Back in the early days of PC gaming, multiplayer games were difficult to organize because, to be at their best, computers had to be linked together. We didn’t have high-speed internet in homes, and local area networks were the best way to enjoy the experience. I have many fond memories of taking over a friend’s garage or a church basement for a couple of days.
We saw a downturn in LAN event activities as the internet became available in more homes. Good comms software and high-speed connections meant you didn’t need to move your computer to a new location to game with your buddies. However, over the last 3 years there has been an increase in LAN Party activities.
Everyone is Welcome
Too often people make the mistake of believing a LAN Party is about a specific game or tournament to be held. It is also a misconception that all LAN Parties are about FPS or MOBA game play and you need a big deal system to show up.
LAN events are first and foremost about community and socializing. They are a chance for people to get together—often the only time, at least in person. To share some beer and a pizza, and enjoy each other’s company that Discord or an online forum doesn’t allow. When I attend events I often see people spending time standing around talking almost as much as gaming.
Gaming might be at the heart of the LAN Party concept, but not in the way many expect. They imagine everyone in an FPS server or playing a MOBA in a tournament. In truth, solo-play games draw as many players, if not more, than many multiplayer games. Wait a second, so people are packing up their PC to go sit and play games alone? Well, not really. At a recent event, I was amazed as I walked around and saw about 20% of the LAN all playing the new edition of Skyrim. While they were not in a game together, they were obviously playing together. At some points, it felt like a Skyrim convention with gamers sharing their experiences, what mods they liked and helping each other through sections of the game.
Multiplayer games and tournaments get their share of attention, but solo gaming is a pretty big thing at LAN Events. Also, the big-name titles have a presence but, as far as I can tell, are seldom the main game at an event. Often simple multiplayer games like Minecraft, The Ship and 7 Days to Die get more attention than games like Overwatch. Any game you want to play is a great game for a LAN Party.
High end gear is not criteria for being at a LAN event either. Every event has its own feel, its own character and life. Events like PDXLAN are a mecca for hardware and modding enthusiasts. However, you’d be surprised how many budget, simple systems we see there every event. While you may not have a monster rig, if you enjoy gaming and want to share that passion you’ll find you’re always welcome at a LAN Event. Plus, if you are not a tech enthusiast but want to learn or just need some help with your PC, a LAN event is a great place to get that help. There is always a geek on hand that will be happy to help, and it’s likely to cost you no more than a soda and some conversation.
Many smaller events also have flea-market setups. People bring in hardware sitting around the house and sell it on the cheap to pass along the hardware to other gamers, help them get an upgrade and make a few bucks to cover beer or travel costs.
More than Gaming
The title of my article declares that Gamers NEED LAN Parties, and here I’ll explain why. As I’ve noted, LAN parties are a great place to socialize, to enjoy our hobby while getting out and spending real time with others. But the benefits don’t end there: Many LAN events are great for charity drives. PDXLAN has one of the largest I’ve ever seen outside of a national drive. These drives help others and create a wonderful opportunity to show people outside the gaming community what kind of people we are. LAN parties, as strange as it may sound, help bring new people into PC Gaming. They get to experience the community, not as a bunch of anonymous voices over a comms server but as living, breathing people standing or sitting around them. People that share life experiences and enjoy each other’s company in a way that is not available sitting at home.
I understand that LAN events aren’t always easy to attend. First there is the travel: Unless the event happens to be held close to your home, you might have to invest a few extra days in driving or the money for a flight. The expense of eating away from home and the hassle of moving your system around are two other difficulties.
Let me propose the flipside to that way of thinking. Many families today game together. Dad, the kids and more often even Mom all enjoying gaming at different levels. Think of a once-a-year LAN event as a family vacation. Load up the computer and drive to the event. Enjoy a few meals with friends you often talk to but seldom see. Share some drinks with your buddies. The cost of attending such an event is likely less than you would imagine. Hotels work out lower costs for rooms for these events, while sharing a pizza with your buddies isn’t exactly going to land you in the poorhouse.
One of the perks of my job with SAPPHIRE is being able to travel around the US and even to Canada to attend LAN events. I have met some great people and made some amazing memories. In fact, in my office more than a few of the pictures on my wall are from those events and of the people I have met. Going back to these events each year is like a family re-union. People I have not seen or spoken with all that often come up, we hug, share what has happened in our lives, laugh and cry together. Then we game together, trash talk, yell and get excited as we share a passion that has brought us together again.
This connection is something we so desperately need—in the Gaming world, and indeed beyond it. So, I encourage every PC Gamer out there to find a local LAN Event. If there isn’t one near you, start one. Take this amazing hobby we all share and love, and enjoy it with others that understand that drive and passion. Becoming part of a good LAN community is an experience every gamer should have. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll bump into each other, share some gaming stories and a pizza.