It was an omen of things to come. Easter weekend, 1995, my aunt came downstairs for breakfast. She saw me in the back room, sitting at the computer screen, wide awake, my face lit up like the resurrected himself. She was amazed — usually she was the first to rise.
Of course, I’d never gone to sleep in the first place. That’s what PC gaming will do to you. It’s personal. It’s pure. It’s gaming at its most intimate. On that Easter weekend in 1995, I pulled my first all-nighter — an omen of things to come.
Over twenty years later, in the bowels of 2017, countless all-nighters since, I had fallen out of love with PC gaming. Console accessibility had risen to take its place. The desk chair was supplanted by the couch, the office desk by the TV stand, the back room by the living room, the mouse by the pad. Games had become streamlined and managed. The intimacy was lost to immediacy.
It took another Omen to pull me back. When HP offered to send their latest gaming laptop to test, I considered declining. PC gaming was far behind me, I thought, a memory. One all-nighter later, and I realised I was wrong.
The Omen laptop range is pretty spectacular kit, top of the range, but the magic of my experience is only partly down to the hardware. The essence of the experience came in the rediscovery of what PC gaming has to offer. I found exceptional independent games that will never show up on consoles, modelled (somewhat ironically) after old 16-bit RPGs. I played Player Unknown Battlegrounds in the privacy of my own home for the first time, and was promptly assassinated by a man in a barn. I returned to the land of Skyrim, but this time with dozens of mods transforming the game into something completely new.
More than that, I felt the internet itself open up again. For this writer, gaming was once the gateway to online communities and creativity. When web pages had grey backgrounds and finding a hosted .wav file of Darth Vader was like discovering gold. (“Someone else likes Star Wars??!” No kidding). Gaming is still that gateway to passion and energy — I just hadn’t looked in a while.
There are communities programming together, translating Japanese games that never get officially released here, forming clans and teams for the most obscure and unique experiences. There are hidden gems on Steam and other platforms, along with the worst games you’ll ever play. There are geniuses taking shape on the forums of their favourite project, honing their skills ahead of a one-man experiment. There are explorers, everywhere.
The HP Omen didn’t create any of this, but it did enable it. Not once did I have a hardware or software problem. Every game ran like butter and read speeds from the SSD were frankly mind-boggling.
During my short time with the machine, it was the perfect tool for my rediscovery of what makes PC gaming great. Twenty years ago, PC gaming led me into autoexec BAT files – now I can concentrate on exploring the games instead. For that accessibility and speed alone, I can recommend the Omen range.
PC gaming may still have that old magic. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the back room, up at the brink of dawn.
SPEAKING UP FOR VOICE ACTORS
Meanwhile, it seemed like pistols at dawn for voice actors and the video game industry – until a peace treaty was reached this week. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in Hollywood had been on strike against some of the biggest names in the industry until a tentative agreement was reached on a solution. The strike had been the longest in the SAG’s history.
The dispute revolved around ‘residuals’, which are effectively bonuses related to the performance of a product after release. For example, Grant Theft Auto IV actor Michael Hollick said he was paid $100,000 for 15 months work on that game, but received no bonuses for its sales of over 25 million copies.
The resolution involves a plan for secondary bonuses, according to the SAG press release, but these are tied to the number of recording sessions, rather than performance of the game itself. Well, at least someone is speaking up for these actors.
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