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No, Polygon, LAN Parties Aren’t Dead

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A recent article by Ben Kuchera at Polygon has gone ahead to bemoan the ‘fact’ that “gaming has left the LAN party behind.” While Kuchera may be forgiven for sounding like an older fellow wistfully remembering that bygone era when you could get a soda for a nickel, I think he’s a little off the mark. LAN parties are not only alive, they have gotten massive.

Kuchera’s article opines the fact that modern shooters have progression and almost always require an outside internet connection. Back in the day, you see, games like Quake and Unreal Tournament would allow you to install the multiplayer component on multiple computers so you could lug your desktop and CRT monitor (have you ever had to lift one of those? They’re heavy as anything!) to a friend’s house and game all weekend long fueled only by Mountain Dew and Doritos. Today, our games are far too locked in progression to allow these close gatherings. Either not everyone is on equal footing, or the games don’t allow for a LAN mode.

To some extent, Kuchera is absolutely correct. The number of games coming out with a LAN mode has dwindled as a whole. In fact, it’s noteworthy when a game does include the functionality. That being said, there are absolutely still a few modern games that do include it such as Saints Row IVContagion, and Arma IIIDotA 2 also allows a LAN function if you want to scratch that MoBA itch and move away from shooters. If you’re also looking for a really fun LAN game, look at Blur which was released in 2010 but makes for an excellent adult Mario Kart and is highly underrated. Hell, Chivalry is also an amazingly fun LAN game. These are even including the non-typical games, when you look at the typical ones like Counter-Strike: Source and Counter-Strike: GO (which Kuchera did mention), you end up with a list of games more than capable of filling up a weekend.

Yet another point he makes is that progression is pretty much the bane of real LAN party fun. That is perfectly valid, yet his statement that “the pure skill-based games are an anachronism, and they’re unlikely to return any time soon,” isn’t entirely on point. Fighting on an even playing field does make the experience that much better, but not every game has progression. Just look at that list above for quite a few examples. It’s by no means a majority, but if you look hard enough you come away with a great collection of games that is more than enough to fill up an entire weekend. I’ve also had a hell of a good time booting up a co-op game with friends and spending an entire LAN party playing that. If you really want to see a decent list built for any LAN party, take a look at this Steam curator page.

To say gaming is leaving LAN behind I think is approaching this from the wrong angle. What is the functionality LAN gives us when many homes are equipped enough to handle multiple gaming connections in one room? Less lag, sure, but depending on how many people are in one LAN party, there’s every chance the home’s internet connection should be able to sustain many gamers playing Battlefield 4 or League of Legends. LAN functionality, or the lack thereof, doesn’t mean the essential components of a LAN party are any less fun. Getting together to smack talk in one room while gaming is still one of the best things ever, even if we still have access to the internet.

LAN parties aren’t just about small groups of friends, though. They can be massive events. Late last year I attended the GXL which attracted several hundred gamers for an amazing LAN weekend. Earlier this month several more hundred gamers descended upon Louisville, KY for Lanwar, yet another amazing LAN event. Just this past weekend I attended MAGFest and that even included a LAN section for gamers. As I type this, ClutchCon in Denver, CO is hosting a 500 PC and Console LAN party.

My point is, despite Kuchera opining that “it’s becoming clear that the humble LAN party is becoming an outdated concept in the modern world of gaming,” the art of the LAN part is still alive, and it is constantly evolving. The technology is different, and often the scale is different, but the act itself is still there. That desire for face-to-face contact is still constant in gaming, and the lack of LAN capability in a majority of games won’t change that in the least.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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