Evil Empire

A self-proclaimed 'God of Video Games' with a real-life god complex is determined to rule gamers, girls and the world.

Sitting cross-legged on his living room floor, Evil Ed phones eviled.com's Webmaster/editor. He asks the Webmaster about his recent motorcycle accident. How did it happen and how badly was he hurt?

Then, once the tiresome formalities are finished . . .

"You don't have enough time to run my site," he says. "I'm tired of bugging you. You can retain editorial control, but as it stands right now coming out of my mouth, you're no longer the Webmaster of the site. Now give me the password."

At "Extreme Bikini Bowling," some bowlers pose with models while others rebel against Evil Ed.
Paolo Vescia
At "Extreme Bikini Bowling," some bowlers pose with models while others rebel against Evil Ed.
Evil Ed relaxes at home, acts evil.
Paolo Vescia
Evil Ed relaxes at home, acts evil.

The ex-Webmaster says something Evil Ed does not appreciate.

"Look, I could have a $100,000 deal with Palm Pilot drop through because I can't get a picture changed to our site. It's my name! It's my vision! It's my future!"

Evil Ed hangs up. He turns back to his guest. He senses disapproval.

"What!?" he asks. "In a perfect world, it would be nice if he did his fucking job."

Evil Ed meets gamers.

It's a Saturday afternoon in the conference center of the Ramada Valley Ho resort ("'H-O' as in 'my bitch,'" Evil Ed says). The conference center is housing an Arizona LANBasher's League party.

If you've never seen a LAN party marathon, it is a fascinatingly creepy event.

LAN (Local Area Network) gaming is when a group of players connect their computers with Ethernet cables for head-to-head multiplayer competition. Most parties are for small groups of friends. The games of choice are usually first-person shooters such as Quake 3 and Counter-Strike.

LAN parties can last several days. Players form teams, the teams form leagues, and leagues sometimes host massive LAN events, renting out warehouses for dozens or hundreds of players. LAN parties are like raves for the antisocial.

The Arizona LANBasher's League party at the Ramada Valley Ho was a 24-hour event advertised as "All Frag -- No Lag" (translation: nonstop killing with smooth game play).

Inside the conference rooms, 250 players set up their systems on rectangular banquet tables. The floors are covered with snaking cables and discarded fast-food wrappers. The lights are turned off to reduce screen glare.

When competition begins, the gamers lean forward into their screens. The players fall into the immersive motion of the game, the flowing pixels of strategy and action, the explosive sound effects and looped music. Sometimes they gulp high-caffeine sodas such as Bawls, Red Bull or Surge, their eyes never leaving the action.

The room is filled with the sound of clicking controllers and players yelling to their nearby teammates. They're virtually killing each other and having a blast doing it. Their dialogue is full of aggressive lingo that reads like a sci-fi movie script as written by David Mamet:

"Do you have radar yet?"

"You have longer life, but it's not infinite."

"Fucking Billy5000 is running ahead and fuckin' fragging me."

"Kill 'em!"

"I'm gonna!"

"Grenade flush right!"

"Fucking plant! Plant! Plant!"

As game play intensifies, the room grows warm. Event staffer Celeste "Moderatrix" Barrett says she posted a notice on the LANBasher's League Web site reminding players to shower and wear deodorant before coming to play. "After a few hours of playing, the room gets rank," she says.

Barrett is one of the few women here. About 90 percent of the players are white males 12 to 24 years old.

Looking across the conference hall, there is something vulgar about hundreds of sweating teenage boys yanking joysticks in the dark. At first glance, one might assume they're watching pornography. But the multiplayer games can be more seductive than porn. The game is nonstop tension without a climax. The intoxication can go on forever.

High school junior Jeff "Monster" Holtz won a second-place prize.

He goes outside for an interview, blinking and wincing at the sunlight. Holtz's neck is sore, and his fingers are cramped. He has been playing for about 20 hours, taking only short breaks to consume Bawls and a slice of cold pizza.

Holtz says he plays games online for about five hours a day. Many here fight online, knowing each other only by their nicknames. When they attend a large event such as this, players get to meet their virtual competitors in person.

Holtz says he's never heard of Evil Ed and seems to have nothing in common with him. Yet when asked what he likes about gaming, his answer is identical.

"When you're in there, you're zoning," Holtz says. "It's just you and the game."

LANBasher's League co-founder Brian "Zoner" Pavlich has heard of Evil Ed. When asked about Evil Ed's reputation among the gaming community, Pavlich is a bit cautious.

"There's a little friction," he says. "Not too many people like somebody making fun of people right to their face. It's kinda like somebody on MTV who everybody hates."

Pavlich is interrupted by a bellowing voice from across the patio. A bearded gamer has slouched too close to Evil Ed.

"Why don't you shave that filthy thing off your face?" Evil Ed yells after him, then laughs.

"See?" Pavlich says. "Like that."

Ray Powers, co-owner of the Gamer's Edge store in Chandler, seconds Pavlich's assessment.

"There's definitely a love-hate thing. He never stops going until he gets what he wants," he says. "But at least he's been awakening the local [gamer] scene more than anybody. He looks like a California surfer dude, but once you start talking to him about games, you find he's got the breadth of knowledge."

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