use video games as a stress reliever. Saying video games relieve stress is not a profound statement, in this day and age it's just obvious. I just examined it and noticed it a lot more the last few weeks then ever before and I have some incredible examples. From people blowing off steam by destroying people in Mortal Kombat X's gruesome arena, to people grinding drops to oblivion, as gamers, we all share it in common and it's awesome.

Video games and the world they drop us in let us experience all sorts of nonsense. If blowing up aliens or taking over Europe helps you relieve some stress and blow off some steam, that's awesome. Your uncles' addiction to collecting rare mops blows compared to your hobby of princess saving and war ending. LAN Mob is an outlet for you to go on some adventures you normally couldn't have and get to relax with the community you share so much with. So come in, have a good time and you'll be surprised at how much stress it can relieve. Trust me.

While video games have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, this was never terribly popular with my parents.  They would remark that I was spending too much time gaming - and I probably was!  But looking back over years of gaming I can pick out certain games or experiences that have helped prepare me for business.

Multithreading My Brain

One of the more difficult habits that raid healing in WoW broke for me was what is known as "tunneling".  Compared to a traditional DPS role where raid awareness and key rotations need to be balanced, healing introduces a third dimension: being aware of the entire raids health at any one time.  This requires a flexible mind with the ability to process a lot of information at one time and make split second decisions, while not becoming too focused on any one task.  If you spend too long staring at health bars you may miss the roof caving in above you, or if you hesitate for a split second on which heal to queue up you risk losing a key raid member.

The ability to process huge amounts of information and make quick decisions is key to business survival.  Just one example - beginning in 2016 we made the decision to book tournament events out through the next eight weeks.  By week four our entire team was stressed out of our minds, and realizing that there is just not much money to be made in offering tournaments for all the effort we put into it.  We quickly made the decision to pivot and started cancelling tournaments, and this has freed up our energies to focus on other projects (like this blog!).  We still plan to host tournaments but it is no longer our primary focus.

Progression, Regression & Perserverance

When my last WoW guild started our Heroic Blackhand attempts, our raid leader warned us that the average number of boss wipes was somewhere north of 50 before the first kill.  Being a top guild we showed up night after night, and through wipe after wipe slowly started to make measurable progress on the fight.  As the 50th wipe approached we felt like we were right on track and expected the kill any attempt, but the kill didn't materialize, and we went on to total 55, 60, 65 wipes.  We began to regress, at first blaming it on randomness and bad luck, but eventually starting to make sloppy mistakes and losing concentration.

70, 75, 80 wipes.  Guild morale was at an all-time low!  People started to bicker and snipe at one another.  There were whispers of some of our top talent even jumping ship to another guild that had recently passed us in progression.  Finally one raid night before we started our guild leader spoke to the group as a whole.  All we needed was to execute, he told us.  If everyone does their job and mistakes are kept to a minimum we would have the kill.  We took his words to heart and buckled down, and that very night on our 91st attempt, Blackhand fell to the sound of Mumble nerdgasms echoing from all over the country.

Business is a lot like raid progression.  You see measurable success for a while, and then it seems like the wheels just fall off, and you have to regroup and re-adjust before you can move on.  It's through constant improvement and perseverance that businesses grow to success.

Relying On Your Team

League of Legends is an interesting game that combines strategy & skill.  In addition to defending towers in three different "lanes", the team of five must come together to obtain objectives as a group.  In a typical game you might find one lane falling behind, while another lane is "getting fed".  This sometimes means you do the carrying, or sometimes your teammates have to carry you.

Clear communication and decisive decision making is vital to success.  The team must learn to combine their thinking and almost act as a single mind, as a split second of hesitation can make all the difference in a team fight.  In this way you have to learn to rely on your team and trust their decision making.  The teams that are all on the same page tend to outperform the teams that are not.

Appreciating the Grind

Lastly, both WoW and years of Poker have taught me an appreciation for the daily grind.  Results cannot be measured in days but in weeks, months & years.  You can stop to celebrate the minor victories along the way, but always keep reaching for that brass ring in the sky.
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