How to Hook up Gaming Laptops for a LAN Party

Hosting a LAN party is a lot of fun, but if you don't know what you're doing, you could be setting yourself up for disaster. Make sure you know how to everybody up before you agree to host, or you'll find out just how sarcastic your gaming friends can be.

What Is a LAN party?
If you're a hardcore gamer, you probably already know what LAN party means. A LAN party is where gamers come together and connect to a LAN, or local area network, to play computer games against one another. A LAN party typically provides better performance than playing computer games online, as you're not limited by Internet connection speed; you're only limited by a local network connection. Add to that the fun of being able to talk trash to your neighbor as you battle, and you see the true joy of LAN parties.

Wireless LAN Connections
Since every good gaming laptop has a wireless card these days, you may not need to break out the Ethernet cables. A good wireless router or wireless access point can enable your friends to connect to the network and get to gaming. However, wireless connections aren't ideal; wireless networks are prone to interference and reduced speed. Hardcore gamers may prefer a wired connection for enhanced performance.

Using a Wired Hub or Switch
Wired connections are the backbone of a good LAN party. If you use gigabit equipment, your wired connections can perform significantly better than the wireless option. When using wired connections, you have the choice between using a wired hub or using a switch. While both pieces of equipment enable LAN gamers to connect and play, a switch has better data routing capabilities than a hub, and generally results in better performance. Whenever possible, always use a switch over a hub, except in the smallest networks.

Security Concerns
Make sure every computer has updated anti-virus software. Some viruses can be very sneaky about crossing over networks, so it's vital for everyone to be fully protected. From a hardware perspective, make sure you have enough power output to support the number of gamers you're hosting. If you get enough computers together, you can overload any power source, so determine ahead of time how many computers you can safely host.

Finally, make sure you have enough game servers to accommodate your gamers. As a general rule of thumb, try not to run more than 10 to 15 gamers on one server. You may need extra computers to function as game servers if you have a large number of players, to avoid lag and improve performance. You'll need to make sure the game servers are fully updated, with any patches or updates for the games as well as an updated operating system for the best performance.

Have some extra Ethernet cables on hand as well, just in case someone forgets to bring one.

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