For most of my gaming life I was a computer gamer as opposed to a console gamer. The first system I owned that could play games was an Atari 400 which I got in 1980 or so, and the first console I bought was a Turbografx-16 in 1989. For a long time consoles were the ‘side project’ and PC gaming was my focus. In addition to playing games I loved building and tinkering with PCs.
As I got older the appeal of PC tinkering faded while at the same time consoles got more powerful and started to get more and more attention from developers. I went longer and longer between PC upgrades and spent more time on consoles. Then I started working from home full time, and that was the final nail in my PC gaming coffin. See, we live in a 2 bedroom apartment. One bedroom is our office and I sit there all day every day working. It is (obviously) where the PC is. When the work day is done, I HAVE to get out of there for my mental health. When you work from home full-time you need routines to help your brain flip over to work mode in the morning and turn off work mode in the evening.
So for the last 5 or so years, at least, I’ve played almost no PC games. Problem is, almost all of my online friends are still over there in the PC world. I’ve tried to find a ‘tribe’ of older console gamers but haven’t had much luck. Every so often I try to combine the best of both worlds and bring PC gaming out of the office and into the living room. So far I’ve always failed.
My most recent attempt began when Belghast mentioned ParsecGaming. You’re probably aware of Steam in-home streaming and the Steam Link system, right? It’s a way to stream games from the PC in your office to the TV in your living room. I’d tried Steam in-home streaming a few times but always found it was more fiddly than it was worth. It turns out Parsec does the same thing, except it works. Parsec actually does a lot more than that; you can stream games from a friend’s house or enable virtual-couch-co-op with far away friends. I can’t speak to those features since I was only interested in office->living room.
Setting it up was dead simple. You install Parsec on both systems and enable sharing on your ‘host’ PC then connect from your remote PC. In my case my remote was a laptop. Even on 5 Ghz wireless it worked pretty well and it gives you full access to the host machine, so if a game needed something tweaked I could do it from the remote client rather than running upstairs to click a UAC “accept” button or something. After playing through a Warframe mission without any serious issues I thought my problem was solved!
Of course laptop on the coffee table isn’t the living room experience I was looking for; I wanted the games on the 60″ 4K TV. This simple idea led me down a rat hole as it seems my Samsung Smart TV is pretty persnickety about having a PC hooked up to it. First I tried connecting through a 3-way HDMI splitter and it was no-go. I bought a higher-end HDMI switch rated for 60Hz and UHD. Still no good. Bought some certified high-speed HDMI cables. Still no good. If I connected direct to the TV it (apparently) worked, so finally I just decided to devote an HDMI port to the PC and it worked…for a few moments. Then the signal started dropping out.
At first I thought it was playing games through Parsec which was causing the dropouts. Or maybe just games in general for some reason (but with this laptop I couldn’t test that since it won’t run games on its own). But long story cut a slight bit, it was a timing thing. It ran fine for a while but even if I didn’t connect to Parsec eventually it started glitching. After trying a bunch of stuff I finally got a system that worked. Turn off UHD Color for that HDMI port. Turn off the TV and the laptop. Turn on the TV, then the laptop. Then I had a steady signal, but I had to do that start up sequence every time, which wasn’t ideal (waking the laptop from sleep wasn’t enough, I had to power it off and on again).
Still it worked! Now I had a wired ethernet connection to the laptop in the entertainment center and a wireless keyboard and mouse over at the couch. I bought the $25 Windows Wireless Adapter for an Xbox Controller (which I later found out I might not have needed; newer Xbox controllers can apparently connect to Windows 10 via Bluetooth). I sat back on the couch and… no, wait I couldn’t sit back, I had to perch on the edge of the couch to use the peripherals on the coffee table.
But it worked! I did another test Warframe mission. Success! Played some of Tom Clancy’s The Division. Success! Except…I have those games on console and frankly my Xbox One X is more powerful than my aging PC up in the office, AND there is some input lag using Parsec. Or maybe it is the PC itself. It’s small and I might not have even noticed if I hadn’t been playing these games on the consoles, but they just felt a tad sluggish while streaming them from the PC.
But what about other kinds of games, like MMOs and strategy games? In a fit of nostalgia I d/led World of Warcraft and tried to play that. It worked fine except a lot of the text I couldn’t read from across the room. Ditto strategy games; most of them just haven’t been crafted with the intention of being usable from 10′ away. It isn’t that I absolutely can’t read stuff, but that I have to really concentrate to read them, which isn’t ideal in a gaming environment when you want to be able to glance at a UI component and understand what it is telling you.
So, that was kind of the end of this attempt. In order to play “action games” I’d need to upgrade my PC significantly which I don’t really have the money or the patience for right now. Text-heavy games don’t work great on the TV so they’re out. It isn’t all bad news though. I can still stream MMOs and strategy games to the laptop with it sitting on the coffee table.
I have a desk in the corner of the kitchen that I’m not doing much with, but WiFi reception there is pretty crummy. So now I’m thinking of getting a 50′ Ethernet cable (cheaper than a Wifi extender and more reliable once it is in place) and running it from the entertainment center into the kitchen so I have a wired connection there. I think using the laptop would be more comfortable on a desk than on our low coffee table. And then I was thinking…maybe I just buy a new gaming PC and install it at that desk in the kitchen and give up on the streaming idea.
Or, crazier idea, subscribe to Shadow.tech and get a virtual gaming PC for about $30/month, at least to start with, just to see if the PC gaming itch ‘sticks’. $30/month is high but better to do that for 2-3 months and then get bored, rather than spending $1500 and getting bored after 2-3 months.