From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
A LAN party is a temporary, sometimes spontaneous, gathering of people with computers, between which they establish a local area network (LAN), primarily for the purpose of playing multiplayer computer games. The size of these networks may vary from the very small (two people) to very large installations. Small parties can form spontaneously, but large ones usually require a fair amount of planning and preparation. As of 2007, the world record for the size of a LAN party is 10,445 connected systems, set at DreamHack, in Jönköping, Sweden.
LAN party events differ significantly from LAN gaming centers and Internet cafes in that they generally require to bring your own computer (BYOC) and are not permanent installations, often taking place in general meeting places or residences.
Small LAN parties
These are sometimes established between small groups of friends, and hosted at a central location or one that is known to all participants. Such events are often organized quickly with little planning, and some overnight events, with some stretching into days (or even weeks). Because of the small number of players, games are usually played on small levels and/or against bots.
A small LAN party requires a hub/switch, with enough ports to accommodate all the players, a fair amount of power, and suitable surfaces for all the computers. Providing refreshments is often also a duty of the host, though guests are usually asked to contribute. In larger parties where participants may not all know each other personally, an entry fee may even be charged. Another tradition of some small groups is to purchase large amounts of fast food for consumption over many days. Many LAN participants will also bring energy drinks and other food to consume over the course of the party.
To set up these parties a network hub/switch isn’t always required. If all the computers have Wi-Fi capability, an ad-hoc network may be set up. This allows two or more computers to connect over a wireless connection, thereby eliminating the need for a wired network.
When some of the participants cannot be present or when merging a few LAN parties together, VPN software such as Hamachi can be used to arrange computers over the Internet so they appear to be on the same LAN.
Normally the host will host the games but sometimes at very small LAN parties (eg. 2 or 3 people) all participants will connect to a online internet server and add a word in front of their name to tell everyone else that they are a clan or group. At bigger LANs (eg. 5 or more people) the host or a friend of the host will use a spare PC as a game server to serve all the participants. Usually the host and/or the owner are admins.
Larger LAN parties
A photo from the world’s largest LAN party, DreamHack.
Many commercialized parties offer various tournaments, with competitions in such games as StarCraft, Quake series, Call of Duty 4, Warcraft III, Counter-Strike Source, Unreal Tournament, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, America’s Army, Battlefield 2, Doom series, and Halo series sometimes awarding prizes to the winners. Prizes can include computer hardware such as overclocking kits, cases, lights, fans, graphics cards and sometimes even complete computers (often considered humorous as typically the winner of the competition would already have (and be competing on) a custom PC far superior to the prize).
The duration of the event is not standardized; many organized parties last for a weekend, while there have also been longer and shorter parties such as weekend wars.
Big LAN parties often offer a quiet place to sleep, shower, and eat, as well as hired security, alternative entertainment (such as music), and a dedicated support crew, as well as a professionally managed network including a connection to the Internet. Catering might come in the form of a bar, delivered food such as pizza, or nearby shops. Some parties come fully catered in the form of regular barbecues or even employment of a catering staff running a public canteen.
Gaming clans — groups of gamers that often play in team games—often use these gatherings to meet one another, since they typically play together over the Internet between other parties with little real-world contact. Their goal is often to win tournaments. Clans are often in “ladders” where they move up after winning a match. As well as counting for standings in national and international gaming leagues such as the CPL there are regular events such as QuakeCon in which the very best players from around the world compete against one another, much like in popular sports. Practice matches are usually held prior to a match so competitors can get a rough idea of what they are up against.
Some attendees also use these parties for the purpose of file sharing. Copyright infringement via file sharing is often discouraged or forbidden by the larger parties. However, enforcement is rare and spotty due to the time involved and often a lack of desire by organizers. Some LAN parties actively support file sharing for legitimate purposes (game patches, updates, user contributed content), and may run Direct Connect hubs or other P2P service servers. One of the main reasons for running such servers is so file sharing can be monitored/controlled while standard Windows file sharing (SMB/CIFS) can be blocked, thus preventing the spread of SMB/CIFS-based viruses. Most P2P setups used at LAN parties also have a ‘centralized’ chat area, where all members of the LAN party can converse in an IRC-like environment.
There are also other kinds of parties not referred to as “LAN parties” where temporary LANs are built, but are not used as a main attraction. Amongst these are demoparties such as Assembly and hacker conventions such as DEF CON.
In the traditionally active demoscene countries, such as those in Northern Europe, the LAN party culture is often heavily influenced by demoparties. This is due to the fact that many of the largest demoparties were already well established in the early 1990s and their facilities were also suitable for large-scale LAN party activity. This eventually led gaming clans and other similar groups to attend these events and regard them merely as large LAN parties. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for “pure” LAN parties in Northern Europe to organize some demoscene-like competitions in areas such as computer graphics or home videos.