The Gathering (computer party)
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The Gathering (abbreviated as "TG" for short) is the second largest computer party in the world (second to DreamHack). It is held annually in Vikingskipet Olympic Arena in Hamar, Norway, and lasts for five consecutive days (starting on the Wednesday in Easter each year). Each year, TG attracts more than 5200 (mostly young) people, with attendance increasing every year. As of April 2012, The Gathering holds the World Record for fastest Internet connection at 200 Gbits per second.
In early 1991, Vegard Skjefstad and Trond Michelsen, members of the demogroup Deadline, decided that they wanted to organize a big demoparty in Norway. In the late eightes/early nineties, it was common that demoparties (more commonly called "copyparties" at this time) were organized by large demogroups. Because of this, and the fact that Deadline wasn't particularly well known, Mr. Skjefstad suggested that the group Crusaders should be involved. At this time, The Crusaders was one of Norway's most popular Amiga groups. Partly because of their music disks, but also because of their diskmag, the Crusaders Eurochart. At first, Crusaders weren't too keen on the idea of organizing a party, but when Mr. Skjefstad reminded them about the fact that they always complained about the other parties of the same sort, and that this was their chance to show everyone how it should be done, which caused the Crusaders to agree.
After briefly considering having the party during the fall of 1991, it was decided that Easter would be better. All schools are closed during Easter week and the period from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday are official holidays in Norway. This meant that most of the target audience would have time off to attend TG, and all organizers and crew could work full-time with TG with a minimum usage of vacation days.
In 1992, 1100 people gathered in Skedsmohallen at Lillestrøm, way more than the expected count of about 800. The following years, TG continued to grow. In 1993 Skedsmohallen again was the venue with 1400 people visiting the party. In 1994 the venue was Rykkinnhallen in Bærum, and the visitor count had risen to 1800. A slump occurred the next year and the reasons for this are debatable. The 1995 party was moved to Stavanger, a 470 km, 61⁄2 hour drive from Østlandet where many participants lived, and Crusaders were not organizing the party this year, but by Magnar Harestad with help from some of the Crusaders crew. (consequently it was called simply "Gathering 95"). It was clear that one would soon need a bigger place to be.
The venue decided upon was Vikingskipet Olympic Arena, built earlier for the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics. Providing lots of space and good infrastructure (abundant power, good parking opportunities, etc.) it was the ultimate party location, and in 1996, the first TG in Vikingskipet attracted 2500 visitors. However, TG has continued growing, and has been sold out every year since 1998 (see The ticket sales controversy below); TG05 and TG06 attracted about 5200 visitors.
TG lasts for five days (from Holy Wednesday to Easter Sunday every year), and thus is both longer and of course bigger than most other computer parties. Most people tend to let their daily rhythm go and instead sleep as they see fit (many simply in front of their computer, but most people on the arena stands); for a lot of people most of the time is usually spent in front of a computer, but many like to use the opportunity to meet new or old friends in real life.
People have wildly different opinions about what constitutes a proper LAN party; the common trend at TG these years seem to be warez, games (the most popular being Counter-Strike), and IRC. However, many visitors find this too boring in the long run, and there are many unofficial mini-events happening all the time. Informal competitions to build the highest tower of soda cans are not uncommon, and people have been spotted having their own private mini-rave-parties put together by a few people and a PC with PA Systems.
Happenings and the demoscene
TG has always been a hub for young creative people to battle it out in many types of competitions; demo coding, music, graphics, animation, games, hardware-modification and Dance Dance Revolution to name a few; in addition, there are usually concerts and other things happening live on stage once or twice a day, as well as seminars etc.
In the first years, the focus on TG was pretty much on demos, but as TG is held at the same time as Breakpoint, a German scene-only party (and the earlier Mekka & Symposium), many European demosceners have left TG in favour of BP, and TG, like the majority of other computer parties, has become more of a gamer event. The scene at TG still lives on, though, as TG has introduced features such as a demoscene-only area, "creative cashback" (those handing in entries to the creative competitions get a discount) and other demo-oriented events. In fact, you have to go back as far as 1996 to match the amount of entries handed in to the creative competitions at TG04.
The organization Kreativ Aktiv Norsk Dataungdom (KANDU) is formally responsible for hosting TG. In addition, there are around 500 volunteers participating to make TG possible every year; these are collectively called the crew.
