When I had my computer built last October by PC Specialist (who I’d thoroughly recommend) I hedged my bets. I invested in a 500GB Samsung solid state drive, a dedicated sound card, and a very good Intel i7 CPU. However, both my graphics card and fully modular 350W power supply were average, and certainly not capable of supporting any form of high resolution gaming, or to be more specific gaming at 4K resolution.
The graphics card I have is fine for internet browsing, but definitely not ‘overclocking’ – a queasily teccy bourgeois euphemism, or a loose metonym if you prefer, for maxing out your computer’s components for speed of programming, which in most cases is required during gaming. My monitor is no longer up to par either. A trusty companion of nearly ten years, it’s held up well, and I’ve had my money’s worth, but now it’s fast approaching the dreaded status of ‘obsolete’, as it can only max out a resolution of 1080p.
I’ll apologise here. I know some of this jargon is as boring as it is esoteric. You see I’ve been studying up, because shit’s about to get real. I’m thinking about upgrading my computer, or rather, “pimping my computer”, to use terminology that’s down with the uncool kids.
Strangely this process of buying new technology, or the thought of buying it, reminds me of indulgencies from my youth. Specifically that taste of draft coke, and more importantly what the circumstances surrounding its consumption signified. You know the stuff that was almost flat after being drawn into the glass, foaming at the top, the excess sugar leaping into the air and lightly tickling your face as you took the first sip or gulp, watered down with copious amounts of circular shaped hollowed out ice that you only found in pubs, or so it seemed. Its sweetness permeated your blood and convinced your brain that life could be a world of ubiquitous Saturdays. Often it was accompanied with generic junk food, battered fish or a hamburger with chips, there was the condiments basket and its vibrant palette of colours and the appealing stench of hydrogenated fat and salt. This meagre decadence was further enriched by the conglomerated smell of cigarette smoke, alcohol and sweat that was prevalent in many pubs, arcades, bowling alleys and restaurants, haunts that parents frequented to safely abandon their under tens in during the late eighties and early nineties.
That may seem like a peculiar analogy. But think about it this way – when you’re a kid it’s all about the sensations and actions associated with self-gratification and hedonism. In retrospect you realise that when you were younger you weren’t thinking about much else. You aren’t considering the plight of Syrian refuges, those who use foodbanks, whether the NHS or Welfare State will still be around in ten years. You aren’t worried about paying the mortgage, the car insurance or whether the boiler’s about to go, you’re getting shit bought for you, your tea made for you, playing football with your mates, and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, you watched Jean Claude Van Damme movies and spent hour after hour playing video games on the SEGA Genesis, and when you weren’t doing it, you were thinking of when you could do it next.
Due to its omnipresence throughout most of the lives of people in my age group or younger, gaming has the ability, or potential, during use, to transpose its positive associative nostalgia over any of the malaises of adult reality. While the technology has advanced, and the graphics, AI and narratives employed within have become far more sophisticated, at root it’s still the same form of entertainment that you utilised twenty-five years ago. The stability of the medium’s influence means you can also revitalise, guilt-free, a sense of entitlement and release from responsibility that you once enjoyed when you first started gaming.
Speaking more broadly buying stuff with disposable income as an adult is an additional effort to recreate an excitable sense of freedom, and it’s even more powerful. Once you accept that the act’s grotesquely self-gratifying, you’re warmed by a self-congratulatory glow, and its sense of worth and achievement, as you earned the right to treat yourself, it wasn’t given to you. In the realm of gaming, this imbues what is already a highly personalised pursuit, and therefore it can feel like an authentic, justified indulgence, not a frivolous one.
Yet, despite the allure of returning to this hive of existentialist ‘fun’, the reality is that buying anything computer related is a massive fucking con. The graphics card I’ve decided upon, the EVGA NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid Graphics Card 6GB (pictured above), to give it its full, hilariously excessive and pompous, title, costs, including fucking VAT, a whopping £630. Can I justify this? Not really. It will be future proof for five years, possibly more. It’s by EVGA, widely considered the best custom graphics card manufacturer and the card itself comes with its own closed loop water-cooling system, meaning it’s less likely to overheat and fail. However, NVIDIA, the company who owns the chipset architecture in these cards already has its next generation GPU chipset ‘Pascal’ due for release next year. So I could wait, always a chore, and buy the latest generation of card, and probably pay more, or buy now, and possibly regret it within a year.
In truth this dilemma is present when considering most purchases. Vary rarely do you get value for money and significant longevity of relevance, whether it be from cars, clothes and in particular anything that falls under the crude term ‘modern household gadgetry’. Western culture is built upon instant gratification and the feeble attempt to channel that conceit and subdue its vulgarity within consumerism. There’s even an adage related to this, well of course there is, which works as a sanctimonious justification; ‘quality is remembered, long after price is forgotten’. It’s bollocks of course. For a start I’ll never fucking forget how much I paid for the EVGA 980 GTX Ti Hybrid, no matter how good it is or how much enjoyment it provides.
Sadly there is a kernel of truth to that musing, most of the purchases we consider to be successful are bought to be used and enjoyed, and therefore we tend not to contemplate, before, during or after, how quickly they’ll become disposable or outdated. Very few things appreciate in value, most properties do, ‘good’ antiques do too, or these days gold and bitcoins, but by gosh, buying that kind of stuff to hoard it is fucking boring, isn’t it?
