Efficient Gaming: Adult LAN Party Edition

By | 03/30/2017

The adult LAN party.  No, not that kind…the other kind.

I had the pleasure of attending a LAN party over the weekend.  A good time was certainly had by all.  We almost have the formula perfected but getting to this point took some trial and error.

Nothing says “I love gaming with friends” like packing up your PC, stuffing it in your car, and driving to another house to game.  LAN parties offer the complete package of friendship, games, and laughter. There really is no better way to experience gaming.  They are also the result of preparation and planning.  This issue of Efficient Gaming focuses on how to execute a successful LAN party.  I’ll help you avoid common pitfalls and offer offer some advice to maximize the enjoyment of your social gaming experience.

Step 1: Planning

Picking a Date and Location

Google Maps

“Wait…how far do we have to travel for this?” Image credit/snip from Google Maps.

There are several ways to plan and schedule the party.  Our gaming group uses a shared sheet on Google Drive where everyone can mark the days that they are available.  Using a scheduling sheet makes it easy for everyone to see when everyone else is available and we all have access to the same data.  Once we identify two or three days that work for everyone we send out the vote for a final decision.  The takeaway here: make it easy to plan!  A Google sheet isn’t necessary but try to use a method that gives everyone access to the data.  It helps cut down on repeat emails, phone calls, and text messages that send the same information back and forth.  (Email is fine but you need to make sure everyone included actually uses their email.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “I don’t actually check my email.”)

When it comes to attendance the conversation gets a little more complicated.  Over the years the LAN group invite has been cut down to just those people who want to be there.  We used to send out an invitation to larger group but it eventually became a pointless endeavor.  When someone says no three or four times in a row, they don’t want to attend.  When you hit your mid thirties and LAN parties only come up a few times a years, it’s better to go with with the people who want to be there rather than trying the invite half the planet.  By using a select group you have a better chance at 100% attendance and it is much easier to select games that everyone can play (more on games in the next subsection).

Once a date is selected and people have confirmed their availability, set the date and stick to it.  Constantly shuffling the date only drives confusion.  If a person backs out due to real life priorities (it happens), stick to the date.  Planning an adult LAN party is hard enough with everyone juggling a job, family, and kids.  Don’t make it worse by constantly changing the date for one person.  (Note: If everyone cancels…move the date.)  After the date is confirmed, choose the host.  The group should do what it can to rotate host duties but due to kids and other complications it may be difficult for certain people to host.  Don’t hold it against someone if they can’t make a LAN party work in their house due to babies, kids, family, roommates, zoo animals, crazy live-in girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.  The host just has to be 100% sure about one thing: they have a space big (aka comfortable) enough to hold several tables and computers.

Choose the Games

It may sound obvious but a lot of people miss this one: LAN parties are the most fun when there is a clear list of games that everyone should have installed prior to the party.  I’ve been to events where no one planned the game list and the first hour (or two) was spent trying to convince people to buy or install something.  Trust me, that isn’t a fun time.  Creating the game list ahead of time has two major benefits: 1) It gives potential participants a way to disagree with a game choice.  The reality is that not everyone wants to play your favorite rogue-like-retro-hard-as-hell-voxel-sidescroller-permadeath indie title just as you might not want to play your friend’s favorite co-op shooter.  2) The list makes it clear what to install before the event date.  No one likes the guy/gal trying to download a 30Gb install file at the party.

When the LAN group is comprised of individuals who all have different tastes in gaming, it is absolutely critical to choose games that are relatively simple to learn and offer a mix of gameplay modes/options.  GTA V Online and Rocket League are prime examples of games that don’t require  “dope MLG skillz” but create those fun, exciting, and hilarious moments that make LAN gaming so much fun.  Alternatively, if the LAN group is comprised of people with similar tastes, then by all means choose a specific series of games that the group would enjoy.  Regardless of your gaming preferences, build the game list well before the LAN date.

Step 2: LAN PARTY!

Congratulations!  You successfully planned a LAN party and now it’s time to execute the plan.  The big day has arrived…

  • You packed up your machine/gear/rig/supplies the night before right?  I hope you did because you’re leaving as soon as possible.  No, seriously.  Get out the door at 8am.  You’re an adult and real life is going to come back and kick your ass soon enough so get moving.  If you aren’t hosting, get going! [Update: I recently participated in an interview with mightygoods.com where myself and others discuss packing for LAN parties.  It’s an easy read, go check it out.  I was not paid to link or advertise their site.]
  • You should pick up snacks and drinks (either on the way or night before) and be prepared to share with the group.  Don’t be the person who shows up with a 6-pack and won’t share a couple.  Alcohol isn’t required and if someone doesn’t want to drink, don’t push it on them.  We find it best to use a card table and put all the snacks/drinks in a central location.
  • If you are hosting, the “main dish” is your responsibility.  Being “lazy” and ordering a bunch of pizzas is 100% acceptable.  For the love of all that is sacred in PC gaming, don’t eat sloppy/sticky food in the same area as the computers.  When it’s time to eat, take a break and sit down away from the gaming area.
  • If you are hosting, make sure the switches/hubs/routers are set up properly by testing before people get there.  Fortunately, if something isn’t working, you can build your own IT department with all the tech savvy people coming over.  Always use wired connections (especially during a LAN party).
  • Let the games begin!  We find it best to switch between games every 2 hours (rough estimate).  Playing a single game for too long can create burnout and kill the mood.  Keep the energy high by throwing different experiences into the mix.  Our rotation often looks something like: GTA V –> Rocket League –> Starcraft Arcade –> GTA V –> Whatever.  (This is harder when the group only has one or two games on the list.  Take a break, stretch, and walk around every hour or so.)
  • If you are drinking alcohol, drink water as well.  The day lasts a lot longer when you don’t pass out at 2pm.
  • Don’t split games into groups.  I’ve been at LAN parties where one group played game A and another group played game B.  It hurts the social aspect and splits the party into groups that aren’t paying attention to each other.  The best moments at LAN parties come when everyone experiences the same thing.  
  • When the group is burned out completely, call it quits.  Don’t drag out a party if people are falling asleep or need to get back on the road.
  • Finally, remember LAN parties are just as much social as they are gaming events.  Be friendly!  Be awesome!  Have a good time.

So there you have it:  GO30’s tips for a great LAN party.  Whether you’re a first timer or seasoned pro, we hope it helps.  What other tips do you have?  Let us know.