With the release of Halo 4 last week and Call of Duty: Black Ops II today, dorms across the nation have been and will continue to be filled with the blaring sounds of war and raging male hormones. These releases will inevitably lead to a lot of groups getting together at a set location to enjoy the games. This is generally referred to as a LAN party. LAN is a computer networking term which stands for “local area network”. While small LAN parties have suffered from the growth of internet connectivity, get-togethers among friends are still quite common, even if the LAN part has been replaced with online play.

It’s my hope that this guide will give you a fundamental understanding and overview of LAN party essentials and how to make the most out of your face-to-face gaming time with friends. Too many LAN parties fall victim to many classic problems that keep them from being great. And no one wants to waste time at a sub-par LAN party.


Having a great space to set-up a LAN is paramount. As much as I don’t mind rubbing shoulders with my friends in a hot, cramped room for the sake of simply having a LAN, preventing that sort of situation would be best for everyone’s sake. This means clearing out as much as possible from the room you’ll be using. Your typical dorm room or bedroom may be a tight squeeze, but with a little feng shui on your side you’d be surprised by how much can fit comfortably in a small space. So make sure you have a nice, clean area with reachable power plugs (and don’t skimp on surge protectors, you will probably need more than you initially imagine).


Scrounging up a few folding tables for the big event shouldn’t be too difficult, but finding enough chairs for everyone may be a challenge. This is especially true if your friends are used to comfortable chairs and don’t want to feel their rear-ends crying out in pain after a few hours. Having everyone bring their own seating is the best way to correct this problem. However, when Tim shows up and tries to fit his La-Z-Boy recliner through your doorway, it’s perfectly acceptable to send him packing.

Setting up a couple of tables on opposite walls or next to each other in the middle of the room are good examples of classic setups that should leave plenty of room for the traffic of coming-and-going gamers.


As important as proper food, drink, and non-gaming supplies are for a successful LAN party, the essentials are actually purely equipment. The gaming-specific items people need to bring should be agreed upon well ahead of time. Whether this be a PC LAN or console LAN, if everyone isn’t pulling their weight and people end up having to share equipment, it can affect the fun of the whole show. Here’s a simple checklist to get you started:

  • Network Switch: If you’re planning on actually LAN-ing at your LAN, this is the key ingredient to success. An 8-port switch is recommended, but depending on the size of your get-together, a 5-port will do the trick. Switches are fairly cheap as well, ranging from $20-$40.
  • Ethernet Cables: Thinking that you’ll magically end up with enough of these is a mistake you may have to learn the hard way. Someone will always forget something and it’s generally the most simple items that end up being forgotten, so be sure to have plenty of extra cables on hand.
  • Keyboards/Mice/Controllers: Once again, people will rarely forget their PCs or consoles, but will most likely freak out when they can’t find their Deathadder.
  • Monitors/Televisions: Your typical 19 to 23-inch monitor or television is optimal for the LAN and competitive gaming environment and most people probably have one. However, make sure someone has the Tim of your group covered with an extra because he’s sure to point out that he can’t bring his 50-inch plasma (he’s too cool to own a decent-sized monitor).

Smooth Sailing

So you’ve successfully setup the LAN area and you’re feeling pretty good. Now comes the most difficult part: keeping everyone happy. This is where the food, drinks, and non-gaming essentials come into play. Have a steady supply of agreed upon favorites and keep an eye on Tim, he’s been eyeing the last bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Because you’re dealing with expensive electronics, it’s best to have a strict policy of no cans allowed. They only cause problems and even the most careful and calm gamer can end up accidentally sending an open Red Bull can flying into the back of their best friend’s PC in a momentary fit of rage. So while you may feel like your mother when insisting that Tim keep his bottle capped, it’s for the safety of everyone’s equipment.

And if you don’t want everyone dropping and stepping on crumbs while wiping orange fingers on their pants, it’s a good idea to get paper plates and napkins. As gamers, we may sometimes come off as filthy creatures, but you’d be surprised by what happens when we’re supplied with solutions to our orange fingers.

It’s also good to keep everyone on the same schedule. If some people are heading to bed too early or too late, you could find many hours wasted waiting for everyone to sync back up. This is a problem when Tim has decided to sleep until 4pm and he’s needed to make teams even in an upcoming game. Be sure your friends all want to make the most of the time you have together, so you avoid this type of situation.

Lastly and most importantly, having someone bring a Nintendo 64 makes any LAN party a success. Sure, you could settle for a Gamecube, but try not to settle. There will times when people get frustrated at the current game and need a break. This is when busting out Mario Party, Mario Kart, or Super Smash Bros. will instantly boost the mood and bring everyone together for some classic and competitive fun.

Good luck with setting up your LAN and leave us comment telling us about your most recent or upcoming get-together and what games you and friends are currently playing.

Image Source: Fozzman