video games

Switching Up My Gaming

I play all of my video games on my 2012 MacBook Pro, but recently, it has been showing its age. The 100GB Windows partition is too small, so I actually didn’t have enough space to install new games. Over the past year, I saw a few games that my computer no longer met the minimum requirements for. Also, the rubber feet on the bottom of it are falling off, which makes me wonder how long it will be before something important fails.

Although I could have just upgraded, I instead spent several weeks thinking about not only the possible gaming setups but generally what I wanted out of gaming. Particularly, I have read various opinions that the best gaming is social. Anya Kamenetz says, “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others.” Jane McGonigal says, “Playing with real-life friends and family is better than playing alone all the time, or with strangers.”

However, my PC gaming setup was primarily designed for single-player games, or at best, online multiplayer games. If I wanted to change what I wanted out of gaming, I needed a new gaming setup.

Possible Gaming Setups

So, the obvious upgrade would be to get a new MacBook Pro and continue to dual-boot. I would still have a single personal computer, and I know this setup works.

Another alternative was to build a desktop gaming PC. It would be significantly cheaper with better performance. I would lose the portability, but I rarely play games away from home. I don’t play mobile games, and I usually have better things to do while traveling.

I could also just not upgrade. Especially with more tabletop gaming, I’m not playing video games as often these days, and I wondered whether I would be happier if I was spending my time doing something other than gaming.

And the last possibility I considered was to get a gaming console. I never owned a console growing up and consequently considered myself a hardcore PC gamer. However, I am in a niche of PC gamers with outdated hardware who doesn’t care for graphics, so if I have outdated hardware anyways, it isn’t a big deal to get locked into a console.

The Switch

On Black Friday, I let American consumerism choose for me and sprung for a sale on the Nintendo Switch. The past month of console gaming has been interesting both for some expected benefits and some surprises.

During the first few weeks of ownership at home, I didn’t play very much. Julie and I played a game of Mario Kart 8 to honor the Switch’s arrival, and we played some Snipperclips later. However, it mostly sat idle. In fact, I actually spent more time playing PC games because I got hooked on BioShock Infinite and spent about 10 hours in one weekend to finish it.

I did play a few hours of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on my own, but the game is just way more fun with others. I thought I could practice against the computer before squaring off against my coworkers, but I realized I’m not so competitive that I wanted to put the extra time into the game. I’m happy to just show up and do my best against other humans.

However, I took the Switch with me when I went home to Houston for the holidays, and as a portable, social console, it really shined.

Four of my cousins (and two girlfriends) were visiting Houston for a week, and on the first night, we were already having a great time playing Super Mario Party. Gamers and non-gamers alike can enjoy the goofy mini-games, and we all swapped controls with a partner to get 8 players involved.

The aptly named Mario Party

Later that week, we played Overcooked 2, another party game where two to four players are cooperatively cooking meals as quickly as possible. We yelled commands at each other and laughed when things went wrong during the continuous action. My only complaint is that it didn’t innovate much past the first Overcooked, which is one of the best cooperative games I have ever played.

However, Snipperclips filled that gap as the innovative, cooperative game I was looking for. It’s hard to explain, so you should just watch the trailer.

This game can be surprisingly tricky but with laughs all along the way.

What’s more, Snipperclips was the perfect portable game for us as well. When we arrived at the Houston airport, Julie and I had wait for my dad to arrive, so we found a desk, took out the Switch, flipped out the stand, and played a half-hour of puzzles that went by in no time. And a few days later, we pulled it out again while waiting at a restaurant for a table.

So as gaming console, it’s great for a group of friends. However, I do have a few knocks against the Switch.

First, I am disappointed that there isn’t better 8 player support across games with local networking. Although Super Smash Bros. Ultimate supports 8 players, the game is just a bit too intense for non-gamers. Super Mario Party had one mini-game that supported 2 Switches, but it didn’t have an 8 player mode. Even Mario Kart 8 only supports 8 players if you have 4 Switches.

Second, the Joycons are slick and well-designed for portability and versatility. However, it does take some effort and coordination to get everyone setup with controllers correctly. This adds just a bit of friction to getting people into a game.

PC Gaming

Having never owned a console before, I have been very pleased with how much I enjoyed the Switch. However, I realized that I could still update my PC gaming setup.

My biggest concern was that I wasn’t sure if it was a good use of time. I spent a weekend playing BioShock Infinite and felt guilty about not being more productive. If I got a gaming PC, then I would feel obligated to play more to get my money’s worth, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play more. I did just read that the best gaming is social.

I thought more about why I enjoyed BioShock Infinite and why I wanted to play Dragon Age, Mass Effect, The Witcher, and others. What these games shared was a deep story, which is hard to replicate in party games that you can pickup and set down with anyone.

And experiencing a story seemed like a good reason to play. It is the same reason I read fiction, and I wouldn’t feel guilty spending a weekend reading a book. And I actually enjoyed and connected more to recent story-based games than with recent genre fiction.

So just as I read books for different reasons, I play video games for different reasons, and as long as I’m mindful of how I’m spending my time, I think it’s well spent.

I also came up with a free solution for my PC gaming problem. For the hard drive space, I re-partitioned my computer to add another 70GB to my Windows partition, and it feels like I got a new life on gaming. For falling behind gaming requirements, I realized that I have an extensive gaming backlog, so my 2012 MacBook Pro is still perfect for BioShock Infinite from 2013 and now Mass Effect 3 from 2012. And I can work through the next couple years of gaming.

And if my computer dies at some point, that’s okay, too. I will probably replace it but not before thinking long and hard about it.

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