Stuff That I Like: PC Gaming (Part 2)

As my freshman year or high school wore on, I continued fervently playing BF1942 on my PC. In addition, I started playing some other titles, such as Morrowind, which have sculpted the way I view games forever.

For instance, I learned that not all cats suck.

By the time I entered my sophomore year, social obligations, swimming, and various other activities were eating more and more of my time. This, coupled with a PC that was very expensive to upgrade, led to a slow migration towards gaming primarily on my PS2. I still played with the clan, but popped in less frequently. It wasn’t until my computer actually broke sometime over the ensuing year that I made a partial system upgrade.

It was at this point that my standard PC procedure was established. It went something like this:

  1. Upgrade PC with whatever parts are necessary to get it working.
  2. Salvage all the old parts that still work
  3. If it cannot play a game you absolutely NEED to play, consider striking a deal with your parents to give them your computer to help finance new parts

Since I wasn’t gaming too heavily on my PC at this point, this worked out fine for a very long time too. By late high school, it was rare that I used my computer for gaming; however, I would occasionally be sucked back into it by a major release. In 2005, for example, Battlefield 2 launched and I was back to full time gaming with my clan. I utilized the above procedure to acquire the parts necessary to make the game even remotely playable.

In 2006, once again, I became extremely excited for the followup to Morrowind, which was Oblivion. A technically demanding game, it required me to make a somewhat significant upgrade to my computer to be able to play it. After logging about a hundred hours in Oblivion (cool, I know), I went on a pretty long computer hiatus. Once I was at college, I continued to play BF2, but more with my roommates than with the clan. I drifted slowly from the computer again, primarily playing console games with friends, and returning only on vacations to put in significant PC time. It was just too expensive to keep upgrading for such limited bouts of PC gaming. Aside from Portal 1 and Portal 2, I didn’t play any new PC games for a few years.

This brings us Christmas of this past year. I caught wind that Battlefield Bad Company 2 was getting an expansion based on the Vietnam War. I’m extremely interested in the history of Vietnam and became pretty excited about giving it a whirl. I asked for a copy of BFBC2 for 360 and spent the majority of my break playing the hell out of it.

Suck it hippies, you don't even have your own game.

The only downside was how frustrated I got over having to play alone in a teamwork-heavy game. In early spring, the PC version of the game went on sale for $7, so I decided to see if my old clan was still around. I bought a new mic, popped on to chat with the guys, and decided it was totally worth it to get the game for PC. I sold my 360 copy later that day.

The more I gamed with the clan, the more I remembered how fun it was. I was suddenly taken back to being 15, playing BF1942. It was also fitting that I got back into PC gaming when I did, as Battlefield 3, the first official sequel in the series since 2005, is set to release this October. Furthermore, Skyrim, the sequel to Oblivion and Morrowind, is set to release in November. Both titles are anticipated to be amazingly beautiful, which is cool, but also equates to being technically demanding of ones computer. For this reason, I decided to start a computer fund.

If there is one nice thing about working full time, it is that you have the ability to earn enough money that you can organize it into budgets. For the past 8 months, I’ve tucked away all my extra money into the computer fund, looking forward to finally building my first top of the line machine since 2002. As of Monday night, the money had accumulated in my account and I was face with the extremely stressful decision of whether I could actually go through with it.

WWSMD?

You see, I like having nice things and all, but I feel incredibly guilty for buying them. I can’t help but think if I’m being selfish or if I could be putting the money towards something more productive. My default mindset is to put it into savings or use it for an awesome trip. It took a few hours for me to convince myself of three things. First, I reminded myself that I needed a new computer if I wanted to play those games. Second, I realized that I didn’t have the vacation days available to take a big vacation at the moment. Finally, I accepted that it’s the perfect time for a tech upgrade.

