This past weekend I went to a LAN party at my friend’s dorm. For those of you new to the term, you basically take your PC to this party and everyone connects to a Local Area Network (hence the LAN part) to play games for hours on end. This party was in the basement of the dormitory, and it started at 2PM on Saturday and ended at 12PM on Sunday. I think. It was a long night. B-)
While my Debian GNU/Linux system has a new video card and has a slightly faster processor than my Windows system, the fact was that we were playing games, and a lot of them aren’t available for GNU/Linux yet. So I took my Windows machine.
I had problems right away. My Windows machine didn’t have as complete a cooling system as my Debian system. I barely use it, so there was never a need. And I have played games on it before. Yet this weekend of all weekends, games would crash to the desktop. At first I thought that it was possibly Windows 98. I’ve refused to install Windows XP for reasons I may go into another day, but at the urging of others, I installed WIndows XP. Luckily I had brought the CD that I got for free for attending some Microsoft seminar on .NET. Still crashed to the desktop when playing games. So rule out the OS.
I opened the system and found that the ATI Radeon 8500 video card was really, really hot. I think the ribbon cables were blocking airflow. Someone had a spare GeForce 2 MX, so I installed that. I still had crashes, so I opened the case to find that the video card was hot after only a few moments in the system. Was it overheating?
My friend let me use his fan to cool my system. It was funny seeing the case opened and a giant fan blowing into the system, but it kept it quite cool. Unfortunately, games would still crash to the desktop. So rule out overheating.
Someone else insisted I should lower the clock speed on my processor. I had a motherboard that allowed me to flip switches to lower the speed, and I didn’t want to do it at first. I paid money for an AMD XP 2100+, so why lower it? Well, it did the trick. Games stopped crashing, and it still ran quite fast to handle games like Alien vs Predator 2 and Unreal Tournament 2004. I’m still upset that I had to lower the speed, but apparently the processor is overheating otherwise. Perhaps the CPU fan isn’t working well anymore.
Me and my computer woes, eh? Two other people had some issues, but we all eventually got to play.
I haven’t been to a LAN party in a long time, and these days it is less likely since I work 40 hour weeks. It was a completely different situation when I just had school to worry about. It was a good time. I think everyone should attend a LAN party. Besides reminding you that playing games is important if you are going to make good games, it also reminds us that gaming is every bit as social an activity as any other. The next time someone tells you to “put down the controller, go outside, and get a life” remind them that playing video games with friends is a bit more healthy than getting overly drunk at bars and smoking. And arguably more fun.