Online is great, but the fun of LAN parties is still unmatched

Last weekend my friends and I had an ongoing tradition: the annual LAN party. Every year, the party reminds me of something that should be unforgettable – you really can’t play games together in the same room.

Of course, it was easier to forget it last year. We didn’t get a chance to meet. We were creaking in the 2020 LAN before the entire pandemic hit, but the 2021 iteration was canceled in favor of a casual series of online games. But, damn it, it feels so good to be back in the same room.

So, I set up the house, everyone posted a negative test in the morning, and last Saturday, a group of friends packed my place for a 12-hour gaming and drinking session. We have six PCs – and while we have no less than six, we make sure no one gets bored with other activities. In the living room: Oculus Quest, and Switch with Smash, Mario Golf, Mario Party, and other multiplayer fun. Elsewhere, there is a dart board and a beer pong table. We were all drunk and had a good time. At the heart of the action, however, is the dining room, where six computers are networked, and one of the extra screens is activated to “mirror” the display in the kitchen as an audience area.

For me, one of the great things about our annual LAN is the breadth of gaming and the sense of discovery—and that remains true even for someone like me who thinks about video games all day, every day. It’s one thing to discuss what you’ve played at a bar or on Discord, but it’s another to experience and show it all together.

I saw games I hadn’t thought of in years (DEFCON), new games I barely had time to experience (Age of Empires 4), and games I’ve always wanted to play but never quite worked out (Ultimate General: Gettysburg) . Some show off their stuff, like selling friends at the excellent Mini Metro and SimCasino, or showing off a smart, dumb Sekiro boss strategy (though that might not be the blindfolded masterclass we saw at AGDQ 2022).

I played the recent stuff I’m still learning (playing a local 4-player Halo Infinite squad online) and the ancient stuff I think I’m a sage master (Command & Conquer Red Alert 3, Street Fighter 4). There are even some hits that aren’t likely to be outside of traditional LAN games — like the rounds that everyone tried in a Fall Guys match, where one guy walks all the way and the rest of us scream and cheer behind him.

Of course, the show-and-tell aspect goes beyond the game as well. People have new gear, new GPUs, weird RGB setups. We operate in various fields; some have laptops, some are pre-built, some are custom set up. I’m also proud of my guests, especially those unfamiliar with the tech community, because none of them succumbed to the notification pressure of installing Windows 11. Well done!

These friends and I have a Discord server where we regularly play online in smaller groups. Halo, in particular, has recently inspired a lot of online gaming. We also often see each other outside the context of video games, so the magic doesn’t come from meeting friends in person at Blue Moon or whatever. It’s all about the game. There’s something special and better about playing the game in person. In my heart, I know this because I’m an arcade evangelist. The feeling of playing a fighting game on a machine is unparalleled, where the opponent’s movements on the stick actually push the hardware. Everyone knows this.

But when you’re all in the same room, it’s easy to forget about other types of fun like shooters and strategy games. Even watch; just like Twitch, but in person! An amazing idea! ? Of course I’m stupid, but such a joke makes sense. I don’t really watch twitch, but I watched a slow-paced RTS back and forth with interest on Saturday.

So, from behind my LAN, I implore you all: try to find some buddies to play some multi-screen multiplayer games with. It doesn’t even have to be on a PC, or technically a LAN – stack some TVs and online connected game consoles if you have to – but just get together in the same room to play games. For me, it’s still the most amazing game.