For this monthly musing I've decided to take a look at the gaming culture which is central to me and my friends, one which over the last three years I've wholeheartedly embraced, and is without a doubt the best way I can think of spending a weekend.
There are two types of LAN parties in common existence, those that require huge organization and draw huge numbers of attendees, and those that require a week of phone calls and a BYO network cable attitude. Unfortunately I've never been to the former, (I live in Nelson, New Zealand,) but the latter is my specialty.
But first lets make sure we have a clear definition of a LAN party.
First off, it's primarily a pc gaming event. People can bring consoles if they have to, but everyone is expected to bring their own computer.
Secondly, less than four people is not a lan party, it's just another weekend. Typically there needs to be 8 or more players for a real party.
Thirdly, none of this just for one day bullshit. Lan parties go from as early as guests want to arrive in the morning until as late as they want to leave the next day. Or longer.
And finally, there needs to be a hell of a lot of gaming. Anything goes as long as someone else wants to play it.
Anyway back to my lan parties. Generally I'm in charge of organizing everything. Firstly this means securing a venue. My house is terrible because my mum doesn't want us gaming all night, and tries to make us go to bed. She also wants everyone to eat a healthy amount of food, which she then uses as a counter-lan argument based on the amount of cooking she would have to do for all my friends. So as a general rule I set up lans at other peoples places where we don't get disturbed.
The most common location is the garage, which often has ample room for 16 people, a dependable power supply and is removed from the living area of the house. However the most comfortable location is the lounge. Preference is usually left to the owner of the house.
Once the location and date of the lan is set, I consult my handy lan.txt, which has a list of gamers and their phone numbers. I just go down this list calling people and seeing what they're up to, then invite them. At the moment it has 16 names. Generally we peak at about 12 people that can make it, including randoms that get invited by others.
Transportation can be a bitch, at the last lan I gave 3 other people a ride back to my place in dads car. Finally my tetris training came in handy for packing three full size computers, 2 crt monitors, 2 lcd monitors a laptop, a shuttle, various cables/accessories and sleeping gear into the boot. I also had my leather office chair sitting on my knees on the way home.
However once everyone is at a lan, the fun really begins with everyone setting up. I always bring multiple network cables and power cables, as well as two extension cords and multiboxes. I'm also in charge of the primary network gear, being an 8 port gigabit switch and a 4 port 100mb switch. Additional gear is borrowed as needed.
As for the gamers themselves... well here are some common stereotypes that I've come across through my years of lan gaming.
The Hardcore Gamer is the guy thats there to win above all else. They have their computer tweaked and customized to squeeze out that extra 1.7fps that could give them an advantage. Loosing is never EVER their fault, and the hardcore gamer will go above and beyond the expected to blame it on something else. However the hardcore gamer will never ever cheat or use cheapness to win, they are their to prove that they are more skillful, not to camp like a mofo. In team games the hardcore gamer cares far more about their score than their team. Examples include raging at kill stealers, avoiding the objectives, and rage quitting when teamkilled.
Catchphrase: F**king Lag!
Enemy: The Camper.
Plays: FPS and RTS (but only balanced rts).
Avoids: MMO, RPG.
The Token German Exchange Student is there because someone thought it would be cool to invite them. Nine times out of ten they don't really know what they are doing and have a shitty laptop, or are expecting a big pissup. We did however have one completely awesome guy with a gaming laptop who got right into everything we played and was an all round great gamer to have. His name was David German, the joke being he was asked by nooblet if his last name was 'German', and the answer was yes. Picture is of a guy expecting vodka and who brought a laptop with a radeon 7550 or something.
Catchphrase: I don't get drunk, just tipsy.
Enemy: The RAFG.
Plays: Quake3, if they can run it.
Avoids: Doesn't get much choice there.
The Camper is more at home with an internet connection and a game of WoW. However someone or something dragged them out of their cave to get one in the yarbles, if he has any yarbles. The Camper's favorite pastime is winning, however they are unlikely to put any effort into this. They will however bitch about the lack of internet, and if given the chance return to their favorite mmo.
Catchphrase: Camping is a legitimate strategy.