The worst thing about buying computer components is that something better always comes out almost immediately. It’s incredibly frustrating to buy a premium product, only to see it go on massive sale and be replaced by something far better at the same price. Although this will undoubtedly happen again eventually, I’m content knowing that the next big processor and video card releases aren’t until an unspecified date in 2012, well past when I’ll need the new rig. This realization finally pushed me over the edge. I swallowed hard, braced myself for the punishment my bank account was about to take, and started adding to the cart.

A few of the components arrived today and I’m extremely excited. Over the next few days, the rest should arrive, and I plan on doing a little rundown of the whole thing. Specifically, I’ll explain why I picked the components I did and then do a little how-to on system building for anyone interested. If I suddenly stop posting over the next few days, it probably means the new parts didn’t work and I’m without a computer. Wish me luck!

Stuff That I Like: PC Gaming (Part 1)

Buying things, much like blogging, can be a fickle friend. Depending on what it is and how much it costs (or what you’re blogging about) it can take a lot of time and effort to muster up the energy to go forward with it. Other times, you need to slow yourself down and think carefully about a purchase (or a blog post) before blundering on and looking like an idiot.

Within the last 24 hours, I’ve juggled all of the possible scenarios mentioned above. I’ve wanted to write a blog post badly but also felt uninspired to put words down. More mentally taxing then that has been my struggling to decide whether I should buy the parts to build a new computer. Let me explain.

PC gaming and I have a long, storied history. In essence, it is a lifelong love that I lose touch with for years at a time, before stumbling upon it again and savoring its sweet embrace. Like many gamers born in the late 80’s, I was practically weened on PC gaming. My first games were text-based adventure games without any images at all, followed by Sierra adventure games and Doom; however, as the only gamer, and youngest member, of a household, getting the family computer regularly upgraded to play new games isn’t really going to happen. It was for this reason, around the age of 7, that I moved on to console gaming for a while.

GAH, ONLY IF I HAVE TO.

Aside from occasional forays back onto the PC, when my aunt would upgrade and fix our computer and throw a few PC classics my way, I mainly gamed on my SNES through early elementary school. After all, consoles were cheaper than PCs and I was allowed to rent a game from East Coast Video on the weekends. Eventually, towards the end of the 16-bit generation, I was given a Super Genesis as well, granting me access to an entirely new library of games (Multi-platform games weren’t much of a thing until the 32/64-bit generation).

From there, I moved on to a Nintendo 64, PSX, and finally a PS2. My only real ventures onto the PC were at friends’ houses. We would spend countless hours taking turns playing the latest games. I still vividly remember when my best friend got a new desktop with a NVidia TNT2 that could play Soldier of Fortune 2. I was awful, but it was a darn good time.

A bloody good time, if you will.

During the summer of 2002, I began hearing about a game called Battlefield 1942. Unlike the other first person shooters that I had spent a ton of time playing, such as Medal of Honor, it was a large-scale, multiplayer-only game. Even better, it would let you drive jeeps, fly planes, drive boats. Promotional footage showed people crouching on the wings of flying planes to parachute in to capture a base and landing craft bearing down on bloody beach heads. In short, I needed to play it.

With my birthday approaching at the end of the summer, I began lobbying my dad. I pulled out all the stops. I reminded him of how my brother got to go to Space Camp and a slew of other activities that I missed out on. I insisted that having a modern computer was a necessity. Finally, he agreed to allow me to have a custom rig built. Thus began a month or two of rigorous research into the best computer parts available for a reasonable price. It would have RDRAM, a proprietary memory format that was twice as fast as the competition (which also became obselete and impossible to upgrade 2 years later). It would have an NVidia Ti4600, the fastest mainstream GPU available. Ahhhh, the memories. My dad gave me the number of the computer guy that his company used, who I contacted and reeled off the specs to. By August, the computer was ready for pickup, along with a 19″ CRT monitor and a set of Klipsch 5.1 Promedias. To this day, it was the biggest gift I’ve ever been given.

Whoops, sorry. Second biggest.

