A LAN party involves a group of computer users playing games with each other across a Local Area Network, or LAN. Groups of gamers ranging widely in size can be found at LAN parties all over the world, interacting with each other through their computers as well as interpersonally. While the concept is derided by some non-gamers, a LAN party can be a very fun activity for the participants, although a certain level of geekiness is required.
Several things distinguish a LAN party from other types of computer gaming. The first is that participants bring their own computers, and must configure them on the network themselves. The second is the use of a network, rather than communication over the Internet. This means that the game operates much more quickly, since gamers are not sharing bandwidth with Internet traffic. Some Internet gamers struggle significantly with lag, and are confused by in-game events due to the slowness of their connections. The third is the aspect of interpersonal reaction which occurs, as a LAN party is an extremely festive event.
The most common type of LAN party is a spontaneous one, which generally features a relatively limited number of gamers in a private home. A spontaneous gathering of people on computers tends to be kept small because large groups of gamers require significant logistics. Gaming can go on for hours or days, and with a small group, making sure that everyone is fed and provided with spaces to bathe and sleep, if desired, is relatively easy. A spontaneous LAN party is usually held among friends or a gaming clan, a group of people who have organized and met through an online game.
An organized LAN party, on the other hand, can get quite large. Record setting LAN parties with hundreds of gamers in large rented facilities have been held all over the world. Typically, gamers pay a small fee to participate, ensuring that they will have access to a dedicated power supply and central server. In addition, organizers provide the gamers with hospitality facilities and catered meals.
To a casual observer, a LAN party may appear intensely nerdy. However, for gamers, a LAN party is an excellent way to get out of the house, meet people, and enjoy human interactions. Many members of the gaming community isolate themselves from the rest of society, which often has difficulty understanding them. At a LAN party, gamers can be with their own kind, ensuring that everyone has a mutual appreciation for the party and the attendees. Gamers can also strike up interactions with other attendees, thanks to the clear area of mutual interest.