LAN Party Celebrates the Nascent Days of Multiplayer Gaming

There was a time when the internet just wasn’t fast enough to handle the bandwidth requirements of multiplayer gaming, yet studios still put out multiplayer games that put multiple people on the same lobby. To play them, you can visit a PC café and rent their machines by the hour. If there isn’t one nearby, your only other recourse is to host a LAN party, where every player brings their own rig and hooks them up to a local network. LAN Party: Inside the Multiplayer Revolution celebrates those grassroots, DIY days of multiplayer gaming.

That’s right, someone made a book documenting the LAN parties of the late 90s and early 2000s, giving the new generation a peek at one of the most exciting aspects of gaming culture before online multiplayer became the norm. Whether you’re a Zoomer who grew up with high-speed internet and Discord, a Millenial who tagged along with your older brother to play StarCraft at his dorky friend’s house, or a Gen X oldie who got plastered drunk while playing Quake Arena in a number of these gatherings, this book will make for a fascinating time capsule that captures such a unique moment in gaming history.

LAN Party: Inside the Multiplayer Revolution collects hundreds of photographs of various LAN parties from the era, harkening back to such a foregone time in technology when people had to meet up and set up their computers in one place to enjoy multiplayer gaming. As you can imagine, it makes for chaotic scenes, with teens and twentysomethings huddled together in cramped spaces, surrounded by PC cases, CRT monitors, wired peripherals, stacks of CDs, and wires… lots of wires. There were also a ton of soda cans, the occasional beer bottle, and some unhealthy food here and there. Do note, most of the photographs from that time were taken with low-resolution digital cameras, so the illustrations included in the book have been upscaled using modern AI tech, which, we’ll be honest, probably makes them more fun to look at than the blurry mess of those old cameras.

It’s a curious look, not just at a moment in gaming history, but a somewhat unheralded youth culture of the period. Yes guys, this is how your parents (some of them anyway) spent their free time back when the internet was young. The pictures, by the way, were crowdsourced by the author, so you get a really interesting mix of different LAN parties, from small basement gatherings and apartment-wide setups to organized meetups at actual convention halls.

LAN Party: Inside the Multiplayer Revolution is authored by Merritt K, who runs a video series exploring Y2K-era internet culture called Forgotten Worlds. Clearly, the fascination with LAN parties was a likely byproduct of that video series, since they were such an interesting aspect of gaming culture from that era. Aside from the photos, the book contains an introduction by the author, as well as personal accounts from people who participated in LAN parties during the period.

LAN Party: Inside the Multiplayer Revolution is now available for preorder in hardcover. It ships at the end of the month.