So yeah, all things considered, my inclination to pimp my computer shouldn’t be held against me. It’s conditioning, and we’re all subject to it. Plus, one thing I’ve realised is that life’s lived better with a positive attitude. While any concerted dalliance with unadulterated materialism is concerning, any act that prevents bitterness and disillusionment from creeping in should be encouraged. Plus, by pimping my computer to partake in a few hours of gaming every week I’m verifying a crucial sociological, cultural, economic and political truth, as it’s instructive of why democratic communism failed and remains dormant.
A good question is, why now? Coming from a relative hiatus in gaming it’s hard not to be wowed by the technological advancements, particularly as the jump from 1080p to 4K is significant. My recent gaming, little that there was, had been limited to Football Manager before the motherboard on my archaic XP system finally packed it in.
So yes, I must confess, this makes the recent releases on the PC look even more enticing. In ‘Until Dawn’ you essentially control the narrative of a horror movie, with every decision you make on behalf of the multiple characters altering the ending. How about the impending Tomb Raider game? Lara Croft’s bust, lips and arse in 4K! How about that new Metal Gear Solid game, does it look terrific or what? Or how about some absurdly gratuitous ultra-violence, that would be Mortal Kombat X? Then there’s GTA V, which for men, and most of us have low impulse control, is a must. Better to go on a killing spree, taser cops, commit suicide, randomly run over pedestrians, rob banks, get a mullet haircut, be a drug kingpin, go on ‘rampages’, shoot teenagers, yuppies, and mimes, drive like a lunatic and kick cats, than to do it in real life. Just a hunch here, but I reckon that in GTA V the consequences are significantly diminished.
I have only one certainty in all this – that doing the research for this upgrade will probably be the most rewarding thing that I take away from it. I set up a motorised satellite system five years ago. The research for that was extensive; what parts I would need, and what kind of sat motor, wall mount, dish and Linux integrated box to buy. Most important of all was learning how its various elements worked. In retrospect setting up the software required was the easy part; installing CCCam (for cardsharing), flashing your box with an image (which is essentially a skin for the channel and setup menus), and giving the Dreambox its own IP address on your router (also a necessity for cardsharing). Setting up the hardware, now that was a real struggle. Working on a roof incline when attempting to do something this fiddly is no joke – getting a motorised satellite on the arc requires every flat surface, both vertical and horizontal to be flush, or straight. Then there’s the dish declination, which has to be judged according to the longitude and latitude of your location. Then, and only then, can you start to scan 0.8w, the satellite closest to due south. Get that scanned, and provided everything else is right, you should be able to scan the lot. Of course me being me, I attempted to do the scanning part, only the most difficult bit, with a £5 satellite scanner, this after spending £500 on my satellite set-up. The lesson? Don’t ever be stupidly cheap.
Despite that lapse in judgement the whole process was very enjoyable, mostly because I was learning about something that I was invested in for my own benefit. It truly is the best motivation for and means of learning, and even today I’m still learning things about my satellite system. That’s the main gift of technological advances – as they advance you have to learn how the innovations work and how they can benefit you.
Sadly, there has been a downside to this research. I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours watching tutorial and product review videos on Youtube made by computer enthusiasts, which is a kind way of saying a slew of portly greying men, mostly shot from within their ‘caves’. Nearly all of these abodes are lovingly decked out with pimped systems, multi-monitor set-ups, $3000 gaming chairs and other fatuous gadgets, which they make sure to be in shot whenever possible. It’s harmless, but let’s also point out a double-standard. Women who anoint themselves as beauty and lifestyle gurus and produce videos on Youtube of said subjects are widely and routinely ridiculed and criticised, often it’s by viciously insufferable feminists, for it being a form of preening. While that accusation is probably fair, this geek preening strikes me as being just as bad, or perhaps worse. Not only is this ego massaging a blatant attempt to validate their existences as worthwhile, with the ultimate intention of creating a famed brand, always an irksome spectacle and par the course with most career YouTubers, it’s also a desire to recreate a domain that is a surrogate for the lost wankpits, sorry bedrooms, of their youth. Even worse this aesthetic explicitly implies to the viewers that once they turn off the camera they’re liable to fart and wank with impunity.
Indeed watching videos of a computer being constructed it’s hard not to ignore the sexual innuendo. Attaching components to a motherboard requires slotting stuff gently into its odd shaped orifices. Sending cables through cable-tidying holes and screwing fans and cards into position is done with an extremely satisfying smirk. There’s cooing as they stroke the sleek surface of a £500 graphics card. Slow-mo close-ups of their excessive watercooled systems, complete with huge pipes and ‘dyed’ fluid that may or may-not have been modelled on a nuclear reactor in conjunction with the colour of their own cum, is often accompanied by deep lusty breathing.
The wretch is they’ve imparted knowledge, and so they have value. And just as some find it important to learn which foundation is best for your skin tone, what handbag is ‘in’ right now and how to successfully coordinate your style, so I’ve deemed it important to learn how to install a graphics card and what airflow configuration I should use. Each to their own, I guess.
Upgrading the computer myself still seems quite daunting, but less so than I when I first considered actually doing it. You would think that my previous experience as a novice setting up a satellite system, and extensive trials, tribulations and errors in ultimately succeeding is what’s making me more confident that I can pimp my computer. That ordeal was more physically demanding than what I face in replacing a few components on a computer that’s already been expertly set up for me. But I’m not sure the comparison is as relevant as I’d like it to be. Any first forage into the breach brings a mixture of elation and trepidation, and the experience, sorry, sense of achievement, would be lesser without it.
Now, I just have purchase the parts and do the upgrade. Even if you think my reasons for doing it make me a vacuous relatively affluent twat, root for me, and if you’re my age and male, you probably will.