My suboptimal gaming situation

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 11, 2023, 8:53 PM | comments: 0

I don't imagine that I have ever been a "gamer" in the 21st century sense. I mean, I played my Super NES in college, had a PlayStation 1 and 2, Gamecube, Sega Dreamcast, Wii, original Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and even bought a Switch (and to date, only two games, only one of which I really played). On the computer side, I didn't really have a computer of my own until after college, so I only got to play the old stuff on PC's at places not my own. Even then, the 3D thing didn't really get started until the late 90's, and while the hardcore folks bought the 3dfx Voodoo cards, I bought the much cheaper, but lower performing, buggy drivers, Rendition cards.

I bring up that last part, because I was buying a new card basically once a year. And when I could see better frame rates, even a few higher, on Tomb Raider or Quake 2, it was really thrilling. Those were a few of the games, along with an Indy car racing game, that were coded specifically to support the Rendition cards. Then came S3, and eventually Nvidia, though by the mid-aughts, I had largely stopped playing games on the PC, in favor of the Xbox line. Then I switched to Intel Macs in 2006, and that was the end of it.

Then about four years ago, I built a computer, for the first time in over a decade. It replaced my iMac (which Simon still uses today), where I used Parallels to run Windows. Via Steam, we were playing Planet Coaster on the iMac, and it didn't run that great. It was the first computer game that I had played in a long time, and Simon enjoyed it too. So when I built the PC, I did what I couldn't afford in the aughts: I bought a better-than-midrange video card for it. I actually spent $460 on it, which would have been madness back in the day. And sure enough, I could play Planet Coaster in 4K with all of the settings cranked up, and it was glorious. With a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, I could also play Halo and some other favorites.

This year I went back to Mac for my laptop, because the M2 processors were too good to pass up, and Apple finally went back to having good keyboards and real ports. Plus, I could write code on Windows or Mac, doesn't matter. This made me realize how inadequate my desktop was for editing video, which even then I planned to do more of, but it wasn't clear if I should buy a Mac Mini or half-build a new PC. I thought about it a lot, and ended up buying the Mini, and I've kept my PC under the desk to play stuff now and then. I recently started playing Stray, and it's super weird but fun.

But as I said last month, I struggle with the arrangement. I bring up that fascination over frame rates because there's little question that the Apple hardware could be amazing if publishers didn't lean so hard into Direct3D, the Windows API. I'm annoyed that I have to switch computers to play certain things (switching inputs for the monitor, speakers and mouse is "hard"). The Apple silicon is untapped power in that sense, and I know this because of the stupid fast video rendering I see in DaVinci Resolve. There have been a few games that have been ported, including Planet Coaster, but you can't play the latest on a Mac.

And now I can't play the latest on the Xbox One, either. The new titles aren't being made for the One anymore, and I've resisted buying a Series X/S for a couple of years now. Even today it's still $500 (well, $10 off because Prime Day or whatever). I'm still thinking about getting a ROG Ally, because it plays all of the things that Windows can play, so Game Pass, Steam, GOG and others. Heck, you can even connect it to your TV. I guess I'm not sure about the portability part, seeing as how I barely used the Switch that way.


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