Blue Thunder

Barely awake and blinking from a suicidal sweeping of curtains, I sit at my desk as always and fire up my PC. Just like I do every day. It gets used for the lion’s share of the clock and is only left cooling in peace long after I have decided on my course of leisurely action for the night. Which almost never involves my PC, which sits forlornly in a darkened corner while the Xbox boots up.

It is solid, dependable, and underused. Not underused for work – plenty of that gets done on it, but rather, the main purpose for which it was bought, which was gaming.  Like a toaster who toasts, therefore it is, my PC was constructed for the purposes of running the sort of games which have regular PCs slumping back onto fainting couches and fanning themselves while someone loosens their corsets. This little powerhouse was constructed to a top spec after I decided that my ageing and overrated Alienware laptop just couldn’t handle greedy games such as Sims 2 and Oblivion (and burned hotter than the centre of the sun). I was thrilled when it arrived over a year ago and I rigged it up, all shiny and virgin new.

...touched for the very first time...
…touched for the very first time…

For a short time, gaming was its life, doing what it was born for until slowly, that purpose faded and it became a repository for pictures, invoices, design work, pornography, and the general detritus which fills most PCs. Instead of doing what it did best, I used it as a work horse and rode it hard. As if to taunt it, while it plods round the mill, strapped into Xara or Photoshop, shelves of games line up above it, looking down, their unwrapped bodies flirting with the plodding creature. Old games, new games, games with boxes as thick as my wrist in alluring packaging. And I never freed it from the bonds of labour and gave it its head to run, to play as it was meant to, to embrace those willing, nubile discs and spin them to climactic heights. And I think in my paranoiac fog, that it swore revenge.


In its own way, the PC has begun to fight back. Sucking in more dust than is credible, it seems determined to kill itself to spite the work which rests in its memory banks. The groan of fans grows on a daily basis, while the unit wheezes, white dust lining every port and vent. I can only glare. It is doing it on purpose. It knows that it takes me forever to unplug everything, wrestle the side panel off without losing my fingers and then use the dregs from our last air canister to jet blast its insides. So I fold my arms. Go ahead, go on. Jump, take the pills, pull the trigger, choke yourself on dust, see if I care. But I do – my bloody book is on there along with a ton of unsaved invoices and product descriptions which will rend my soul in two and disrupt my work irreparably if they were lost. And it knows it. So I find myself on a Sunday morning, the day where I should be firing up a game (on the Xbox) and immersing myself in a far off place, blasting the blades of a dust-choked fan in between intermittent sneezing fits. It takes over twenty minutes to get the side panel back on, but at least I am rewarded with a purr as opposed to an octogenarian moan. The attention seeker got what it wanted and the Xbox is as yet, untouched.

What can a PC do though in the face of such abandonment? After all, once a prolific PC gamer, I jumped ship and took up with the Xbox, with whom the passion never seems to die. I can tell you now, as the dust bunnies hop on to burrows new what it can do. Be as bloody minded as possible. Make my jaunty intermittent return as difficult as it can.  Example: Thief – a much lauded stealth series and one which I have long planned to play. I installed it, read the manual, (natch) and told myself that I didn’t just hear a ‘yeah right, that’s what you think’ in the white noise from my battered speakers. Refused. The PC is too powerful, too fast and the game loops from the main screen back through the intro sequence in split seconds, meaning that no button press, or mouse click can save it and I have to CTL-ALT-DEL out. The disc was led on and then ultimately rejected. Hours later and my anger at a peak; my only attempt at a solution was to download DosBox, blink at it in a confused fog a few times and then turn my PC off in disgust. Point one to the metal box and comforting hugs from my sympathetic Xbox instead.


Sims 3 – The game that hates me as much as I hate it, but play it I will. Except that I won’t. After much wrestling with patches and versions (something the Xbox handles with the charm of an oiled concierge), I finally got stuck into playing. Everything was going smoothly and the PC seemed to get along fine with it. The false sense of security, as was no doubt intended, led me to neglect my saving duties and in a moment that my PC must have been looking forward to since I first shunned it, I got a blue screen. An actual fucking blue screen of death. I didn’t even think that you got those anymore. The mansion that I had spent hours meticulously constructing died before my eyes and my PC yawned and rebooted itself with a ‘What? Something amiss? You weren’t doing anything important were you?’ look on it’s gappy face. Game set and  match, smackdown, Pwned, spanked, sorted, subbed, bitch slapped, broken, defeated. I understand now.