Enemy: The Hardcore Gamer.
Plays: FPS, unbalanced RTS, MMO/RPG.
Avoids: FPS you can't camp in.
The casual gamer is there because their girlfriend was busy, or there was no party this weekend. Of course they enjoy themselves, but are easy targets and require assistance plugging things in and installing games.
Catchphrase: How the f**k do you aim like that?
Avoids: Any evidence they were at a lan.
The RAFG - Random As F**k Guy - is the guy who plays for fun, is most likely to go outside and do something, and has been seen jumping into bushes simply just because he can. Seriously anything can happen with a RAFG around. On the bright side the RAFG can occasionally bake some delicious cake. The conflict with the Token German Exchange Student is primarily caused by the exchange students lack of prior knowledge of the RAFG, and they are therefore unprepared for the following assault on their logic.
Catchphrase: There's f**king rose clippings in here!
Enemy: Token German Exchange Student.
Plays: Anything you can do something crazy in (bunnyhopping, rocketjumping).
The asshole never gets invited more than once. They piss off everyone at the lan at least once, and can ruin the entire party. Examples of assholeness include yelling constantly just to piss people off, stealing energy drinks, taking the piss out of nice people who are doing well simply because they try, and turning up uninvited. Revenge comes in unexpected ways, at one lan there was an empty soda bottle designated for throwing at an asshole if he said anything.
Catchphrase: Says every single players name in a way that offends/annoys them. Says it loudly and as often as they can.
Plays: Wants to play everything, never gets invited to install/join.
Avoids: Shutting the f**k up.
The New Guy can be very variable, because they can be a complete n00b, or a cool guy who doesn't afraid of anything. In the case of this guy, he had a freaking awesome new comp but it came with vista so nothing worked properly. I helped him resize his ntfs partition and install xp overnight though.
NO DATA AVAILABLE
There is no category that fps_nÖÖblët ¾ fits into. He is partly RAFG, partly Hardcore Gamer, but mostly himself. He's the guy that uses crouchjump irl, runs down the street pretending to fire dual pistols, and makes crazy noises no-one can understand. At first most people cant stand him because of his craziness, but then he grows into a necessary part of every lan.
Catchphrase: (He has a new one every time I see him).
Enemy: Everyone loves him, sort of. Actually most people cant stand him. Hell I don't know.
Plays: Absolutely everything.
The Freeloader is some prick without a comp that hears about the party and decides to turn up uninvited. Unless I know them quite well, they really annoy me as they are incredibly distracting and boring. The general entry method is to walk in, say hi to a few people, steal food and then beg everyone to have a turn playing. Some people are completely fine as freeloaders, they know not to get in the way and just hang around cracking jokes and cheering/booing players. The worst expect that you should give them as much of a turn as they want, and become offended if you don't let them play. They then find it incredibly funny how much they suck and think everyone else should too. Examples include teamkilling and running into walls.
Catchphrase: How do you....?
Plays: Anything they can get their hands on.
Avoids: Being asked to leave.
Food at lan parties varies, depending on the amount of money people have on them. Sometimes we make a massive pizza order, sometimes everyone brings instant noodles, and sometimes we survive on chips alone. However one thing remains constant, the excessive amount of energy drink.
One of the best thing about small lans is that its just generally a fun time had by all, with no strict rules and regulations. We can watch movies, have music blasting out of a sound system, and steal as much pirated stuff as we want off each other.
But the fun has to come to an end at some point, and the worst part of a lan is cleaning up. Especially when everyone is so sleep deprived. However its a team effort and suprisingly we get shit done. Tables get carried to various parts of the house, spills get mopped up, crumbs vacuumed (usually the hosts job) and all the cabling gets shoved into a bag somewhere.
And then everyone leaves, one by one or in carpools. The lan of epic win is over, and I think everyone is left completely satisfied, and exhausted.
For those of you who are yet to experience the ecstasy of a good lan, I suggest getting yourself, your computer, your friends and some network equipment, a whole shitload of energy drink, some good junk food, a lounge and some good music. Then the rest just plays out from there, best way to spend a weekend ever.