The TG crew is split into multiple sub-crews, such as a democrew (Event:Demo), a gamecrew (Event:Game), a first-aid crew (Security:Medic), a network crew (Tech:Net), a server crew (Tech:Server), as well as a logistics crew (Core:Logistikk) etc.. (The exact list varies somewhat from year to year.) Each of these has a chief who reports upwards, and is responsible for some aspect of the party.
All crew members are volunteers and unpaid; the only advantages a crew member has over a normal visitor are free entrance, access to a crew-only sleeping room and hot food served a few times a day. All members of the crew must arrive at the party place one day before the party itself starts, and stay one day after the party to aid in cleaning up afterwards. (Some people, such as chiefs, typically come even sooner.)
Everybody who wants can become crew (except for the Security and logistics crews, where there is a minimum age of 18), by applying at a special interface called wannabe. The chiefs usually pick their own crew, based on the applications coming in and previous experience. Crew members from earlier years must re-apply every year if they want to be crew again, but it is rare for a person having done a good job not to be selected the next year.
Ticket sale controversy
Up to and including TG01, TG tickets (as all other tickets to everything else happening in Vikingskipet) were sold by Billettservice, a company closely related to the postal service in Norway. Partly sold via the Internet, partly by phone (but always picked up at a local post office), the Billettservice system broke down hard every year as thousands of people tried to order tickets to the event simultaneously.
To try to make the ticket sales a bit more smooth, a group of people closely related to the administration of TG made a separate company called Partyticket (or Partyticket.net, PTN for short), selling unified ticket-related services (such as ordering, payment, seating, handling competitions etc.) to smaller and larger computer parties. Partyticket went online for the first time in 2002, and like Billettservice instantly went down under the massive load, partly due to a problem at the third-party service authorizing credit card transactions. However, the tickets were still sold out in a matter of hours.
2003 was not much better; a lot of problems had been fixed (and PTN had successfully managed the ticket sales for several other computer parties), but there were still problems left, and it was decided to postpone the ticket sales by one day to fix the problems that had been discovered. The sales went relatively smooth the next day.
In 2004, one hoped that one would finally see the end of the problems, especially as a new queuing system and new hardware was installed; however, the server again buckled under the enormous load, and the queueing system was found to be severely buggy, apparently shuffling people around in the queue at random. This frustrated a lot of visitors, many of which never got tickets at all. Many people blame the ticket-sales problems directly at PTN and has tried to pressure TG into choosing some other solution.
In 2005 the queuing system was changed. Instead of buying actual tickets, people were put in a virtual queue, thus loading the server a lot less during the peak hours. The next day, people were processed from the start of the queue (but no more than 200 at a time). This system ended up working a lot better than the queueing system from 2004, despite some misconceptions in the media.
Since 2006, however, there have been no major issues.
In 2007 the Norwegian Tax Authority demanded that taxes were to be paid for the tickets sold from 2001 to 2008, as it did not consider The Gathering to be a cultural arrangement (all cultural arrangements in Norway are exempt from paying taxes). Although the management of TG sent a complaint to the Tax Authority, it did not reconsider the demands. By August 8, the management of TG was required to pay 988,536 NOK in unpaid taxes, which could have caused the 2009 arrangements of The Gathering to be cancelled. If no money was paid by the August 8 deadline, the event could have been closed for good. However, on August 16, 2008, KANDU and The Gathering won the tax case and will temporarily be exempted from paying taxes for the tickets sold in 2006, 2007, 2008 and the future. Also, there will be a law amendment to secure this for all other computer parties in Norway. The stated reason for this decision, is that The Gathering's purpose is to gather youth from inland and abroad so these can get together to cultivate a computer culture, and the Storting has declared in a white paper that computer gaming is considered culture.
For The Gathering 2011 KANDU has signed an agreement for ticket sales with a company called Unicornis and their ticket system Geekevents. This agreement was for a three years period.
KANDU has signed a new contract with Geekevents AS, for a four-year period.
