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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Comfortable Console Gaming

The Ultimate Gaming RigI mentioned yesterday that many of my recent Xbox 360 achievements do not have associated date and time stamps. The reason? I don't stay connected to Xbox Live while playing any games. The change happened recently when I decided to move all my gaming paraphenelia up to the master bedroom in preparation for the birth of my new son. I knew that I didn't want to run up and down two flights of stairs every time my son started crying from the nursery. And so, with my wife's blessing, I turned my side of the master bedroom into a technological wonderland.

Most people probably find themselves using their Xbox 360s in a fairly standard fashion: one Xbox 360, an HD-compatible TV, a 5.1/7.1/9.1 digital surround sound receiver and speakers, an Internet connection, and a couch. While this might work for most, it doesn't quite work for my needs.

In my case, I needed a setup that would allow me to play video games while allowing my wife to watch TV and let my kids sleep without the nice rumble of a subwoofer. And I also wanted a setup that could be more-or-less portable should I need to move my Xbox 360 to a different location in our TV room or even move my console into an altogether different room in our house. Luckily this foresight on my part has really helped me squeeze in the most gaming possible given very little free time.

My gaming "station" comprises the following parts:

  1. Xbox 360: Obviously...
  2. Acer 19" Widescreen LCD Monitor: Without an HD television to use with my Xbox 360, I picked up a solid but fairly inexpensive widescreen LCD monitor with a good contrast ratio and a low response time. The monitor allows me to move pretty easily from room to room with my Xbox 360 as required.
  3. Intec Cooling Station: The master bedroom is about 5 degrees Celsius warmer than the TV room in the basement. And as everyone knows by now, the Xbox 360 runs pretty hot! With my Intec cooler, I don't concern myself with heat issues: the Intec cooling station keeps my Xbox 360 as cool as a cucumber.
  4. 5.1 Digital Surround Sound: This piece of the puzzle was definitely the trickiest to find and the most expensive accessory to help me get the most out of my gaming experience. Sony created a little black box that decodes digital sound signals and pushes the sound through to a pair of headphones that contain 4 speakers with enhanced bass. The end result is that I can get digital surround sound without bothering anyone around me: that's good for my wife and even better for any babies who happen to be sleeping nearby. It's a little ironic that Sony managed to create a fantastic piece of audio hardware that allows me to get the most out of my Microsoft Xbox 360 console...
  5. Internet connection: When I discovered that an Xbox 360 wireless internet adapter cost over $100, I was pretty pissed off. I really wanted to be able to connect to Xbox Live from my bedroom; however, my wireless router was in the basement and I wasn't about to spend $100 to get an adapter that should've been included as an internal console component. Thankfully, I came across this article that showed me how I could share my laptop's wireless Internet connection with my Xbox 360. Although I don't like to keep my laptop on while I play (the dueling fans of my laptop, the Xbox 360, and the Intec cooling station is way too loud), I now have the ability to upload my achievements to Xbox Live. Sure, the timestamps are not included with the update and my 360 Voice blog doesn't register that I've played any games - but at least I get my gamerscore updated for all to see! And if I happen to pick up any new games in the near future, I'll be able to get any Live Updates for the game as required.
  6. Couch: Who needs a couch when you've got a bed? Once I've wheeled my monitor into position, I can play comfortably while sitting in bed. The only downside is that any Doritos that go astray end up in all sorts of awful places after I've slept on them overnight. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before my wife outlaws chips and other messy foods in bed. In my defense, that time I spilled an entire bowl of ice cream into the bed was an honest mistake that could happen to anyone jumping excitedly into bed with a dessert in one hand and a TV remote in the other.
  7. Portable Desk: Basically a desk on wheels. By placing my LCD monitor atop this desk, I can wheel all gaming necessities into position when it comes time to play.
Although some of you might argue that my setup is not optimal for a great gaming experience, I really like the way everything is working. I get a great widescreen picture with full digital surround sound while also spending some time laying in bed with my wife and kids close at hand.

And now, I'm off to play...