Daily Archives: May 18, 2009

My Existential Problem With Gaming Rigs

Here’s my problem: I’m at the point where I’m thinking of getting a new computer, and all things being equal, I’d like to get something that’s tricked out to a reasonable degree, so I can play all the ginchy new computer games at near-max frame rates; which is to say I want a gaming rig. What keeps me from buying a gaming rig, however, is that almost without exception they look absolutely idiotic, like pimped-out nerd versions of rice burners. And just as I don’t need neon runners on my car, neither do I need my computer to glow extraneously. I want it to run programs, quietly, efficiently and without throwing off any more electromagnetic radiation than is absolutely necessary.

As an example of this problem, note the picture above, of CyberPower PC’s “Lan Party Commander.” Leaving aside the name of the PC, which screams “I am encrusted in the residue of Cheetos and Mountain Dew,” this rig is one of the more subtly-designed of the gaming rigs CyberPower puts together, and it still looks like a cooling tower at Chernobyl. If I walk into a room and something is glowing like this thing is, my first instinct is to dive toward the lead shielding.

This is not to bag on CyberPower in particular — as it happens, my current computer is a CyberPower rig, and it’s given me fine service for almost three years. They make good gaming computers. But three years ago, when I bought this rig, it was still possible to specify the computer get put into a tower that didn’t telegraph that the owner’s complete inability to find and keep compatible sexual partners. It really doesn’t seem to be the case any more.

Nor is it just CyberPower — every gaming rig maker houses them in ridiculous towers that glow and/or look like alien skulls and/or have silk screened pictures of exploding ewoks (or whatever) on the side. The only one that really doesn’t is Falcon Northwest, who gives their computers (relatively) understated brushed metal towers, as long as you can overlook their oversized logo. But Falcon Northwest is also under the opinion that $2,000 is a fine starting price for their “budget” rig. If I wanted to pay that much money for a brushed aluminum rig that didn’t make me feel like I was riding on the aesthetic shortbus, I’d just get a Mac Pro and have done with it.

To be fair, I understand that the primary market for gaming rig makers are 20something dudes with more credit card bandwidth than aesthetic common sense, so it makes sense for them to build their rigs this way. But it’s not really that much to ask for to have a single “bland box” tower option available for those of us don’t actually want their desks and walls bathed in a neon glow. I know, I’m boring. But I’m boring and I also have money to give to a PC company that doesn’t force me to look like a gaudy asshole because I want a gaming rig with decent frame rates. I’m too old for that now, and I say that proudly.

ConQuest 40 Schedule

As most of you know, this weekend I’m the Author Guest of Honor at ConQuest 40 in Kansas City. I know I will see every single one of you there. Here’s what I’ll be doing, program-wise, when I’m not stationed somewhere with seven pounds of Kansas City barbeque in front of me:

FRIDAY, MAY 22

7:00 PM: Opening Ceremonies (Main Hall)
I’ll sit on the stage and maybe say something short and amusing.

8:30 PM: Authors and Artists Reception (Pershing)
I’ll stand about with a pleasant smile on my face and wait for people to approach me.

SATURDAY, MAY 23

10:00 AM: Is a blog a fanzine? (Empire 1)
My answer: Oh, probably. But I suppose I’ll have to expand on that.  Fellow panelists: Geri Sullivan, Alison Stein, Diane Turnshek.

11:00 AM: Guest of Honor Speech (Main Hall)
And by “speech” they mean “I’ll stand up there blathering incontinently unless people come with actual questions to ask.” So, you know. Come with questions, please.

1:00 PM: Women in Military SF (Empire 1)
I’m for it! Also on the panel: Aurora Celeste, Kelly Peterson, Selena Rosen. I’m the moderator.

4:00 PM: Autograph Session (Pershing)
Bring your books and body parts.

SUNDAY, MAY 24

11:00 AM: What makes you think you can edit? (Empire 1)
Otherwise known as the “Now we all listen to Ellen Datlow” panel. Also on the panel: Ellen Datlow, Alison Stein, Selena Rosen.

1:00 PM: METAWhatever, where is my book? (Empire 2)
About all the other sorts of distribution for SF lit. Fellow Panelists: Ben Yalow, Bradley Denton, Diane Turnshek.

4:00 PM: Closing Ceremonies (Main Hall)
Bye, now!

When I’m not in panels, I am likely to be in the bar and/or lobby and/or wherever it is at the hotel that one goes to be generally accessible. So as always if you see me walking about feel free to come over and say hello. That’s what I’m there for.

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Funny in Short Bursts

My college pal Joe Schmitt is the focus of this Chicago Tribune article on people who are funny on Twitter. I can attest that he’s been funny for a while now, and proof that University of Chicago was a nexus of geek weirdness back in the day, as Joe was the center of a social group that included me, illustrator (and occasional New Yorker cover artist) Ivan Brunetti and RPG icon Ken Hite, among a number of other very talented and interesting people. In short, yes, you missed out, not hangin’ in Chicago in the late 80s and early 90s. Try not to feel too bad about it. Here’s Joe’s Twitter feed if you want to check him out for yourself.