We look at one another. I look at the shelves full of fantastic games, unexplored games, classic games, and old favourites. Why did I ever give them up? I can’t remember now. I narrowed my own gaming horizons because it was easier and when I did try to pry them back open, I paid for it. PC gaming is fraught with difficulty, patching, glitching, the interruption of Anti Virus software, and yet it has given me some of the best gaming memories and most loved games in my all time favourite list. It deserves more respect – after all, the Xbox isn’t without its own temper tantrums and issues.  So the dawn of the third age begins and this box of gently churning metal should no longer sit alone in the night. I have a lot of catching up to do and so far, the tentative ceasefire is holding.

Next week: how my Xbox red ringed itself, green screened, and then vomited circuit boards over the carpet in temper at my epic PC gaming marathon.







13 responses to “Blue Thunder”

  1. MarkuzR avatar

    I’m the same, as you know. Uber huge PC with a tower taller than most, six hard drives, masses of RAM, more than 1.2Gb of Nvidia video memory… and yet it roars away at me all day long and throws a hissy fit when I tried to play the Risen demo. Why a machine as powerful as mine needs the resolution turned down from 1920 x 1200 to an abysmal 1024 x 768 with “low” texture quality is beyond me.

    After yesterday’s debacle of the machine switching off and me discovering a gorgeous beige shag pile carpet on top of my processor… I know why. I haven’t tried it since cleaning it up though, but I bet… I absolutely BET that I’ll have to buy a new PC when the next wave of decent games came out. If I couldn’t even play Crysis on full quality and full res when the machine was brand new, what hope do I have?

  2. John.B avatar

    Fantastic article 🙂 There is nothing more disheartening as a PC gamer than when the plates stop spinning and a few games simply don’t work despite you owning a monster. I swear it’s gotten more difficult though, more games are picky about what graphics card they want… the graphic leaders games come out more often and prompt upgrades more often and with DRM issues gaming on a PC is just so tricky these days.

    Which is why I gave in, the odd new game but I just play Civ 4 now exclusively 🙂

  3. van-fu avatar

    I am astounded. A more PC-literate couple you will never find. But they have been caught out by the unfortunate side of PC gaming. Stay with consoles, guys. They’ll never, ahem, disappoint. Just don’t mention price increases, red rings of death, scratched discs, the price of an XBL subscription, PS3 failures, etc.

    Also, am I correct in reading that after all this time, and all the friendly ribbing and cajoling from MarkuzR, The Rook and Vice Destroyer himself, that you still have invoices that HAVE NOT BEEN BACKED UP?

    “my bloody book is on there along with a ton of unsaved invoices and product descriptions which will rend my soul in two and disrupt my work irreparably if they were lost.”

    MarkuzR? You know what you have to do. She won’t do it herself and the cry will be “too late, too late” when the PC dies. Take her to Comet. Or even better, next time you are in Saturn, lead her away from those bloody keyboards. Having a keyboard fetish is unhealthy, and they are QWERTZ keyboards anyways. Buy her a 1TB external HDD. I know you have one already, but I feel that if she had her own personal one, plugged in and purring in the palm of her hands, she might be excited by the power cursing through the HDD. She may be inclined to actually back up her work.

  4. MarkuzR avatar

    When the days are shit, and the overall “shitness” perpetuates to the point where you just can’t be arsed even BLINKING anymore… along comes Mr Anfu with yet another hilarious (and articulate) verbal barb to make the day that much brighter :))

    You know me… I’m surrounded by 1TB drives, MyBook drives, Seagate FreeAgent drives plus two external passport drives and a weird Philips external that’s self contained… but Lorna swears by her little USB dongles! All of her books go everywhere with her, although sometimes she DOES misplace them… at which point a mass panic ensues. My system backs up on to two external drives every night at 11pm.

    Re: the Saturn thing… um… can’t make any promises my friend. As soon as I’m within non-squinting distance (as in the eyes, not the bridge) of the Saturn logo, my mind immediately switches to “106inch Panasonic 1080p Plasma” mode, so you’re on yer own!!

  5. Ben avatar

    I think I’m the opposite, my PC can do things my 360 can only dream of doing and more often than not it’s my 360 that sits next to me sulking into its crappy black case while the PC roars and taunts it while it’s processor handles rendering a Unreal map with ease.

