With a large space lined with Radeon-powered rigs and gorgeous PC décor to boot, you’d think it was a professional setup built to host tournaments or as a decked out PC cyber café—but no. Converting his basement into a Radeon-powered PC haven, the setup is entirely built simply out of Shane Baker’s passion for AMD and creating intimacy in gaming in an age where streaming reigns king.
When we first saw his incredible setup, we had to get his story.
Coining his passion project and local organization “UnderGround Gaming” alongside the professional brand name “eDrenaline esports”, Shane has had the setup for years—and it moved with him through the years since he first started.
“I started with a few extra PCs and some generic white tables which we still use for our ‘bring-your-own-PC’ area,” says Shane, reflecting on the history of his setup. “It was nowhere near this elaborate, but since I work in IT and it is also my hobby I always had spare parts lying around. I would use these to build extra PCs so we could have guests over to game.”
Before he would go on to set up his successful group and attracting a steady flow of regulars at his LAN parties, Shane would begin by modding computers for fun back in 2000. He toyed around with parts that allowed tinkerers like himself to discover just how far he could customize, and AMD parts were the most gracious.
“After my first build, AMD was just the processor of choice for overclockers and modders.”
“My PC days go back to the days of the first generation Pentium. At some point, I found out about this ‘other’ processor that you could stick into a Socket 7 motherboard, and that’s how I was introduced to AMD.
“My first two computers were store bought and the second one was an HP with a measly Celeron 400. What led me to tinkering and teaching myself to build computers was the fact that I added a second hard drive to that Celeron system, and it wouldn’t always be recognized by Windows. It took me a while, but I figured out the power supply was so weak that it wouldn’t always spin up the second hard drive in time for Windows to recognize it. I decided I had to start from scratch at that point, and I went with AMD because it was such a better bang-for-the-buck processor.
“After my first build, AMD was just the processor of choice for overclockers and modders.”
A sentiment many would echo.
And his first Radeon graphics card? A Radeon 9000 Pro with 64 MB of memory.
“It performed great, and when I could afford it I upgraded to a 9700. From then until now, I have probably had several dozen new and used Radeon cards through the years.”
Like playing with Lego, all the tinkering and modding would lead Shane into his IT career in 2006 and eventually setting up a system of Radeon-powered rigs for others to enjoy.
A Gaming Group Is Born
It started as typically as one would imagine: the days when one would bring their friends over, huddle in front of a TV and take turns playing on a console. Shane brought his friends to his house, with a single computer between all of them to share. In his previous 80-year-old house, he started hosting gaming parties with his Xbox 360 in his basement, often packing up to 16 people at a time. He distinctly remembers it wasn’t a very nice basement, but an unfinished, bare one—hence “underground gaming”, referring to the drab basement that nevertheless welcomed excitement within its walls.
As the group grew, so did his collection of computer parts: CPUs, GPUs, motherboards. He happened on a number of deals through the years (though he calls this “luck”), collecting PC parts until he had enough to set up what would become his current PC playground in his new house: a much more spacious basement with a tall ceiling and plenty of outlets meant a much more spacious PC gaming space for his group.
“Before the night was over we literally had people going to Newegg and looking at parts to build their own PCs.”
“When we moved, I of course brought all my spare PCs to the new house. It just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up. I started with a few extra PCs and some generic white tables which we still use for our ‘bring-your-own-PC’ area.”
With his wife having no use for the basement, this freed Shane to transform the space into a local gaming spot. So he got to work, going back to the collection of computer parts he accumulated over the years into what would officially become “UnderGround Gaming”.
“At our first gaming party with the new setup, we had some people who had been over before and some new people. The excitement was real! We had a great night of gaming that went into the wee hours of the next morning. We had people over who had either gotten out of PC gaming or who had never had a PC worthy of gaming. Before the night was over we literally had people going to Newegg and looking at parts to build their own PCs.”
Typical LAN parties would have attendees bring their computers, hook up to the shared network and game away. But wanting to be a PC mentor at the parties he hosts, Shane takes that one step further.
His LAN parties are, after all, local events where familiar faces come out regularly. So rather than simply host a party for people to game and leave, Shane puts his hardware knowledge to use, helping ignite the passions for computers in others as he had.
“What’s also great is that they look to me as a trusted resource for their builds and for technical assistance. I have a work area and will let people bring their parts over and will oversee their build process so they learn the ropes. I chime in when they may need some help.”
Staying Together By Gaming
While Shane’s original inspiration for setting up a PC community space may have been his love for PCs, his inspiration for expanding it came from seeing his sons’ friends going in every direction and their old high school social structure becoming “splintered”.
It happens: once you graduate high school, people go their separate ways. Shane noticed how difficult it was for his sons to maintain their connections, and saw in PC gaming the power to bring people together. So he decided to put this into practice.
“I just really felt I was being led to serve this other age group,” Shane notes. “I felt more in touch with them. I think there was a lack of role models and a lack of ‘safe spaces’ where they could get together and be social and have fun. I decided at that point that I could really be a positive influence in young adults’ lives, and also just incorporate this all into a really great community centered on the love of gaming, and PC gaming in particular.”
