A local area network (LAN) party is when people get together in a physical space to connect their computers or consoles to the same LAN network and play video games. LAN parties became popular in the 1990s when broadband internet was expensive and uncommon. LAN parties vary in size, from a get-together with a few friends to a major event involving hundreds of strangers.
LAN parties used to be the perfect way to play multiplayer games without relying on split-screen gameplay, often limiting the experience to a maximum of four players.
Common games at LAN parties were those that benefited most from the low-latency and high-reliability environment that a local network provided. First-person shooters (FPS) were particularly popular. Titles like “Counter-Strike,” “Quake,” and “Unreal Tournament” were staples of the LAN party scene.
The heyday of LAN parties was the late 1990s to the early 2000s, when broadband internet was expensive and not that widespread. This was also before a good internet speed for gaming was uncommon to have. Users lacking access to high-speed internet found that LAN parties were also good opportunities to share files and software with each other.
While LAN parties have shrunk in popularity, they continue to be used. In fact, the latest renditions of Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PS are fully capable of LAN gameplay.
The size of these networks may vary from as few as two people to very large gatherings of a hundred or more. Small parties can form spontaneously and take advantage of common household networking equipment, but larger ones typically require more planning, equipment and preparation, even dedicated gaming servers. As of 2020, the world record for the size of a LAN party is 22,810 visitors, set at DreamHack, in Jönköping, Sweden.