The origin of the term LAN party is quite simple. LAN is the acronym for “Local Area Network”, and then party, which is a celebration. (Ducrocq, 2011)
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In a video game context, the LAN party was initially a festive event where participants played on a local network. Although the majority of competitive games no longer allow for LAN play and require an Internet connection to connect to servers managed directly by the game studios, the term LAN has remained. The notion of being face-to-face, i.e. directly on site and not on the Internet, is one of the key elements to fully understand the phenomenon. In addition, although the term “party” is often removed in favor of using only the expression “LAN”, it brings a necessary component to the event. The atmosphere of a LAN is festive, whether or not there is competition. Central to the development of electronic sports, the LAN phenomenon has also been studied from several other perspectives. We leave you some references in the bibliography (Jansz & Martens, 2005; Taylor & Witkowski, 2010; Witkowski, 2012; Witkowski, 2013).
Differences between LAN
There are several variables that distinguish LAN from each other. The following elements are not mentioned in any particular order of importance: duration, number of participants, types of activities, and the logistics surrounding the gaming devices.
Number of participants – while a LAN can be composed of only a few people in an apartment, LAN in Quebec have on average about 50 to 200 participants. At the moment, the biggest ones in Quebec are DreamHack Montréal, LAN ETS and LAN JDL.
Types of activities – obviously, playing video games is the main activity of the event. However, there are some nuances. For example, the JDL LAN consists of tournaments with teams made on site where there are no scholarships, but rather participation prizes. While the LAN ETS has tournaments where competitive teams register in advance and the winners receive cash prizes. Some LANs, such as DreamHack, also have a variety of activities organized in parallel, which are not necessarily related to video games.
Gaming Device Logistics – Most LAN parties are BYOC (bring your own computer). Basically, LAN participants are expected to come to the event with all the necessary equipment. At some places (e.g. Le Skyzo or Esports Central), it is possible to rent the room and organize a LAN where all the equipment is already provided. In 2009, the realization of a small LAN party was relatively simple and could even be done in a school library (Peterson, 2009). Today, however, the need for an excellent Internet connection complicates matters.
The importance of LAN in Quebec
While this may be true in other parts of the world, I prefer to avoid overgeneralizations as much as possible. Therefore, in Quebec, LAN parties have played a catalytic role for many organizations by giving them a goal to achieve. Indeed, on the local scene, the victories at DreamHack Montreal, and before that at LAN ETS, are what mainly allow to know who has the best teams at this or that game. For many gamers, the LAN is a unique opportunity to meet in person people they often see online all year long.
Here are two videos of the LAN ETS.
Opinion: Although some LANs were done online as a result of the health measures put in place during the pandemic, they will likely return to the in-person setting as soon as possible.
In summary, the LAN party is a festive in-person event where video game enthusiasts gather to play together, competitively or not, on their own gaming devices or not.
- Ducrocq, Samuelle (2011). « Les tribus ludiques du “LAN party” : perspectives d’apprentissage et de socialisation en contexte de compétition de jeux vidéo en réseau local » Thèse. Montréal (Québec, Canada), Université du Québec à Montréal, Doctorat en communication.
- Peterson, J. (2009). LAN party, anyone? School Library Journal, 55(3), 26-n/a.
- Jansz, J., & Martens, L. (2005). Gaming at a LAN Event: The Social Context of Playing Video Games. New Media & Society, 7, 333–355.). Gaming at a LAN Event: The Social Context of Playing Video Games. New Media & Society, 7, 333–355.
- Taylor, T. L., & Witkowski, E. (2010). This is How We Play it: What a Mega-LAN Can Teach Us About Games. In Y. Pisan (Ed.), Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Game. Monterey, CA: ACM Press.
- Witkowski, E. (2012). “On the Digital Playing Field: How We “Do Sport” with Networked Computer Games”, Games and Culture. Volume 7. Issue 5. September 2012 pp. 349 – 374.
- Witkowski, E. (2013). Eventful masculinities: Negotiations of Hegemonic Sporting Masculinities at LANs. In M. Consalvo, K. Mitgutsch, & A. Stein (Eds.) Sports Videogames. New York: Routledge.