Googler's LAN-party house sparks awe and envy

UPDATED: Gamers agog over Google engineer's custom-built home

LAN party2

(Update, Dec. 14: Varda tells us what the gaming portion of the house set him back.)

Attention gamers: If Google software engineer Kenton Varda invites you to a LAN party, there is no need to bring your own computer. He's got you covered.

Varda

In a Saturday blog post headlined "LAN-party optimized house," Varda, pictured right, showed off the digs he recently had built - with a hand from his father, an architect - that is "specifically designed to be ideal for PC gaming parties." The post and pictures have garnered generally glowing reviews, but also produced an undercurrent of big-boy-toy envy so strong that it prompted Varda to protest that he really isn't rich ... and that you, too, can have your own LAN-party house if you are so determined.

Here's how he describes the place:

The house has twelve of these fold-out computer stations, six in each of two rooms (ideal for team vs. team games). The actual computers are not next to the monitors, but are all in a rack in a back room. The stations were built by a cabinet maker based on specs I created. The rest of the house was designed by my dad, Richard Varda, who happens to be an architect.

The picture above shows one wall of the stations when closed. This next picture shows them in use.

LAN party

Pictures of Varda's server room, which he posted after a number of requests from the curious, can be seen here on Google+.

(If, like me, you have never been to a LAN party, Wikipedia covers the basics here, including the astounding revelation that history's largest such event included "12,754 connected systems.")

As for Varda's gaming hardware:

The twelve game stations all contain identical hardware:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-2500
  • GPU: MSI N560GTX (nVidia GeForce 560)
  • Motherboard: MSI P67A-C43 (Intel P67 chipset)
  • RAM: 8GB (2x4GB DDR3-1333)
  • Monitor: ASUS VE278Q (27" 1080p)

In his blog post, Varda explains how he administers the LAN and monitors physical security. He's been circumspect about costs, saying only that they are "small" when considering the overall cost of building any home, and, in particular, building one in Palo Alto. (I've emailed him in the hope that he might reveal more. ... Update: He has, here.) Nevertheless, this morning he felt compelled to defend himself in an amendment to his original post:

Update: Am I ultra-rich?

Well, I'm happy to tell you that no, you do not need to be ultra-rich to afford a LAN party house! As expensive as twelve gaming machines might be, they are small compared to the price of a typical house, no matter where you live. So if you can afford a house, you can afford to make it into a LAN party house. What you will need, however, is lots of time and patience, and a long-term plan for fulfilling your dream.

Like most people who own houses, I paid for mine by saving up money for many years, which I then spent on a down payment on a mortgage. I will continue making payments on that mortgage for decades to come. It's true that I make a pretty good salary at Google, but I also live in an area where housing is excessively expensive. Even so, my house's value is on the low end for houses in the area, mostly because it is actually relatively small -- it only looks big due to good design. If you live in a more normal area, you could probably build a similar house for much cheaper!

As important as having the money, he stresses, is having the project-management skills to oversee such an unusual custom design. Here's how he addressed that piece of the project in a discussion that took place on Google+ after he was asked if he would share the blueprints for his house:

The work really can't be captured in blueprints. You have to talk to people, and go on site to give directions and spot mistakes. The specs can contain every piece of information, but since the contractor doesn't understand, they will forget parts of it, or assume things are more flexible than they really are. For example, my contractor originally laid down cable tubes that were 3/4" thick. You can't run crap through that. My spec called for 3" tubes, but they missed it. Luckily, I spotted it just in time for them to fix the problem before pouring the cement!

Despite Varda's encouragement, many a gamer got a gander of his new home and could only sigh. Most were good-natured; for example, Reddit user thejosh502: "Congratulations, my jealousy has actually formed a visible cloud around my head. Enjoy your stupid, fully-equipped nerd paradise, nerd. ... sob"

And finally, there was my favorite comment, from JonathanF: "Adopt me NOW!"

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