With everything setup in my room at home, I waited patiently for the Battlefield 1942 demo to release. I spent my time playing Operation Flashpoint all night, eating leftover Chinese food and my mom’s iced tea and sleeping late. I left my room so rarely that when I showed up for the beginning of high school, my friends asked if I was sick since I was so pale and thin.

Sick? More like sick awesome.

When Battlefield 1942 finally launched, I was smitten and wasted even more time playing it. Entire weekends were lost that fall to the game. Eventually, I impressed a clan that I had been owning enough to get an invite to try out. I dominated the try out, was offered a spot, and joined. I’ve been in ever since.

This marked my first return to PC gaming. This post is WAY longer than anticipated, so I will clue you all in to where this is all going tomorrow. Godspeed.

Stuff That I Like: The Beach

It’s Monday morning and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the back of the skull. My body is aching, I feel too tired to responsibly operate heavy machinery, and my fingers are rebelling as I pipette the 150th DNA sample. I may feel close to death, but all I can really comprehend is my desire to go back to the beach.

It keeps me from being crabby. ZING.

On Saturday, the three best friends took a day trip to Ocean City, MD. The weather ended up being spectacular (read: not 100 degrees and/or raining) and despite some heavy pieces of traffic and the worst parking situation I have ever seen in my life (not kidding), we made it onto the beach by the early afternoon.

I was midway through my first dive through a breaking wave when it occurred to me that the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean are the single place where I’m happiest. As I popped out of the backside of that first wave, only to nearly be clobbered by a second, more powerful wave, I was at my most content.

The beach, in my humble opinion, brings the best of the world to one place. I’m not talking about people of course; many of the people I see at the beach are of my least favorite variety; however, it stands as a mark of the enormity of the beach’s grandeur that I rarely, if ever, notice all the unsavory characters. No, I’m referring to the raw power, vastness, and thrill of the open water merging with the quiet calm of a sandy beach and the rhythmic sounds of the tide. There is simply no better place to frolic, run, sleep, eat, or endanger your life.

As I continued my dominance of the waves, I tried to take it all in. The smell of salt water, the sun-warmed sand, the churning of the ocean. I was reminded fully of why full-time jobs and non-coastal cities suck. I embraced that unique, chilly tingle that courses through your body after each trip through a wave. I thought about all that and vowed to always live by a coast, make regular visits to the beach, and never lose sight of the best bits of life.

As I pounded through the all-you-can eat crabs and corn that night, I was content knowing that I had spent one more day in the good old Atlantic and overwhelmingly excited about getting back to the world’s best beaches next weekend in the good old Garden State. And life was good.

Not so great for the crabs though.

Stuff that I Like: Not Moving/Moving

Make the bed, sweep the floor, shake the carpet and spray. Put my shit in a pile, on the top slap a post-it. – Bomb the Music Industry

Yeah yeah, one more California post. Not today though, my friends. My mind is too ruined. My upcoming move is nearly upon me and it’s taking a toll.

Moving is one of those incredibly taxing, seriously confusing times in life. On the one hand, it’s a major pain in the ass. You’ve got to box up all of your possessions. You have to come to terms with the amount of crap you’ve managed to amass. It’s the time when you have to shamefully admit to being a packrat, but still end up not throwing anything out.

'WHAT'D YOU CALL ME'

On the other hand, it’s super exciting. My coworker mentioned a few months back that while it’s very hard to make more money, it’s much easier to save money by moving somewhere cheaper. After all, for every hundred you save on rent each month, it’s the equivalent of a $1,200 raise.

As excited as I am about saving a bunch of extra money, I think what he said has a broader meaning beyond the cash. While we often have limited choices in what jobs are available to us, we have comparatively massive control over where we decide to move. Essentially, moving is our best chance to redefine our life on a yearly basis.

Big changes are in store, by my own hand. Come this weekend, I’ll be living alone. I’ll be in an entirely new city. I won’t have a car for a while. I’ll be down the street from work. My paychecks will be up and my commute will be down. It’s all very exciting, but very different.

