Gaming Human Interest

Are LAN Parties and Tournaments Dead?

Written by Izak Van Heerden

According to this Polygon gaming article, LAN (Local Area Network) parties are social gaming events where friends gather at the same house with their PCs and play games together. During LAN parties, friends play against each other, trash talk, work as a team and bond for hours.

For some people, catching their friends’ physical reactions to their gaming mistakes, deaths, kills, victories and frustrations is entertainment that online gameplay simply can’t beat. Unfortunately, these type of LAN party gaming experiences are moving from mainstream into a niche of dedicated fans remembering the heydays of hooking up coax connectors.

LAN parties and tournaments were very popular in the days of old-school, skill-based PC shooters, with Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament and Quake at the top of many gamers’ lists for those get-togethers.

Benefits of LAN Parties

With computers hooked up to the same local network, lag was something that gamers didn’t have to be concerned about at all; gaming across computers were seamless experiences.

Many of the games that could be connected to LAN were relatively easy to pick up and learn how to play. Spending a little time learning the game’s mechanics and learning how to navigate the multiplayer maps would be pretty much all that is required to survive in LAN tournaments.

Most games included the option to run their multiplayer content across multiple PCs when they’re all connected to a LAN. This meant that a large group of gamers could play together using only one or two physical copies of the game between them all.

   

Downsides of LAN Parties

In the past and the present, LAN parties had their disadvantages as well. The biggest reason for its decline is the need for gamers to pack up their PC equipment and components and take them a central location such as a friend’s house. Gamers in this Spiceworks forum lament having to lug all of their PC parts to a friend’s house, just to play games that they play online normally these days anyway.

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Games can take up quite a bit of bandwidth when many gamers are linked to the same server or network, and LAN parties were not immune to this negative aspect of social gaming. Playing with four or more people on a LAN network could lead to laggy games, game crashes and general frustration for everyone at the LAN party.

Gaming Then and Now

For the vast majority of games, LAN modes are not even an option. Games of the past allowed gamers to hook up their PCs to a LAN network in a central location such as a friend’s home. Some companies and groups still hold scheduled and pop-up LAN events from time to time, as mentioned by these gamers. The multiplayer games of today virtually all require gamers to connect to the game’s servers and use their matchmaking features to play together or against other groups.

LAN parties were a way to retreat from the troubles of the world and enjoy good games with good friends. But now social gaming necessarily means engaging with the world, with an ever-present connection to national-wide and even global gaming networks. Game publishers no longer even give players discs that they could use to clone their games to share with friends.

Progression Gaming and LAN Parties

The gaming industry’s focus on progression-type online games is yet another way to kill off any lingering interest in LAN parties and tournaments. In the skill-based games that made LAN parties so beloved in the past, everyone starts off equally, with the same weapons, abilities, and initial chances for victory.

Progression in these sorts of games was internal and personal: the gamer could notice (as could others) that they improved in the game as they studied the maps and how other gamers played.

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When the gamer plays the game, their game character(s) gains experience or points, levels up and unlocks newer and stronger abilities, talents and weapons along the way to the game’s maximum level. It permits an opportunity for gamers to flaunt their accomplishments and provides daily and weekly incentives to play these online games. Lastly, this progression provides more incentive for gamers to buy into the game’s pay-to-play content, often including exclusive gear, weapons, map packs or extra missions or multiplayer features.

This newer system of progression can be crippling for LAN parties. It’s hard to enjoy playing in a room with a group of friends when one of them is armed to the teeth with the best and strongest weapons and gear while everyone else has to play catch-up. While not necessarily a death-blow to LAN parties, the current progression-focused online gaming climate can make finding the right sorts of games to bring to a LAN party a complex, tricky endeavor.

Times Have Changed

We attended a massive LAN tournament recently and noticed a couple of trends:

LAN Tournaments: Trends That Are Becoming Obvious

There Are More Open Spots in the Same Venue Every Year

The fact that fewer and fewer people attend these meetup sessions seems symptomatic of how generation Z’ers (people born in the 90s and first decade of the 21st Century) are characterized. It seems they prefer to stay at home and get takeout. Why go out to meet people when the Wifi connected PS4 hooks them up with unlimited multiplay opportunities?

There Are Fewer High School Kids and More People in Their Twenties an Thirties

Remember Pokemon Go when it came out in 2016? Everybody downloaded the app and were pokeballing Q Bones on every street corner. Then the fad blew over and only a niche stuck around playing the game. I get the same vibe here – LAN parties were a necessity due to the Internet not fast enough back in the day for multiplay, when the Internet caught up in bandwidth, most gamers retreated to their bedrooms to score kills. The people still holding LAN parties are older people nostalgic about times gone by.

Conclusion

LAN-party gaming used to be the only way to play against other gamers or to team up with them to take on powerful NPCs or other players. Easier-to-access high-speed internet and the drive towards global recognition and progression has drastically changed how gamers interact with each other, both in the real world and in the digital world. Sadly, it seems that LAN parties will ultimately be left behind as the gaming industry continues to evolve.

About the author

Izak Van Heerden

Izak has witnessed a couple of decades worth of changing tech. He hopes to make it a couple more until his conscience can be copied to a cyborg body.

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