QuakeCon is over. By now, you've probably perused several hundred thousand BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer; basically a gigantic, nonstop four-day LAN party) case mod galleries. You've seen the competition winners from every conceivable angle. You've ogled the Star Wars action figures, giant NES controllers, weathered Fallout terminals, and very uncomfortable fish alike. But come on: that's standard flashy case mod fare. This one, however, was created on the fly, during the show, by hundreds of attendees. Its core component? Post-It Notes.
There is something to be said for (perhaps somewhat tipsily) wandering QuakeCon's behemoth Bring Your Own Computer LAN party hangar at 3 AM.
Mainly, I wanted to witness the effects of four straight days of sleep deprivation, copious energy drinks, and more than a few drops of booze all sloshing around in the same Big Gulp powder keg firsthand, but I never would've predicted this. Two PCs, tattooed from top-to-bottom with a rainbow dreamcoat of Post-It Notes. Each one was a message, most of them written anonymously while the machines' owners were away watching angry Texans make fun of bad movies.
I casually sauntered - or perhaps somewhat tipsily stumbled - up to idea originator Chris "Fukubear" (he declined to provide a last name) and his friends in what appeared to be a moment of joyous shock. They couldn't believe what they'd created.
“I initially wrote here, 'Write on me,'" Chris explained between bouts of incredulous, awestruck laughter. "And then I had to leave for Master Pancake, but I left, like, a hundred Post-It notes out. When I came back, it was like this.”
I moved in for a closer look. Both PCs were absolutely slathered in Post-Its. Some messages were exceedingly short, usually jokes. Others were penises. Actually, I would say that at least 40 percent were penises. Every color of the penis rainbow. Some were multi-Post-It efforts. You can take people out of the Internet, but you can't take the Internet out of people, apparently.
But sifting through the forest of phalli (and jokes about them, and some extremely creative letter fonts involving them) yielded harrowingly heartfelt confessions and a great deal of honest sincerity. Many expressed joy at the mere existence of QuakeCon, while others offered messages of encouragement to random passersby. Some wrote actual, honest-to-goodness poetry. One person's contribution was a truly epic tale, penned by someone who'd apparently been mugged and woken up in an utterly miserable state, only to have these neon odes to human creativity (and male genitalia) brighten their day. Who knows if it was true, but even my heart's most frigid cockles were warmed.
Chris and co did end up providing a little more guidance to those who dared participate in their mad social experiment. One of their friends, Daniel, had succumbed to his fragile fleshneed for sleep, so everyone else suggested that messages be addressed to him. Once again, some were polite greetings, others were entirely too elaborate drawings of genitals, and one was so offensive that I'm not even going to post the picture here. It involved swastikas and cancer. Let's just leave it there.
But for every drop of tar-black acid threatening to poison the whole well, there was a magnificently uplifting counterpart. Near the aforementioned grossness, for instance, I discovered a simple, concerned retort: "Sorry your friends are dicks. Hope you slept well."
And that wasn't even close to the best Post-It postcard addressed to Daniel while he was away from the BYOC. One of Chris' friends went wide-eyed with sheer wonder as he explained:
“Probably the weirdest thing out of all this, [Daniel] is Polish-American. His family's Polish. A girl came over here and wrote in Polish on one of the cases, and we were like, 'That's crazy. Our friend is Polish!' She didn't know, either. We were like, 'What the fuck?' It was amazing.”
The whole scene was completely mesmerizing. I mean, Post Secret in the real world, only turned into a sort of message board with the possibility of people meeting in-person? Internet anonymity given a face? QuakeCon's testosterone-driven competitive culture had resulted in an experimental, oftentimes wonderfully heartfelt collaborative art project.
And sure, there was still plenty of nastiness standing, er,
front-and-center proud and tall shamelessly out in the open ALL METAPHORS ARE PHALLIC, but I suppose it wouldn't have been QuakeCon without that specific melting pot of good, bad, and ugly. The BYOC is a weirdly exposed place, when you think about it - people's playing habits and hardware naked for all to see.
Sometimes it can be pretty gross (and definitely smelly), but it's real. The Post-It PCs brought out the best in some and the worst in others. But more than any other case mod at the show, they were QuakeCon. Embodied, on full blast, unafraid.
They didn't win any competitions, of course. They weren't even entered. The whole thing emerged from a spur-the-moment idea, more or less out of nowhere. So where do you go when you've made something this unexpected from next-to-nothing? Chris and friends aren't really sure. It could become an annual tradition, they suggested, or maybe they'll never repeat it again. Maybe this was the year. Now, like so many QuakeCon folk tales before them, the Post-It PCs will evaporate into happy memories. And perhaps it would be better that way. More meaningful.
Last I heard, no one was sure. They were just surprised. Surprised and overjoyed.
“I think I'm just gonna frame them all and post them on my wall," Chris exclaimed. “Six years of coming to QuakeCon, and this is the first time I've ever seen anyone have anything like this. I'm OK with this.”