If I might be so bold... IRC stinks, at least for chatting. You can never get a decent conversation going in there. I used to play word games, but all the rooms have been shut down now. IRC is mainly a hangout for hackers and warez...
Are you ready for Mahkan-mania to run wild all over you?
that really depends on what networks you hang out on though.
espernet, gamesnet and newnet have a few good channels on 'em.
efnet, dalnet, undernet, and the other big ones suck ass for chatting, for the most part, but this is where all the w4r3z d00dz, mp3 traders, movie traders and other hoity toity types hang out... From my experience, the smaller channels are more condusive to good talkin', especially on the smaller networks.
Just get on one of the non-big networks, type /list then randomly pick channels to see if they's any good.
Word is HFPA wants credibility. If going mainstream and fucking up their TV nominations by making them look a lot like Emmy nominations is one way to get "credibility", that they've certainly done. Pathetic.