Most years, TG has a name or "tagline"; the tagline doesn't really mean much, but it still influences the logo (or the other way round) and some other material. A list of names includes:
|2000||"The Gathering 1900 - Follow the Flow"||The Millennium bug|
|2001||"A Cyberspace Odyssey"||The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey|
|2003||"The Gathering: Reloaded"||The movie The Matrix Reloaded, and a reference to the endless reloading to get a ticket on PTN|
|2004||"Rescue of Fractalus"||The Lucasfilm Games's game Rescue on Fractalus!|
|2005||"We Are The Robots"||The Kraftwerk song "The Robots" from the album The Man-Machine|
|2006||"The Dark Side of Pluto"||NASA's first probe to Pluto|
|2007||"Still Puzzled?"||The famous "fifteen puzzle"|
|2008||"Optimus Prime"||The Transformers character Optimus Prime, the fact that this is the 17th Gathering (a prime number) and Prime numbers' relations to computers.|
|2009||"Fire and Ice"||As if making its way through "fire and ice" due to the tax issues, the event still managed to pull off.|
|2010||"Submerged"||After having seen "Vikingskipet" dressed in fire and ice last year, we dive under water for TG10 and present The Gathering 2010 - Submerged.|
|2011||"Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Lightning"||The theme points to both that we have now risen from the depths (TG10 - Submerged), and that "cloud computing" is becoming increasingly important in the world of computers.|
|2012||“At the End of the Universe"||Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (With e.g. a sperm whale hanging from the ceiling, and a restaurant called Milliways.)|
|2013||"Singularity"||The technological Singularity. Simon McCallum at TG12.|
|2014||"Transylvania"||After the Movie Hotel Transylvania|
|2015||"The Future is Back"||After the movie Back to the Future, released 30 years earlier.|
|2016||"Switched On"||Binary, the base of how computers work. On or off, also known as bit.|
Demo and intro competition winners
|1993||Amiga||Desert Dream (Kefrens)||40k Intro (Lemon.)|
|PC||The Search For The Holy Halibut (Twilight Zone)||N/A|
|1994||Amiga||Sequential (Andromeda)||Bjarne (Stone Arts)|
|PC||Superunknown (Five And Then Some)||Das Grelle (Gollum)|
|1995||Amiga||Deep (CNCD & Parallax)||Jobbo TG'95 Intro (Spaceballs)|
|PC||Dope (Complex)||Fluid Motion (Valhalla)|
|1996||Amiga||Tint (The Black Lotus)||Lights (Stellar)|
|PC||Inside (CNCD)||You Am I, You Am The Robot (Orange)|
|1997||Amiga||Captured Dreams (The Black Lotus)||Gene (Fudge)|
|PC||CNCD Vs. Orange (CNCD & Orange)|
|1998||Amiga||Rise (TRSi)||Imitation None (The Black Lotus)|
|PC||Non-3D: Dimension (Gods)||Jive 2 (Sublogic)|
|3D: Planet Cornball (Complex)|
|1999||Amiga||Supermonster (Spaceballs)||Fusion Is No Good For Me (Spaceballs)|
|PC||Yume 2000 (Future World Mix) (INF)||Public Demand (Purple)|
|2000||Combined||Hypnopolis (Spaceballs)||glAss (Psikorp)|
|2001||Amiga||Powergod (Spaceballs)||mx.9kru (Nocturnal)|
|PC||Triple Five Tsunami (Fadeout)|
|2002||Amiga||Scrimm (Spaceballs)||Masse Lego (Nocturnal)|
|PC||Thermo Plastique (INF)|
|2003||Combined||World Domination (Odd)||LOL 2K (Neon & Lug00ber)|
|2004||Combined||Our Demo (Outracks)||Nemesis (Excess & Kvasigen)|
|2005||Combined||Meet The Biots (Portal Process)||Cubism 2 (Kvasigen)|
|2006||Combined||Animal Attraction (ASD)||Smoke This (Portal Posse)|
|2007||Combined||Gamma (Outracks)||Mupé (PlayPsyCo)|
|2008||Combined||Camden Town (PlayPsyCo vs. Kvasigen)||konami / raze (PlayPsyCo)|
|2009||Combined||Rupture (Andromeda Software Development)||N/A|
|2010||Combined||Phon (PlayPsyCo)||Magnus (Youth Uprising)|
|2011||Combined||We Crave Sustenance (PlayPsyCo)||Michigan (Loonies)|
- Humphries, Matthew. "The Gathering to set 200Gbps Internet world record". Geek.com. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- "The Gathering — Finally!". The Gathering. 2008-08-16. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
- "The Gathering 11 results". Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- Tasajarvi, Lassi (2004). Demoscene: The Art of Real-time. Even Lake Studios. ISBN 952-91-7022-X. pages 45–54.
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