    I think the biggest problem with PC gaming at the moment is the social side of it. With Xbox Live even if you’re playing on a single player game you still get the occasional plink sound of a friend signing online – you know they are just a hairs breath away though.

    I never backup anything either, although I’ve never had a major PC crash touch wood, that said – will be getting an external HDD soon just for Uni work and that horrible notion of “What if”.

    Nice article Lorna 🙂

  6. Ramsden avatar

    Fantastic blog. I especially liked the Red Dwarf reference. The same thing pretty much happened to me. I was almost exclusively a PC gamer. I could overcome any problem with older games running too quickly or not at all. I laughed in the face of obstinate DRM or broken graphics drivers. And all of my favourite games of all time were PC titles. I bought my current gaming PC two years ago, just before I was forced out of work. It was the best Comet could offer, and I couldn’t afford to take my time as I usually did, to build my own. My previous monster had died and I had to do work with it.

    Well, just over a year ago I finally got a 360. I’ve always had consoles since the Atari ST, but they always played a distant second to my PC. But the 360 ended that. Apart from when I’m in hospital or on long journeys, when I take out the DS, I’ve started to only play on the XBox. It’s plug and play, and despite getting red ringed earlier this year in May, it just works when I want. I don’t have to dedicate 2 days to simply getting a game to have a working installation. So my PC was relegated to only playing Football Manager. Sure, I wanted to go back to it for certain titles, but as is the eternal problem with PC gaming, it is considered too old by most new games. And I can no longer afford to upgrade it, in a move which actually hammered home to me the effect not being able to work is having on my life more effectively than anything else to this point. I’ve had to save up for a year to get my new Toshiba Satellite laptop. It was get something I could comfortably use for the internet and for writing, or upgrade my gaming PC. Practicality won out. And now, my desktop PC has just died. Motherboard failure. I had everything backed up to external drive, and as good as this laptop is, it doesn’t do games the way a desktop PC can. It’s the end of an era. I’m no longer a true PC gamer. And I can’t begin to describe how sad that makes me feel.

  7. Lorna avatar

    Thank you very much to everyone for the kind and positive responses, always very much appreciated.

  8. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I’ve never been a pc gamer. I could never afford a PC, let alone a gaming PC, and settled in with a snes. Now I can afford a decent PC, the desire is not there. I love my console gaming, no required installations, no drivers to mess about with, no resolution settings or effects settings to turn on/off.

    Maybe someday that will change and I’ll actually include PC gaming as part of my gaming experience. Until then my PC knows it is invaluable to me. Constantly online when I am home, keeping me in contact with friends, and allowing me to interact on sites like Ready Up.

  9. Duncan avatar

    My comments are going to seem so tame compared to the more hardcore users, but I’ve yet to really venture outside the world of C&C and other RTS’ on the PC. So my three year old glued together monstrosity just about gets the job done.

    Though that being said, I’ve only ever stuck to games my computer can handle (duh), so I’ve never purposefully upgraded, despite my extreme lust for an Alienware (they’re just so damn sexy!). I’d almost certainly play more PC games if it weren’t for my (now) totally old arse setup…

    Now that I rant/comment about it… you’re right. You’re damn right! Excellent post!

  10. […] find it rather odd to be writing this on the same day that my better half published a blog about PC gaming, so I apologise in advance to all those who will see this as plagiarism but, the reality is… […]

  11. Steve avatar

    Uh Duncan, am I not remembering correctly that you bought a whole new computer “to see the Tiberium glow” in the second year? And that the new computer does indeed let you see the Tiberium glow, it just has issues with running ANYTHING for longer than 10 minutes without having to restart explorer.exe (thanks for showing me that trick by the way!).

  12. James avatar

    Ah, the fury of a platform scorned. Never in my life have I had a PC rig capable of handing anything more hardware-intensive than Minesweeper. Though with my birthday coming this weekend, there’s the possibility I may get to condemn my Pentium 4 (that’s right folks, fall to your knees and tremble before the raw, pulsating power of my 6 year old processor) to the recycling bin. Even if I do get my hands on a young and vital new unit, I’m not convinced it would draw me away from my consoles. Battling with drivers and DRM to get to a menu screen that may or may not crash out on me is not my idea of leisure. I don’t wanna fight to play, I wanna play to fight!

    Fantastic piece Lorna. 🙂

  13. dante76 avatar

    Seriously. Back the book up. Now.

    Or dust.

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