Well, I dare say that I am doing multisited ethnography, on- and offline. Attending ↵LAN-parties is a perfect occasion to assimilate game- and modding-culture. In consequence I today registered for the ↑Fighternight 7 and restarted my ↵Q3A-training. I already attended Fighternights ↑5 and ↑6, and have to say that they were perfectly organized, enjoyable, and very, very interesting events. The quality of organizatrion already hit me when, way back in March 2004, I had registered for #5 as I instantly was furnished with adequate information and a foolproof description of how to get to the location in Bavaria’s hinterland.
So I packed my machine, threw it into the car and drove into the outback. Once in the little town of Herrsching I followed the marked path uphill, finally reaching a huge compound seemingly occupying the whole hilltop. As I didn’t want to wait in line at the main entrance, and as there was no need for me to, having a laptop with me, in consequnece not having to carry a big screen around, I took a gate earlier and parked my car there. It was dark already, lanterns at the parking lot, but the main building still perfectly hidden beyond the trees’ foliage. Laptop in rucksack I started to wander through the surrounding park, up to the main building. As I drew nearer, the shape of the building gradually became visible and I thought: Hell, that’s really big. As the shape emerged more I thought: Hell, it’s huge and blocky, and then: it looks like architecture from the Third Reich. At that very moment I cleared the trees. In front of the building a bunch of youths, carrying comps and monitors, stood, mouths gaping, flabbergastedly wondering at the building’s facade. And there it was. A huge Reichsadler [Eagle of the Reich], maybe 8 to 10 meters from wingtip to wingtip. One of the most stunning reagalia of the Third Reich presiding like a king over the whole compound, from his prominent place looking down on the town and over the lake, up to the Alps. The only thing missing was the swastika inside the laurel wreath he held in his claws. I am sure the swastika already was removed by the US-boys back in 1945, but the rest remained there until today.
Regrasping my breath I went on towards the building. As I passed the bunch of guys still standing at the forecourt, still mesmerized by the eagle’s sight, I couldn’t help myself and murmured in their direction: “This LAN is at Castle Wolfenstein, didn’t you know?” Once in a while I heard that sentence again during the whole weekend. Anyway, the building indeed was erected during the Third Reich and housed a Reichsfinanzschule [Financial School for Civil Servants of the Reich]. Today it is the ↑Fachhochschule für öffentliche Verwaltung und Rechtspflege in Bayern [University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration and Administration of Justice in Bavaria] Mind the photography on their homepage—the main entrance with the eagle is to the left, right outside of the picture. To be fair: they show it off in their ↑gallery, and there’s a subpage telling the ↑building’s history [in German].
Now you may say: no big deal. Old building, with a somewhat unlucky history, now put to good use, and even LANs are allowed to be held there. But the knack is: Why was the LAN there? For a LAN-party you need at least one big room. Some school gyms are large enough and nobody needs them on weekends. Perfect location. But some time before the Fighternight 5 Bavaria’s Secretary of Education decided computergames—first-person shooters in particular—to be evil. At least to be as filthy that they must not be brought in any contact with public schools. In short: The Bavarian Ministry for Education outlawed LANs on school premises. So the great guys organizing the Fighternight-events searched for a new location. Surprisingly the Ministry allowed them to use said University of Applied Sciences. When the guys started to erect the LAN’s infrastructure around Friday morning, a television crew from some private channell dropped by and shot some footage for a boulevard magazine of theirs. The Fighternight personnel constantly floated around them to avoid the camera hitting the eagle. Because once broadcasted: LAN + Eagle => Gamers are Nazis. Computergames showing off swastikas would immediately be banned in Germany—remember the infamous story around some of the ‘Mothers of all egoshooters’: ‘Castle Wolfenstein’, and especially ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’, but Bavaria’s civil servants can be trained in a building guarded by a Reichsadler. And all that together is an obscenity which clearly hits the limit—in my humble opinion. It goes perfectly well with the current craze around ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ (GTA:SA) on which I will dwell later on.
photography by me, historical postcard found on the net, but can’t remember where—sorry