This weekend I, for the first time, participated in one of the true pillars of geekdom: the LAN. LAN's are a place unlike any other. Row upon row of souped-up computers line convention halls, and the best and brightest attract attention like the grand prize winner at a classic car exhibition. Gamers of all ages come from far and wide to turn the detached digital experience of gaming into something tangible. For me it was a unique experience in life, and something I think every gamer ought to be a part of at least once. Here are five reasons why:
5. Learn The Trade
Depending on your own level of knowledge regarding technology and games this could be more or less important. I found it exceptionally worthwhile. I've only recently been working on building a high end gaming PC so the information I picked up from the numerous sponsor lectures to the talking I did with people who put thousands into modding out their systems was insanely helpful. Before I went in I couldn't have told you much about the difference between the Intel i7-2600k and the Intel i7-860S, but now I could hold my own in a buying situation.
4. High-End Competition
This is an obvious perk. If you think you're good at gaming a LAN is the best way to test your skill. LANs are pay-to-play so there are no casual players, everyone there is running a high end machine and, the nature of a LAN means no internet latency. Surprising as it may seem for some gamers human interaction does enhance the experience considerably. So bringing four of your friends and getting the chance to coordinate next to each other for every fight of every game you play in can be a lot of fun. As an added bonus you get to do awkward geeky high fives when you win.
3. Let Your Freak Flag Fly
At a LAN you've got to work to get noticed. In regular society geeks stick out like sore thumbs: easily marked by poor hygiene, fanboy shirts with walls of text, and 1337 speak dense conversations about n00bs and pwn'ing. LAN's are a place where style is replaced by substance (and bad facial hair and jean shorts). You earn your place by what you know. Being able to spew detailed tech specs for the last ten generations of NVIDIA technology garners applause and adoration (as well as a healthy prize). If you hear someone discussing the finer points of a Siver pushing strategy in League of Legends you don't snicker and make jokes about level 14 dungeon masters, you join in.
2. Meet Your Fellow Gamer
Okay, so maybe the person behind the keyboard of XxAnalStufferxX is better left unknown, but rest assured those types don't go out in public too often. Getting to know the other gamers is a lot of fun though. From the clan of all fifty plus guys who still tuck polos into their navel high pants, still rock pocket protectors, and still complain about Meridian 59's unheard of monthly fees to the heated debates to the morbidly obese duo nitpicking about whether Michael Bay is a great director or THE greatest director. What you'll find is gamers in real life are every bit as strange and quirky as you imagined. You'll also find it to be one of the most interesting people watching venues available. Which leads me to the number one reason to go to a LAN.
1. Free Swag!
This section could easily have been called "101 Things a Gamer Would Do For a Free Graphics Card," because of all the antics people would do to try and win something. Over the past four days I saw more grown men forgo dignity in pursuit of prizes/money than the cast of Grown Ups. The crazed gamers were not without reasonable justification though. The LAN I was at had 500 people and more than $120,000 in prizes (an average takeaway of $240 for an event which cost $60). The odds of winning something substantial like a processor, motherboard, or graphics card was about one in three. So with that kind of winning potential in mind it's not hard to understand why people would rush for the "opportunity" to participate in a mud puddle splash making competition.