Clay Causin is in his element. He’s striding across a huge hall at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas housing thousands of gamers – and their PCs – for the annual QuakeCon gaming community event.
The vast space is dark, lit only by the monitors of more than 3,000 PCs. Gamers are everywhere – slamming energy drinks, chowing on pizza, and whooping when they score a victory in one of the thousands of games going all around Clay.
Clay, a former Marine, is trying to move quietly. He’s scanning the PC rigs of gamers playing on the long tables set up at the show. He’s got a brand new Tt eSports Poseiden Z mechanical keyboard under his arm, and he’s looking to give it to the right gamer. It’s not easy. Every 20 yards or so someone recognizes him and stops him to catch up.
Clay is part of the NVIDIA GeForce team running a booth stocked with GeForce TITAN and TITAN Z graphics cards, SHIELD portable gaming devices, our new G-SYNC display technology and an incredible wall-mounted PC assembled by Richard Surroz, one of the world’s top specialty PC builders. But even if you never set foot in the booth, you can’t escape NVIDIA.
Sometimes, Clay explains, he gets the jump on someone sleeping and wakes them with a special surprise. Within a few minutes he finds the next best thing. As Bennett Dodson and his friends at the ACD gaming team are blasting away at the back of the hall, Clay slips quietly right up behind him. He takes one look at Bennett’s 2003 vintage keyboard and makes his move.
He slides a new keyboard between Bennett Dodson and the screen and makes Bennett – also known as “Tubes” — a proposition. “How would you like a new keyboard,” he says with a grin. Bennett shakes his head, looks down, looks up at Clay and smiles. “If that’s the keyboard, I don’t think I can say no.”
Clay’s just one of a team of NVIDIANs mixing it up at the show. And that involves more than just random acts of kindness – product giveways to gamers who look like they could use an upgrade or free pizzas for hungry gamers. Every few feet Clay is stopped by a QuakeCon veteran who wants to catch up, or an NVIDIA customer looking for technical help.
The show, Clay explains, is the Woodstock of gaming events. Put together by a crew of volunteers who have done this for more than a decade, the event can seem like a family reunion as much as a gaming show. Gamers drive from all over the country to the gathering, picking up friends met through the QuakeCon forums community who need rides from all over the country.
Some gamers bring their toddlers. Others, like Lord Dad, a teacher in Dallas, are brought along by their daughters. His is happily blasting away at DOTA 2 nearby with her boyfriend next to her.
As a result, it’s an event where gamers spend as much time helping each other out – and socializing – as gaming or gawking at the latest new products. And like many members of the GeForce team, Clay seems to know everyone as he stops by a table set up in the gaming hall to talk to some of the event’s organizers. Some have been coming to QuakeCon for more than a decade.
“This is a tradition now,” says Eric Ochoa, a longtime QuakeCon volunteer. “I bring my son.”
Not that there wasn’t plenty of gear to ogle, too. Gamers brought a wild array of gaming rigs to the show. Some were encased in fishtanks. Others were mounted within armored shells. Almost all the gamers at the show display – or brag – about their NVIDIA graphics cards. And everyone wants to know about NVIDIA’s next product.
But it’s a story that’s about more than just products. When Clay emerges from the darkened “Bring Your Own PC” hall into the sunlit lobby of the Hilton Anatole, he was ambushed by Sean and Shaun, a pair of friends Clay had met just the day before at the show. And they have something for him: a case of Bawls Guarana Cherry Soda. Clay just smiles, cracks open the case, and passes around a few cans of the energy drink.
“To gaming,” Clay says, leading the group in a toast.
Photos at top, right: Trey “T-Dawg” Bushart, some rights reserved.