Malcolm Owen On September 25, 2003 at 6:56 am

I am writing this on a mostly crippled computer system. No, it’s not mine, as at the time of writing it is a complete pain in the ass to work with at all. Roughly 2 weeks ago, an accident occured at my home. The bath had sprung a leak due to people using the shower, and that the bath wasn’t properly installed in the first place. The leak was bad enough to allow water to seep through the floor, into the ceiling of the kitchen and directly into the electrical wiring in the new light. Those of you who will remember from primary school will know that water and electricity are not good bedfellows, and lo, the electricity clapped out. Not just the lighting circuit mind, but the entire house’s power, aka the trip switch, tripped. It was decided that for the rest of the evening that the kitchen light should not be turned on again until the ceiling had dried out enough.
The following morning, I consulted with the head of the household about the light, with a conversation that went along the lines of "I bet the light has dried out", "I doubt it", "Oh, switch it on anyway to test". It hadn’t dried out properly, and the power went out, again. After resetting the system, I checked my PC, which declared there was a problem at bootup as a file was missing or corrupted. I dutifully inserted in my WinXP CD, and went to the ‘Recovery Console’ which happened to be nothing more than the bloody Dos prompt. Cue me reinstalling WinXP and setting up everything from scratch, and then 12 hours later, seeing an error with the exact same bloody problem every night for a week, no matter when or how I reinstalled WinXP. Handily I have got a ton of back-up files stored away, so it wasn’t much of a problem. Then, the genius inside of me tried Windows 2000, which then promptly fell over. After 7 consecutive days of the same problem and routine of recovery, I gave in and decided the hard drive was damaged in one small but vital area, and ordered a replacement one. That arrived, and then had to be sent back due to it being SATA rather than ATA. The second replacement one should be here by the end of the week, and then shortly afterwards I will be getting some surge protection and a UPS to try and prevent this happening again.

This has been the longest period of time I have been without a decent computer system to work on for a long period. Heck, I even got so concerned that I called Miketwo’s cellphone to say what’s going on ("Hello?", "Yes, it’s Maiko, Miketwo", "I’m sorry, you must have got the wrong number", "Justin?", "Malcolm?" I mean come on, how many people does he know that is in another country to him, calls him Miketwo and speaks with a British accent, let alone knows his cellphone number!?)

The events have given me time to do many things away from my PC, allowing me to actually live a life for once, free of gaming and the online world and communities I am a part of. I discovered that I haven’t really watched that much TV in the last year than I usually do (and that I missed out on many new shows, although most new and existing programmes have declined to such a level that it barely counts as entertainment). I did various household chores (using the washing machine, loading the dish washer, going shopping at a slightly distant cut-price supermarket and then discovering that everything I liked was expensive, even water). I maintained the pool out back (I emptied it when it wasn’t hot weather any more). I watched movies and anime DVDs (Serial Experiments Lain made my head hurt), and I also read a few books (Game programming stuff, "Sun Tsu – The Art of War", "Are you Dave Gorman?", back issues of various magazines, and about 20 pages from that whole Lord of the Rings trilogy which made my head hurt too).

The thing I did most whilst ‘offline’ was to think. I wondered about life’s little mysteries and solved a few of them (The missing socks from the washing machine have been kidnapped to be made into Lamb-Chop puppets), but I also wondered about whether it’s a good idea to remain a PC gamer.
To me, the title ‘PC gamer’ brings thoughts of a lone player at a computer screen, wishing that his connection would go faster than the dial-up he’s stuck on, playing Counterstrike or Medal of Honor, being called a ‘faget’ and accused of using an Aimbot constantly. This is quite a good description of my daily and nightly ritual at my computer (Aside from CS and MOH, as I prefer UT2k3) for many years now.
Whenever I bought a console, it was because it was so low in price and the range was so vast that it was worth it for a thrill, and this was usually near to the end of the product’s lifetime. Even when owning the small machines, I would only play them rarely as a diversion whilst I waited for something to appear on the PC that caught my eye again. At these times I never really worked out what the appeal of the console was at all, purely because I didn’t have to be stuck with them as I always had access to my PC and my usual world, but the past fortnight has made me stay away from normality and actually use a console for entertainment, among other things, and I have learned from the experience.
Consoles have a very short lead time to play compared to the PC, which could be just a few seconds instead of the minutes waiting for Windows to load. You don’t have to check system specifications for consoles as they are at a standard. You don’t have to worry about getting the latest drivers and patches for consoles. Consoles are cheaper to get into than PCs, and don’t have as much of a need for technical support either. Most importantly, consoles are considered more as a multi-player commodity than PCs are. Sure, there’s multiplayer Counterstrike, but that involves multiple PCs, but then again you can have 4 player games on one console without too much bother, and without the need to get much more in the way of extra hardware.
These reasons and many more make gaming on a PC seem less worthwhile, which made me panic a little bit. If I was thinking about why I shouldn’t be using a PC, why the hell should I even think about getting my broken one fixed? And then, it hit me. Well, actually a dumbass from down the street opening her big fat gob to express her opinion of my well rounded physique ("I’m not fat, there’s just more of me to love"), which made me realise why I was a PC gamer in the first place. Being able to play with 3 other people in a game is all well and good, if only you can actually get hold of 3 other people. Living in an area where you’re either on your own or universally disliked, there isn’t much choice but to use the online world of the PC, because to be honest, the online capabilities of the consoles are actually rather crap, especially in an area that is barren of anything considered as broadband.

And so, I remain a PC gamer. If only my PC actually worked.

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