The Virtual New Year

Illustration by Bob AulIt's almost upon us: Jan. 1, 2000,the date on which either (if you believe the government) nothing will happen or (if you believe the survivalists) civilization will collapse. I personally come down on the sunnier side of the spectrum, but if you're one of those crouching in a closet atop a stack of canned goods, clutching an Uzi and paralyzed with fear, now there's hope. The world may still come to an end in Y2K—San Onofre may spontaneously combust, South Coast Plaza may be looted by rioters, and planes may tumble out of the sky over John Wayne Airport—but at least there's a chance you could win a really cool prize!

GameSpy Industries, an Internet entertainment company that runs a network of Web sites largely dedicated to gaming, recently settled into digs in a shiny new 19,000-square-foot office in Skypark Circle, an Irvine business park where employees regularly duck as airplanes bound for John Wayne Airport sail seemingly inches over their heads. In honor of the new millennium (or a year before the new millennium, depending on whether you're an Arthur C. Clarke fan), the company decided to throw BeatDown 2000, a three-day blowout that promises game tournaments, inflatable sumo wrestling, live DJs, loud music, the breakdown of civilized society and global devastation. Oh, and "Armageddal St0nkage," whatever that is. And, given their strategic location at the end of a John Wayne Airport runway, they've promised a prize to the person who finds the most black boxes among the wreckage after the planes start plummeting to Earth like dead sparrows on Jan. 1.

"Our new office building is right in the flight path for airplanes landing at John Wayne Airport, so we figured if any planes crash, we're in the perfect place to retrieve the black boxes," said Dana Bryant, events manager and "office mom" at GameSpy.

Bryant was mysterious about what exactly the fabuloso prize was going to be, saying that she "hadn't gotten a full inventory of prizes yet."

"We have a lot of industry people who are really good about donating really nice pieces of hardware and software," she said.

BeatDown 2000 starts on Dec. 31 at noon and runs through Jan. 2. The event is basically a great big LAN (local area network) party, in which attendees bring their own desktop computer systems and network them together so they can play tournament games and waste one another digitally. GameSpy has thrown a number of LAN parties over the past two and a half years—BeatDown 2000 is the 20th—but this one promises to be the largest and the most apocalyptic. Bryant said their previous LAN party, held in July, drew about 200 people; they're expecting about 250 people at their New Year's shindig.

There will be some added flourishes not normally seen at a LAN party, like the aforementioned inflatable sumo wrestling, which involves the winners of two different tournaments putting on inflatable fat-guy outfits and slapping each other around. I don't know how you feel about the idea, but I for one would pay up to $20 to see it.

Of course, that's assuming all the guests' computers don't fry on the stroke of midnight. "We'll have network administrative technicians standing by in case there are any problems, but we think we're pretty safe," Bryant said.

If the idea of partying under the bellies of possibly Y2K-blighted jumbo jets doesn't stoke your 'nads and you've got a full evening of crouching paranoia planned, there are plenty of virtual parties to keep you entertained right up to the point when the apocalypse hits. Here are a few online shindigs for you to check out:

Earthcam: Webcast of the Century

This site lets you trace the New Year around the globe through its array of Webcams. Check out how people ring in the next millennium in New York, London, Paris, Moscow and Hong Kong. You can also engage in live chats with the event's hosts, including Jenni of JenniCam fame (

Wrap the World

Beginning in Glasgow, Scotland, at 11 a.m. GMT on Dec. 31, a team of artists will work to begin a drawing 100 meters long. Once they've finished their section of the work, they'll fax it to Johannesburg, South Africa, where more artists will add to it. From there, it goes to Delhi, India; Sydney, Australia; New York; Porto, Portugal; and finally back to Glasgow—thus creating a work of art that "wraps the world." Visitors to the Web site can watch the drawing's progress via Webcams in each city.


Want to send a holiday greeting to your loved ones powered by the first sunrise of the new millennium? The Greenpeace boat Tiama is sailing toward a tiny island in the South Pacific to catch the first rays of the sun on Jan. 1. Log on to the site and record a message; when the sun rises, Greenpeace will send the message using power from the boat's solar panels. Greet your buddies andspread the word about alternative energy sources.

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