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Monday, August 18, 2014

LAN Gaming

I want to document an evolving phenomenon. Local area network (LAN) gaming isn't a new concept. Since the introduction of computers, we have been linking them together to play games or run simulations. Currently, LAN gaming only happens under specific conditions: at dedicated events, such as conventions (QuakeCon), church functions, or club activities, or as established companies (ShadowLAN). The primary difficulty being to transport and organize many desktop PCs in a small physical space. Given laptops and wireless networking, that challenge has been made easier, but LAN gaming is still a relatively rare occurrence.

The majority of multiplayer gaming happens over a wide area network (WAN). This poses the comparatively and similarly difficult challenge of virtually connecting people's computers through a service provider. That process can involve port forwarding and other dangerous firewall holes, and expensive and problematic servers (rubberbanding). So in essence, we sacrifice security and synchronization for convenience. While that's expected to some degree, I still find it interesting that even with laptops and more manageable and lightweight gear (and more powerful computers across the board), we still have trouble managing to organize LAN events on a more frequent basis.

Part of the issue is that the more potent gaming rigs are most commonly desktop computers, or ATX Mid towers. While they offer the most space to customize and upgrade, they are also the most bulky design to transport. Combined with the various peripherals (monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc.), getting multiple people enthusiastic enough to move their equipment to a temporary space becomes more unlikely.

The primary solutions would be to improve the internet or to change the topology (individual fiber optic service, neighborhood intranet LAN, dedicated school networks). Alternative solutions include customizable lightweight technology that can handle extreme computing needs. Keyboards are large enough to enclose much of the circuitry needed on the motherboard, so perhaps using the physical space underneath the keyboard as a PC would be an innovative way to reduce the overall size of a desktop computer. A fairly old concept used the base of a monitor as the housing for a PC. Perhaps we could revisit that concept with the ability to customize in mind.

It would be a very difficult task to change my mind about the idea of LAN gaming, but I'll only be able to continue being its proponent we keep progressing forward.