And while playing by yourself is good fun, playing with others is just so much better. Consoles made it easy to include Player 2 in a game by just adding another controller but early PC's were not so fortunate. Then the smart people of this world made it possible to connect one computer to another and boom, the era of the LAN emerged.
A LAN party is some of the very best fun a gamer can have, but unfortunately, it's not always that practical. Advanced gaming rigs are getting bulkier and heavier, and obviously, you can't insult your Geforce GTX Titan with a 19" monitor. Oh no, you require at least 32" of curved, HD goodness. As a result, players no longer want to move their precious machines around which has turned the LAN party into an endangered species.
Lucky for us, the trusty Interwebs has come to save the day. Today, it's rare to find a gaming title on any platform that doesn't allow for some sort of online play, letting you match your skills against gamers from all around the globe all while sitting at home, in your underwear, eating Fruit Loops.
The question I pose today is this – has this trend of progress really been that progressive, or have we given up a crucial part of gaming for the sake of convenience?
One other advantage of online gaming is that in most cases, you can be assured there will be players available at any time of day or night. Sure, there are some games with smaller communities where available players won't always be a guarantee but with most popular titles, you won't have such worries.
These are all fine points in favor of online gaming, but this is where I need to shine some light on the dark corners of the argument. Playing a game with a stranger from an exotic location is all dandy, but in actual fact, you're still alone. There's no one around to hear your shouts of victory when you've vanquished your enemies, and no one to encourage you or provide valuable advice when things are going badly. Sure, online voice chat does provide that to a certain extent, but it's just not the same. You're not going to invite a bunch of friends to your house for dinner, hand each a walkie-talkie and send them to a different room so you can have your conversations over radio waves, are you?
Then there's the matter of the foulness surrounding online gaming. If you want to hear verbal poison, the likes of which can burn your eardrums like acid, being spewed from the mouth of an 11-year-old child, then I dare you to participate in a game of League of Legends and play badly. Kids today can't spell, but good grief can they be creative with their profanities. Most games nowadays, provide the option to mute certain, or even all, players. This helps a bit, but the underlying problem is still there, and it's getting worse. I'm not saying that online gaming is solely to blame for the unholy language today's youth is developing, but it's definitely one of the bigger factors.
Playing online, in most cases, comes with a steep learning curve. Some games have a proper training and ladder system in place that gives you ample time to practice on low levels and matches you with players of equal skill when you're ready to take someone on for real. Most games however, don't have this. DOTA 2 is infamous for being a particularly hard game to get into if you don't know what you're doing. This means that players who've played this game since it's release and built up their skills will always dominate any match they play. Heaven have mercy on that poor soul who suddenly thought he'd download DOTA 2 because he was in the mood to try something new this weekend. Not only will he get slaughtered, he will be humiliated for even trying.
There is one last point I wish to make in this section. Perhaps this is only me, maybe there's something I'm missing, but playing online simply isn't as much fun as playing with my friends in the same room. I've been to weekend-long LAN parties where everyone involved got only enough sleep to ensure they don't die because we simply didn't want to stop playing, but when sitting at my desk alone, playing games online, I get bored after mere hours.
And should someone have the audacity to flip a lid and storm out of a game while at a LAN party, well that person will promptly be thrown out and never asked to join again. Kicking someone out of your house for being an ass is a hell of a lot more satisfying than simply clicking the "Report Player" button.
A LAN session is a great way to meet new people, something many gamers find particularly hard to do. It's also a great form of team building when you have the right group of people. I work as a software developer for a company with nearly 70 employees and once every few weeks, we dedicate the second half of a Friday to playing games over the office network. I see another side of my colleagues those days and I can't wait for our next Gaming Friday.
I've got tons of stories to tell from previous LAN parties I attended or arranged but I have no exciting stories to tell about my online gaming sessions. Do any of you remember the days when you had to share a keyboard to play a 2 player game on a PC? I do, and it was incredible. There are few things I've experienced lately that can compare with playing a 4v4 game in Starcraft II at my last office LAN and being the last one standing. Take that, Nick in accounting.
Hosting a LAN is a different monster all together. I've only hosted a few small LAN parties in the past, the biggest being for about 30 people, and even so, the preparations for such an event seem endless. You have to arrange seating and enough table space for everyone, ensure your network equipment is reliable, plan the cable layout so everyone has easy access to a port without the cabling being in the way, arrange at least 2 power outlets per user, and all this should be in a room with enough space for everyone to sit comfortably. Oh and don't forget the coffee. Then there's the inevitable network troubleshooting which will take up at least the first few hours of your gaming time. One of the events I hosted started around 4:00PM, but technical issues only allowed me to play my first game at midnight.
The primary drawback of LAN gaming is the effort of going to a LAN and making sure everything is set up correctly if you're the host. While this can be a major downer, it's something that can be resolved with practice. The problems with online gaming however, are not so easily fixed.
Even with the issues surrounding LAN gaming, the joy factor here wins out over everything else and that's why I choose a LAN session over online gaming any day of the week, and twice on Fridays.
However, I fear that LAN gaming will soon become a thing of the past, like libraries and winding down car windows. I see on the horizon approaches the dreaded monster named progress that's going to steal my most beloved childhood pastime. Maybe I'm just getting old, or maybe, progress sucks.