Some advice from a dude that just went.
I don’t think I’ll ever not be shocked by the number of PC gamers I meet that have not attended a LAN event. Trust me when I say I understand many of the reasons gamers have for not going. No one is thrilled by the idea of disassembling their command centers and traveling with upwards of $1000 worth of gear. We have spouses or children that we feel like we’re abandoning whenever we leave for a weekend of fun. And, let’s be honest, with modern video games and video game clients we can attach all our gaming friends to a tidy little list where we can game together whenever we happen to be online at the same time. I understand all this.
The one reason I don’t understand, however, is “I’ve never had anyone to go with me.”
I know gaming with new people can be kind of scary, but that’s a pretty weak excuse for not attending a LAN event. We game with people we don’t actually know all the time. If you do in fact know every member of your WoW guild IRL, then forgive me for assuming too much. However, if you spend most of your time gaming online with people you’ve never met face-to-face, and have always wanted to attend a LAN, stick around. I have some advice for you: just go.
Don’t fret—I’m not going to send you off unprepared like Chris McCandless into the Alaskan wilderness. I’ve compiled a short list of things you can do to make your first solo foray into the LAN world a successful and entertaining time.
Know the Rules of the Event and Location
Woah! I said entertaining, right? Well, trust me when I tell you that this is one of the most important guidelines to ensuring you have a good time.
The admins for LAN events have worked their asses off to create a list of rules that will keep things fair for every attendee at the event. They want everyone to have a good time. If people aren’t having a good time then they run the risk of not having gamers for their event. No gamers means no event. Admins are also at the mercy of whoever owns the venue where the event is being held. If something happens at the venue that the owners don’t like, then it’s bye-bye LAN. And woe unto you if you are the cause of the problem because you didn’t know that smoking next to the door was not allowed.
If some rule seems out of place, or simply strange, take a minute to email the admins and ask for clarification. Again, they want everyone to have a good time, so they will gladly explain the rule to you.
Also, if the admins change the rules on the fly, or ask/tell you to do something, channel your inner Dude and abide.
Trust me when I say that this is not unwarranted. I can almost guarantee that at your first event you will see someone get dressed down for not following the rules. At my first event, in 2007, that person was me. Firing up a P2P download client when connected to 49 other computers will get you a severe cussing.
Know Who the Admins Are
These men and women are the gods of all they survey at LAN events. Any questions or problems you might encounter can typically be handled by these beings from on-high. Connection issues? No problem. Need directions to a local fast food joint? They’ve got you. See a problem that could affect the entirety of the event? Their judgement will be swift and merciless.
More than that, it’s good for you to know who to thank for hosting the event. The admins have put in a lot of time to stage the event, and a simple thank you will be greatly appreciated.
Make Friends with Regulars
You’ll recognize these gamers—they’ll be cracking inside jokes with the admins and wearing t-shirts/badges from past events. They likely know just as much about the event as the admins, and will be willing to help a newbie such as yourself.
If they invite you to join them for a bite to eat, go. The crew of guys who invited me to lunch with them at my first event are some of my best friends now. You won’t be disappointed.
Know what Games will be played
Much like the list of rules, you should know what games will be played at the event. They’ll be posted on the event website. If you need to buy one or two, do that before you get to the event. This brings up two sub-points:
Update your games/clients/drivers before the event
This is a courtesy thing. You should be prepared to play when everyone else is. The entire event shouldn’t have to sacrifice bandwidth because you haven’t opened Steam in the last three weeks.
Don’t go to only play one game
You’ll see these people. They only want to play League or CoD. They’ll complain until those games are played, and they’ll complain after they’re played. Don’t be one of them.
If there is something you like to play that isn’t on the list, ask around. There will almost always be someone there who would love to play that game, too. Putting out the vibe can be rewarding.
Have a Sleep Plan
Unless you really, really like staying up for 30+ hours straight, I highly recommend trying to get some sleep. Working the third shift a couple days each week has given me the unique ability to stay awake when I shouldn’t, but even I don’t attempt to plow through a LAN event start to finish. I recommend packing an air mattress to catch a couple hours of shut eye. It’s easier (and cheaper) than getting a hotel room that you’re only going to use for a few hours. Or, if you’re one of the lucky people who can sleep in your computer chair, do that.
Most LAN events have a concession stand or a swap table where one can snag any number of goodies. These only accept cash. Be prepared.
Don’t be intimidated by Gear or Skill
You’ll see all manner of gaming rigs—from barely running to unicorn—and all skill sets to accompany those rigs. Admire these computers and players, but don’t let them influence your good time.
This is the last, and most important, aspect of any LAN event. You are amongst your people! LAN events typically provide everyone some amount of free swag—be excited by this. If you win a tournament or a door prize then you celebrate! Even if it’s just a new flash drive, it’s a flash drive you didn’t pay for and didn’t have before the event! Being excited will only make the experience better for you and those around you!
I can sit here at my computer desk all day and rattle off ways to make your first solo LAN experience a good one, but none of that will matter if you aren’t willing to take that first step. So, open a new tab, find a LAN event, and just go. You’ll be glad you did.