Since that first gaming party, the group has grown considerably. Located in the small town of Ashland, Ohio with 21,000 people halfway between Cleveland and Columbus, Shane’s LAN parties attract people within a 70-mile radius. It’s his way of giving back to the community, for people to play next to someone and diving into that nostalgia of old-school console parties.
The locals visit a few times a week. Shane’s group also hosts larger events, advertising these on their private Facebook group so Shane can ensure those interested get a chance to check out what his group is about first. LAN parties exist everywhere, yes—but Shane knows his group is unique, taking on a persona of an intimate hangout for friends who’ve known each other for years. When people find his setup, they’re amazed, as they should be. LAN parties like Shane’s are few and in-between, with the highly publicized ones focusing less on the social aspect and more on competitions.
The Choice To Go AMD
As for why his setup is 100% powered by AMD, Shane’s answer is simple: AMD is almost like family.
“There have been times things may have been a bit rough between us, but then you never turn your back on family. That’s why my gaming setup is now 100% powered by Radeon, and why I am a staunch supporter and promoter of AMD.
“The good thing is that I’m no longer just a fanboy, but a systems engineer that prides himself on the histories of tech companies and can tell people a great story why they should choose AMD over the blue and green guys.”
He proudly tells me about the time he helped two shoppers out. Not many employees may have a deep understanding of hardware, Shane says, and they recommend one brand over another without diving deep into the technicalities and really getting into the nitty gritty stuff. Shane saw the chance to educate the shoppers. One would later join his Underground Gaming group, while the other shopper purchased a Radeon RX 460.
I asked him for a silly story from one of his events. There had to be at least one, for an event that calls for friends to come together like Shane’s LAN parties.
“I could go on all day about this. Every second of every event is a blast,” Shane says. “At one of our recent gaming parties, a young guy I work with decided to come, and he mentioned having a kilt, so I told him he had to wear that if he was coming. I had another guy wearing a coconut bra most of the night. At one gaming party, we also cut a keyboard in half with a sawzall and we destroyed a mouse with an axe.
“Let me just say that I was cleaning up plastic for days after that one.”
“Christmas On Repeat”
I asked Shane why he was doing this. Surely, with all the resources he had, he was better off doing something for himself? He considered this for a moment, agreeing that he could close up shop and buy himself a car.
“I don’t really see a time when I’m not doing this. It’s kind of like Christmas on repeat. I constantly get to put smiles on peoples’ faces,” Shane answers. “My wife is 100% on board with it, and I just really feel like it’s a calling to use my expertise and knowledge to build a community and to positively impact as many lives as I can. I don’t know everyone’s story who comes to my house to game, but I’d like to think maybe we might be the best thing that person has going on in their lives. Maybe we can make a difference that alters a person’s life.”
You can imagine the kind of commitment a passion project like this takes, especially when you open up your home to strangers and offer the experiences for free almost every day.
“We’ve had many new friendships form, which I think is great for that young adult age range.”
“I’d be lying if I said this has been easy or cheap. I’ve definitely made sacrifices to accomplish this,” he adds. “At the end of the day though, I just don’t think you can put a price tag on this. People, especially young adults, need positivity and social interaction in their lives. Too many people have relegated themselves to a somewhat solitary existence and that’s just not how we’re designed as humans. I’m driven by the idea ‘to love they neighbor as yourself’ and that’s what I’m doing in the best way I know how.”
By cultivating a positive environment where anyone is welcome, Shane’s group is one of those things in his small town that people take pride in. At the end of the day, Shane isn’t out for fame or money and his goal with UnderGround Gaming is a simple and humble one.
“We’ve had many new friendships form, which I think is great for that young adult age range. It really is a great social outlet, and we treat everyone with respect and love. I really don’t care where anyone comes from or who they voted for or who they choose to have as a partner. When you’re in my house you’re just another gamer to us.
“I think that is what really keeps people coming back.”
Future Plans And Looking Ahead
So—what’s next for him?
Since we last spoke, Shane says a lot has happened. While UnderGround Gaming will always remain his passion project, its professional brand eDrenaline esports is taking off into a new direction.
Entering into a partnership with Joe Clark and George Wolfe who ran a similar LAN party event group called ForgeLAN, eDrenaline is working on bringing people together into an amateur competitive environment mixed with a traditional LAN party and a technology expo.
“As far as teamwork goes, I’d say we work well together. We’re all PC gaming enthusiasts. Joe and myself work in IT, and George is an events coordinator by trade, so we have a good mix of skills to apply to eDrenaline.”
Currently, they’re working on their first amateur eSports tournament coming up in August. While all of this has catapulted Shane into an exciting opportunity, he hasn’t forgotten about his local LAN parties and doesn’t intend to.
“UnderGround Gaming will always exist,” Shane adds, “but it will just be under the umbrella of eDrenaline esports.”
As of January 2017, his setup is completely 100% powered by Radeon. See the full list of graphics cards that powers his LAN parties:
- XFX Radeon RX460 4GB x6
- MSI Radeon 7950
- Sapphire Radeon 7950
- Gigabyte Radeon 6870
- Sapphire Radeon 5870
- MSI Radeon 6570
- Radeon 4850
- Radeon 4870
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