I’ve become used to having another human being around when I get home from work, even if I do possess a temperament more befitting of someone who lives alone. I’m certainly used to having my car tucked safely in a garage under the building, with all of the DMV quickly accessible by 395, 295, and the GW parkway. Sadly, I’m also used to spending 3 hours commuting and having 3/4 of my monthly salary already committed to rent, utilities, and other mandatory expenses. That bit is admittedly not great, but it’s become part of my life over the past year. Sometimes you just crave the comfort of having a home for more than 1 year over the excitement of moving. Thankfully, the necessity of my predicament forced me into a position where I’ve had to cope, so excitement has (for the most part) taken hold.

After spending the whole of Sunday and about 6 hours of yesterday packing, I’m almost done. I’m at the awkward stage now where I really want to just throw everything else in a box, but I sadly need a computer, clothing, and bathroom supplies for the next few days. For now, I’ll just have to content myself to clean and trip over boxes of crap until Friday morning.

Baltimore, here I come.

Stuff That I Like: Vacations

Well, well, well internet…we meet again. As you all probably know, I just returned from my little midsummer’s vacation yesterday evening. I’m not organized enough to have prepared posts in advance for the trip, so this dried up completely for the past 10 days. Fear not procrastinators and victims of boredom; I have returned.

In general, I’m not much of a vacation guy. There are three reasons for this: I’m cheap, I like spending time in NJ, and I’ve rarely had the chance. The cheap part pretty much explains itself. Once you pass the age of 20 or so, parents tend to stop including you on their trips. It’s not always intentional either; as life gets more hectic, it’s unlikely that an entire family’s schedules will match up. It is at this point in life, when you are responsible for paying for your own trips, that you realize how much they cost. Of course taking free week long trips to Disney World is awesome. That’s the type of thing that you win in contests.

Pictured: My childhood.

Do you know what is less fun? Forking over $2,000 of your own money for the same trip. That’s not to say that there still isn’t fun to be had. Last year, I took a trip with a few of my dearest friends to Disney. We did it over 3 days, got every discount possible, and illegally split a 2-bed hotel room between 6 people. It was great fun, but even that is too pricey to do with the frequency of family vacations.

The second and third reasons that I rarely vacation are a bit intertwined. Since I’ve reached an age where vacationing on my own is a possibility, it has been rather hard to find time to vacation. At first, I was in college. As an attendance stickler, I wasn’t one to miss classes to duck out for a vacation. Furthermore, I used the various breaks as opportunities to hang out with my family and high school friends. This pretty much blacked out all of my free days that could be used for vacations. I was also broke, which was a bit prohibitive.

Pictured: post-childhood life.

Finally, I graduated college and got a job. I was still pretty broke, but I also didn’t have many vacation days. Since I started working in June, I only had about half a year’s vacation days to work with; days that I preferred to put towards taking a winter break and extending a few long weekends. Pretty much no dice on the vacation front (except for the trip to Disney/WWoHP…which was JAWESOME).

Pictured: My first independently funded vacation.

(On a side note, a friend of mine tried to steal the term ‘jawesome’, claiming that he invented it and that it stood for ‘just awesome’. The Street Sharks were pissssssed.)

That brings us to this past week. As a full-year, full-time employee, I finally have some vacation days to burn. Furthermore, Jenny’s parents were kind enough to act as benefactors for our trip out to the West Coast. The trip was one of the most excellent of my life. I daresay that it may have turned me into a vacationer. Unfortunately, this post was originally supposed to detail the first half of the last 10 days; however, readers hate reading long posts, and bloggers hate wasting perfectly good posts by compounding them with impromptu rambles. Full trip rundown to come over the next several days.

