PCXL Magazine November 1998: Ping-Free Partying
Who Needs Online Gaming When You Can Lug Your Kit Around Town to Shout Abuse at Complete Strangers? Online Gaming is Dead. LAN Parties Are Where It’s At.
Now, why the hell would you go to all the trouble of unplugging your computer and monitor, putting them in the car, and hauling them across town, only to set them up again — just for a game?
Answer: LAN party!
The movement toward orga- nized on-site gatherings for gam- ing has really exploded lately, and with good reason. Just think of all the stuff an on-site LAN party can do for you: You get to have a good time. You’re free to scarf as much junk food as your stomach lining will permit. You hook up with friends and get to blow the hell out of people you’d never met before they showed up on your doorstep, CPU and Qll disc in hand. Best of all, YOU CONQUER LAG. No more glitch kills on your record; if someone takes you down, it really is because you sucked. At least for that moment.
“There’s nothing like person-to-person play — it’s so exciting, the most fun you can have. I love see- ing the expression on people’s faces when they’ve nailed a par- ticularly good kill,” says jason “WIZbang” Delmar, who hosts the TALON Games parties in the San Francisco area. Of course, every day is a LAN party at PCXL, as we constantly hop on our LAN for any reason. Having a row of computers that stretches for miles cer- tainty looks pretty cool, but just imagine trying to set up this nightmarish web of cords (above). Junk food is required, although Cheetos aren’t recommended due to the sticky orange residue likely to be left everywhere.
On an unorganized basis, LAN parties are hardly a brand-new phenomenon, especially if you factor in office play. (I recall many a night spent at a magazine I used to work for, playing Duke Nukem 3D over GameLAN before it finally sprang for a decent Intranet.) But given that the net- work algorithms for action games are completely mature at this point, and on top of that, the Internet’s continued inability to guarantee lag-free play, a dedi- cated network of gamers has devised a structure to communi- cate and set up killfests.
For the guests, life is simple — you just cart your computer and monitor, hook up, pay whatever the going rate is (typically in the neighborhood of $10, depending on the quality of eats and cost of location) to cover your share of space rental, food, and other costs. A successful host — as with any party — has a lot more to think about. For starters, is there enough power? LAN parties outgrow your house pretty fast, both because of space reasons (how many people can you realistically cram into your living room?) and the power drain from a slew of computers and peripherals (like speakers). A LAN party can run anywhere from you and a couple of friends, to a 100-plus gathering at a rented convention hall or other big space. So, you need to find a space that’ll hold however many people you’re expecting and sup- ply enough juice. Then you’ll want one or more dedicated servers to host the games.
And there are the extras you’ll want. “I keep a few extra network cards, and I’d have extra CPUs if I could manage it,” says Seth “Looch” Cheffetz, host of the East Coast Massacre in Connecti- cut. “I had one guy who came up from New York once and found that he couldn’t get his computer running; he ended up playing much of the time on mine while I was dealing with organizational stuff.” Headsets are another must if you’re having a no-speakers event — and that’s not just for the noise issue either, as speakers double the power requirements for your host location.
Then there’s the detail work. “You have to approach this like you would any party you have,” says Dave “Fargo” Kosak, founder of lanparty.com and host of LAN parties in Southern California. (To PCXL that means invite girls, and guys will come even if you don’t want them.) “You want to make sure people have what they need to have fun.” Food, prizes, and even offbeat themes all figure into this, he says; he’s done funny hats, holiday-themed events, and you know what Hal- loween brings, right?
Is all this too much hassle? “You know, I have more fun doing the organizing in some ways than I do playing,” Looch says.