Don't know what a LAN party is? It's a room full of folks getting together to play games. Also, to check out each other's case mods. And occasionally to sleep. It can be a small garage party for an afternoon or a weekend-long marathon in some convention hall. Each one has their own house rules. My favorite, as observed at the annual Quakecon event in Dallas, Texas: "Bathe!"
This week's column is a collection of rules you should follow if you're considering going to a LAN party. What follows are my observations plus the assorted wisdom of folks (quoted below) I recently met during nVidia's nVision08 event.
Get inoculated: Probably the most important thing to do before you show up is run a sweep. Make sure you're virus-free and have some kind of antivirus software on your rig, and keep it running while you play. Though your first instinct may be to turn off your antivirus to improve performance, you leave your machine open to attack if you do. All it takes is one person sharing an infected file over the network, and it's game over.
Check the wires: Chris Brown has been to over 20 LAN parties, and the first thing he does is look at his PC's back ports for the connections on his checklist. Does he have the USB cords he needs? DVI cables? Nothing's worse than unloading a computer only to find you're missing the power cable or your headphones.
Observe HomeLAN security: Large LAN parties may have security checkpoints, but always try and keep your gear safely stowed when you're not around. If you can, use a Kensington lock to put your computer on lockdown. If you have any extra gear, consider storing it in a secure companion bag. Pacsafe's travelsafe100 costs only about US$40 for a bag with a high-tensile stainless steel cable lining. It's big enough for a digital camera, a cell phone, your wallet--the basics.
Download your games ahead of time: Whether it's a bunch of buddies or a massive LAN party, find out the recommended games to have installed on your computer. A list is usually posted on a forum or Web site, or in a document when you sign up. For any game you want to play, make sure it's installed before you show up. And don't forget to grab any patches or driver updates beforehand, as well. Imagine if a couple hundred people showed up, and they don't have all the required files--it'll choke bandwidth down to a crawl.
Consult the forums: Prior to the event, little bits of news pop up all the time. Take this past week. Prior to the nVision event, Cliff Colburn checked and found that nVidia would have free parking available on one lot. Another perk is that you learn about last-minute competitions that have been added to the bill.