How to Throw A LAN Party

A LAN party is an event in which a number of geeks (for example: you) gather up their beloved computers, consoles, dangerous beverages, and favorite tabletop games, and get together for a good old-fashioned evening of unadulterated geekery.

Some LAN parties are thrown professionally, for a profit.  These are fun, but sometimes you just want to have a few friends over, break out the redbull, and play some Counter-strike source late into the morning.  So, you want to throw your own LAN party?  Here are a few tips that’ll make it easier:

1.  Find a location.

In general, work out who the host will be early.  This’ll prevent recriminations and confusion down the line.  Once you’ve worked that out, start looking for a place to do it.  Ideally, it’ll be somewhere that’s spacious enough to give everyone elbow room, and somewhat isolated from the rest of the house.  The host may have a spouse, children, or roommate who, while not actually opposed to the LAN party, may be somewhat more reserved about putting up with jubilant trash talk at 3AM.  Detached garages, guest rooms, and basements all serve well.  Essentially, anywhere where you aren’t likely to get something heavy throw at your head if you jump on the table in your underwear and scream’ GODLIKE!’ at the top of your lungs at four in the morning.

Also, don’t underestimate the value of air circulation, especially in the summer.  A dozen computers all humming away at maximum capacity put out a lot of heat, which can become borderline lethal without airflow.   A bunch of sweaty geeks in a confined space will only make things worse.

Open windows if you can.  If not, crack the door and set up a few quiet fans to keep the air moving.

Heat stroke is bad. Plus, if you were to die, the obituary would be about the most pathetic thing ever written.

2.  Work out the  logistics before people show up.

Make sure you have a power strip that can handle the load, make sure you have enough network cables (or a snappy wireless router that everyone’s compatible with).  Also make sure you have a table or a desk that’s sturdy enough to support all the machines.

The humble power strip: helping you black out the Eastern seaboard since 1999.

Also, work out how long you plan for the party to run.  A three day weekend is often good, as it gives some flexibility.  Setting a firm limit allows people to plan for it – for example, by taking an afternoon off from work or school or authoring an updated will in case they die during a horrible fragging accident.

3. Set some ground rules.

Make sure there’s some simple rules in place to keep things in hand.  A few good examples:

  • No food and especially no drinks in open containers near the computers (water bottles are fine).
  • Mandated showers every eight hours.  You’ll be grateful later.
  • Everyone pitches in for food and drink.
  • Don’t mix energy drinks and alcohol.  The effects can be… erratic.
  • Everyone wears headphones.
  • Everyone cleans up after themselves.

Stacking doesn't count.

Additionally, make a list of a few multiplayer games that everyone needs to have before the party starts. Don’t add anything in super new and expensive, but make sure there are at least a couple of games that everyone can play.  Counterstrike, Starcraft, Left 4 Dead, and Need  For Speed are all good choices.

4.  Cater smartly.

Have everyone pitch in about twenty dollars towards food and drinks.  Buy a few pizzas around dinner time, and throw what’s left in the fridge when it starts to get cold.  Also buy a carton or two of ice cream or sherbet.  You’ll probably consume a lot of calories in a very short timespan, but this is not the time to watch what you eat.  Now’s the time to be a disgusting, malnourished geek.  Be proud!

As far as drinks go, you’ve got a few options.  A good choice is to set up a bar for mixing drinks.  Because, let’s face it:  red bull and jolt both taste like a smog monster took a watery sh-t in a glass.  Bawls and similar drinks have a higher caffeine to horror ratio, but are also more expensive.

Whatever you choose, also buy several cartons of off-brand soda (vanilla cream, lemon lime, and fruit flavors are all good choices)  to mix in with the energy drinks.  It’ll make them far more palatable, and help people to slow down early on.  Plus, mixing drinks is kind of fun.  Try vanilla cream soda mixed with bawls with a scoop of sherbet.

The name becomes much funnier after, oh, five.

You can throw in alcohol  as well, just beware of drinking to excess, or mixing it with megadoses of caffeine. Drunk, hyper, sleep deprived people tend to make bad decisions.  For example, involving chicken noodle soup. Unless you want, again just for example, to be called ‘noodles’ every time you drink for the next ten years, it’s just not a good idea.

For the bar itself, get a small table, fill a big cooler with ice, and get some sealable labeled containers to store the leftover half-sodas and energy drinks.  Set it up away from the computers to reduce the temptation to frag while eating.

5.  Mix it up a little.

While the majority of the LAN party is best spent gaming, a few other activities can help to avoid tedium, repetitive stress injuries, and caffeine toxicity.  Consider breaking out the old-fashioned pen and paper RPG’s, or board games (you’ll be there for quite a while, more than likely, so you can actually finish a game of Risk, if you want).  Also consider getting everyone outside to take a run around the block around dawn.  It’ll get the blood flowing and help ward off sleep.

Warning: Playing Risk at four in the morning may lead to delusions of being Stonewall Jackson.

6.    Be prepared for the aftermath.

First off, most LAN parties last for two to three days.  Very little sleep is had. Even if alcohol isn’t involved, nobody is going to be even remotely okay to drive when this is over.  Make sure that everyone has someone to pick them up, or designate a driver who’ll go to sleep early and drive everyone home.  Failure to do so may lead to death, dismemberment, and some really hilarious police reports.

Seriously, you don't want this guy driving.

Second, when it’s over, get all the computers taken down and prepared for travel, and then organize a final cleanup.  Break out the garbage bags and sponges.  It’ll be immensely helpful for the host, and is generally just a good thing to do.

By following these simple guidelines and taking a little care, fun and exasperated spousal looks can be had by all. Enjoy your LAN party!

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