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The original QuakeCon was a simple, humble affair for a few devoted fans. Boy, how times have changed.

Way back in ancient history–the mid-1990s, that is–the fans of id Software’s “Quake” wanted to make the game even more kickin’ than it already was. Hence, QuakeCon was born. It developed into a model that other tournaments would follow, letting gamers meet each other in person, and destroy each other online.

Originally conceived as a 50-person gathering, it was organized independently by members of the online gaming community. When word spread about the funky get-together, the attendance list soon tripled.

The next year, 1997, it became a full-grown tourney. With 650 attendees and coverage from PC Games, Gamespot, and Blue’s News, the modest meeting suddenly became the event to attend. Soon, id Software got into the game as well.

Rather than simply letting the fans do all the work, the company became more than a sponsor by helping organizers plan the event. Avid gamers from the company even came to play, so developers and fans ended up duking it out. Since then, the tournament has only continued to grow, and like many other of its kind, it now features a sweet prize collection that includes cash and equipment.

For 2002, two separate tourneys were held: one for “Quake III Arena” and one for “Return to Castle Wolfenstein.” Both drew national and international contenders hellbent on walking away with the $100,000 in cash prizes. To keep the adrenaline rushing through those gamer veins, the organizers also threw in some live rock music and stand-up comedy.

This year’s event, held last month in Dallas, kicked the treasure up to $125,000 and included an XCast network broadcast of the action. Shoutcasters gave a play-by-play description of what was happening on the floor, and the tournament’s Web site counted down the days like QuakeCon had replaced Christmas. For many gamers, that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

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