Stuff That I Like: People who know how to use smartphones

From time to time, the “rigid” categorization format that I’ve tried to stick with for this blog fails. Case in point: Despite having a category specifically for things that I like, I have not left myself a venue for discussing things that I can’t stand. Meanwhile, I feel that it would be superfluous to add a “Stuff That I Don’t Like” category. Therefore, I will use a loophole in my imaginary system. I’ll just claim to like the polar opposite of whatever it is that I happen to be hating on. So, without further adieu…

Smartphones are spectacular inventions. I’ll be the first to admit that I was quite anti-smartphone for a very long time; however, a year’s worth of daily 3-hour commutes on public transit has brought me around to the idea. Last November, I finally bit the bullet and bought my beloved Droid X. The ability to check e-mail and, more importantly, browse the web has done as much as anything could to make up for the hours of my life that I lose each day to commuting.

Even for people without hellish commutes, I understand that smartphones can still be important. Most people are far more social than I am, so the ability to Tweet, check Facebook, and e-mail without a computer is, I imagine, infinitely helpful. I’m laying all of this out now to make it clear that I don’t hate all smartphone users. But let me tell you what I do hate.

The vast majority of the smartphone owning population seem to have forgotten humanity’s most basic courtesies and survival mechanisms at the hands of their phones. As much as I use my phone, there are two times when I most certainly do not use it: while walking on a crowded sidewalk and while crossing the street (especially when a massive “Don’t walk sign” is flashing).

"Yep, looks like a 'Continue walking and looking down' sign to me."

These habits are particularly irksome because I bike around the city a lot. It’s a sad truth that without the immediate danger of death that a speeding car presents, most people don’t bother to pay attention to what they’re doing.

Now, I’ll admit that a lot of bikers are extremely self-righteous. Believe me, I get just as pissed when a biker going 10 mph sits in the middle of a one lane road. Furthermore, it annoys me when bikers jump from street to sidewalk needlessly, acting like they deserve the right-of-way on both. Nonetheless, I’m driven nearly mad by the daily occurrence of 20 government staffers staring at their phones and stepping directly in front of me while I’m cruising at full speed. It’s not like I don’t obey stop signs and stop lights; people just seem to use their heightened other senses (since they are essentially blind aside from their tiny screen’s electronic glow) to detect the absence of cars, and proceed to jaywalk as they please.

As much as I resent having to swerve around people constantly for their own good, what really ruffles my feathers is people’s reactions. Despite, you know, clearly disobeying the law and foolishly walking around without looking where they are going, everyone still seems to have the audacity to glare at me like I’ve nearly killed them, thusly:

One time morning at 6:00 AM, I had to go onto the sidewalk to bypass a little section of road at the Senate Offices. There was literally only one woman on the sidewalk, who was at least 10 feet away, who suddenly looked up from her phone and promptly yelled “You fucking bastard, get off the sidewalk”. Pretty harsh words, considering that I wasn’t in a part of the city where sidewalk riding is prohibited. Sigh. It’s people like this who really make me want to intentionally crash into the clueless, enraged pedestrians who are too transfixed with their smartphones to watch where they’re going.

Anyway, I just had to vent. Please, please, please try not to be one of these people. I get it, Angry Birds is fun. Play it while you’re sitting on a bench, or the toilet, or anywhere else where you aren’t walking in public. At the very least, don’t mean mug people who almost bump into you while you carve a drunkenly weaving path across the asphalt.

Aside from all this hubbub, I’m pretty excited today. It was my last day of work until the 11th! Not only that, but on the 16th, my bossman is going abroad for 3-4 weeks. Life is good. Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving bright and early to visit my dad and grandparents at their summer house near Chesapeake City. We’ll come back sometime Sunday in order to get ready for a 6:00 AM flight on the 4th to Cali. I’m pretty stoked for K-food galore and some time away from real life. I just hope that I manage to get some good workouts it; I’ve been good for the past 3 weeks or so, getting in 2-3 solid 6-mile runs a week. Gotta prepare for the 4th of Julio holiday weight, you know? I’m not sure how much this will get updated in the interim, but have a splendid long weekend!