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Column: The sweet smell of new hardware

People judge me for the amount of money I spend on my PC. Especially my friends. A sad side effect of wanting to be cool in my engineering college was that I ended up with friends who didn’t exactly have the same geek quotient as I did. I later realised that the terms ‘cool’ and ‘engineering college’ are mutually exclusive, so I’m not quite sure what this achieved. Either way, for the past few years, it’s been a running joke among my friends to ask me every other week, “Aaj kuch naya khareeda kya, computer ke liye?,” usually punctuated by a Hindi expletive and followed by drunken high-fives all around me. It doesn’t take a lot to make engineering students laugh. I believe the overall sadness of our lives, coupled with four years of sexual repression has something to do with this.

originpc-titan-pcThey don’t call it the Master Race for nothing

I’ve never really found people around me who share my passion for gaming, and in particular, my joy in building a gaming PC. I spend a large part of my disposable income on pumping new hardware into my PC. My rig is worth well over a lakh now, and to me, it’s a prized possession that I’ve put together with my own two hands after hundreds of hours of research. I’m obsessed with the corner of my bedroom that belongs to my gaming rig, and I make no apologies for it. I’m restless every time anything goes wrong with it to the point of not being able to sleep when I can’t pinpoint the cause of random overheating. But most people, my parents and friends included, think this is a juvenile obsession. They think I’m pissing my money away. “How can you spend so much on your COMPUTER? To play GAMES,” they say to me, “Only KIDS play GAMES”. If only they’d played BioShock. But that’s a story for another column.

I want to be able to have a conversation with a real person whose gaming vocabulary isn’t limited to “Intel”, “CS” and “Do I need a graphics card for FIFA?”

It’s hard to find people to talk to about gaming in India. Sure, we have a massive gaming community online, but once, just once, I want to be able to have a conversation with a real person whose gaming vocabulary isn’t limited to “Intel”, “CS” and “Do I need a graphics card for FIFA?” I swear, when someone so much as mentions “Geforce”, it’s like a mating call. It gives birth to this forlorn hope that maybe I’m not the only person in the room that knows what a stream processor is. Sadly, it’s almost always a severe KLPD. The conversation usually goes something like:

Me: “Hey, so which graphic card do you have?”
Him: “I have a Nvidia Geforce, bro. I got it from Lamington Road”
Me: “Oh, nice. Which one?”
Him: “The latest one”
Me: “Oh, you have a Titan? NICE!”
Him: “No dude, this is a Timex”
Me: “…..”
Him: “Yeah. I got it from Shopper’s Stop. Damn nice stuff they ha….WHOA, is that a shotgun!?”
Me: “Yes. Stand still for a second, won’t you?”

geforce-gtx-titanNot a Timex from Shoppers Stop

What’s interesting is that the people who ridicule me for the pains I put into getting my hardware together are the same people who come to me for recommendations when they’re buying a PC. It’s amusing, and to a degree, almost infuriating because of how clueless they are. A quick hardware consultation phone call usually devolves into me trying desperately to explain that stream processors and bandwidth are more important than GPU memory. Despite my best efforts, I usually hit a stone wall of “But this card has more MBs and costs half of that other one you’re recommending” over and over again.

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If you’re unfamiliar with GPUs (say it in English? Okay, GRAPHIC CARDS), here’s a friendly tip. The amount of RAM on the card (which you lovingly refer to as MBs) is NOT an indication of how good the card is. So buying a cheap card just because the “1 GB RAM” sticker looks pretty isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you’re buying a GPU, refer to the reviews and hierarchy charts on Tom’s Hardware or a similar website. Learn to consult a hardware review for WHATEVER hardware you’re buying and decide what you need for yourself. Google it. It’s not that hard. No matter what Mudassar Bhai tells you, the latest Battlefield game will NOT work on your four-year-old hardware.

</rant>

You can run video games on cheap hardware, but mark my words, you can never enjoy them that way.

I make at least one visit to the computer hardware stores at Lamington Road in Mumbai every other month, and every single time, there’s always one idiot who comes in and asks “Gaming ke liye best kya hai?”, and gets taken for a gleeful ride by the shopkeeper. I’ve seen people convinced, before my very eyes, that a Geforce GTX 8500GT can run Crysis with all the settings pumped up. It’s almost cute how clueless they are. If I’m around and in the mood, I take such people to one side and explain that they’re buying the wrong hardware. Yet still, almost every single time, people will shun advice which has their best interests at heart and say “Nahi yaar, chal jaayega. It’s meeting the minimum requirements” because they want to cut corners. Sometimes, I want to stalk them back to their homes and watch them weep when they realise that I was right.

The fact of the matter is that you can RUN videogames on cheap hardware, but mark my words, you can never enjoy them that way. Invest in good hardware. The research, the troubleshooting, and yes, the money; it’s all part of the fun. If you’ve ever asked a PC gamer why he’s so obsessed about his hardware, I’d like to think you now have an answer. If not, well, I didn’t make up that story about the shotgun.

azeemAzeem Banatwalla is a writer and stand-up comedian. He spends bewildering amounts of time and money adding things with fans and blue lights to his gaming rig, refusing to play any game below the absolute maximum visual spec. He’s a PC gaming snob, although he does occasionally miss playing old-school Sonic on his Sega Mega Drive 2. Views expressed are Azeem’s own and do not reflect those of IVG’s editorial staff.

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