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Playing Games with Your "Real" Friends

Local area network (LAN) parties can be tons of fun. You can use them to better get to know your friends face to face.

Why the Xbox 360 makes an excellent LAN party console

A couple of important features make the Xbox 360 an excellent console for party play.

The price is right

An Xbox 360 costs about the same as a high-end video card. Of course, you can spend a lot more on accessories, but the console itself is just a fraction of what you need to spend on a custom PC for gaming. Even with an Xbox 360 Core System, you get:

  • A high-speed Ethernet port
  • A great controller
  • The ability to hook up to nearly any TV

Add a memory card or a hard disk for just a little extra storage, and you have a very powerful gaming system.

Multiple players per box

You can have up to four players on each Xbox 360 in the house. Friends who don't have one can still join in the fun.

System link configuration

The Xbox 360 comes with an Ethernet port. You can system-link consoles, meaning that you can create a network of Xbox 360s, allowing private play. System link connects the consoles through a switch or a hub. With system link, you aren't playing through Xbox Live: The consoles talk to each other directly. This configuration is a definite no-brainer.

Everybody is running the same system

The great equalizer: When you're playing with your friends and you're all on the same system, there's one less excuse for getting beat. However, players with a widescreen HDTV might have a slight advantage because their peripheral game vision is better than that of players on a standard TV.

Fewer security issues

Players in big, public PC LAN parties need to worry about PC security. Although security usually isn't an issue at a small house party, it's something that you need to think about when you're connecting your PC to an unfamiliar network.

Xbox 360 security is tight enough that you can plug into any network you want without worrying about the console's data. You need to be in control of the console itself to access any of the data.

Planning your party

This section helps make you the host with the most. You want to make sure that everybody has a good time, right?

Write it down

Ask yourself questions about the kind of party you want.

What kind of crowd?

Consider whether you're hosting hard-core gamers or casual nongamers. Nongamers need fun while the hard-core players concentrate on competition:

  • Dedicated gamers are easy to please at a party:

• Set up a good network.

• Give everybody a comfortable place to sit.

• Fill the fridge with soda.

  • Nongamers are tougher to please:

• Consider having a nongamer co-host.

• Set up a party game station or two.

How many people?

People at a LAN party need more room than during a regular party. Equipment's going to overtake the room and wires might run everywhere, not to mention the people trying to play. Consider whether people will bring their own monitors or connect to your TVs:

  • If people bring their own monitors, identify enough spots around the house that have space for:

• An Xbox 360 console

• Players

• A small television

  • If you're letting people connect to your existing TVs, make sure that you have:

• Enough space for the number of people who are going to be playing at each TV

• A place for somebody to plug in the Xbox 360 console

    A TV that doesn't have a composite video jack (the yellow jack) probably can't connect to the video cables that come with an Xbox 360 console.

How many Xbox 360s?

Are you having multiple players per Xbox 360, or is everyone bringing her own?

You need one display per system, which means that you need space for each of the TVs or monitors you're hooking up to. Many more flat panels than big TVs will fit into your house. With that in mind, up to four people can play on each system. This means that you can have a great casual LAN party with four Xbox 360s and 16 people.

Game choice and schedule

You need one copy of the game for each Xbox 360 at the party. You can rent games from most of the major movie rental chains, such as Blockbuster.

Plan on playing the type of game that most of your friends like to play for most of the time during the party. Schedule breaks where you can play games you wouldn't usually play together. Who knows — you might find something new that you like!

First-person shooters

First-person shooters are usually the first choice for LAN parties. Many hard-core gamers play this kind of game. They let you get tons of players in the same game, at the same time — sort of the LAN party's purpose!

Racing games

Racing games are great for LAN parties. They're not everyone's cup of tea, but a few races can be a lot of fun, particularly if they are more arcade-style (Need for Speed: Most Wanted, for example).

Fighting games

Fighting games are a lot of fun, but the games are usually one-on-one.

If you're going to play fighting games in a LAN party, create elimination brackets (like a basketball tournament) so that you can figure out the night's ultimate champion.

Sports games

Sports games are always fun, but they lend themselves to a lot of one-on-one play. Consider creating elimination brackets and tracking the ultimate winner.

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