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Finally, a PC in the living room

Our (new) TV has more ports than I knew what to do with…until now. We’ve had the TV for just about a year and I feel like I’m just starting to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, this new avenue of geeking out may require some additional hardware…but it’ll be worth it.

Between the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, we’ve managed to create a network of entertainment that finally brought computer power to the living room. I had emulators on the Wii and games, movies and music on the Xbox. The Xbox has pretty much become the center of our entertainment (congrats, Microsoft) but it lacks a few things that only a PC can bring.

The Xbox is truly the center of our living room.
The Xbox is truly the center of our living room.

Single use vs. multiuse

The Xbox is a gaming computer, so games are a given but even that is limited. Despite it being a great console, you still have to play within Xbox’s rules. With a PC you can obviously do a little more. Since our TV is nothing more than a huge computer monitor now, putting computer games on the big screen is easier and thus more engulfing than ever.

I had Twittered about needing a mini PC or laptop to act as a media center-ish device for the living room. A few friends mentioned things like Apple TV, Boxee Box, Google TV and so on down the list of slimline and somewhat dedicated devices. I’m sure those all work great but I don’t see how anything can beat hooking up a full PC/laptop to your screen, especially if you’re after more than just movies and music.

More than just movies and TV shows

We pay for digital cable and we pay for Netflix. We have TV and movies covered, frankly. Yes, internet movies and television shows are a little more free than both those options, but I doubt that such free access to shows would cause us to cut the cord on cable. Myself, I’m not much of an on-demand TV watcher. The concept kind of goes against my programming, but the point being that a dedicated device wouldn’t save us anything nor really get us anything we can’t already get. But right now I’m not very interested in movies and television shows anyway. I’m interested in games.

Old and new, there are literally a gajillion computer games to play. I like my retro games, so emulators like MAME and old consoles is a big draw. But then there are also lots of modern games that are great to play on the computer, not to mention a mountain of free, PC-only titles in my favorite genres. I installed old console emulators on my Wii, which was handy to a point, but the Wii couldn’t run MAME. A computer can do all the above and then some, so I hooked up the laptop to the TV and it worked great.

Torus Trooper on a 47" TV is intense.
Torus Trooper on a 47" TV is intense.

A whole new experience

Even with a basic VGA hookup, playing emulators and native PC games on the big screen is just incredible. I first booted up some trusted emulators, including classic Nintendo and MAME. I was happy to find that the rendering of the NES on the big screen is even better coming out of the laptop than the emulator I had installed on my Wii. And since MAME wasn’t an option before, just having arcade favorites like Gigawing and DoDonPachi on the big screen is awesome.

Getting the PC into the living room has put me back into the PC mind, a place I thought I had all but left behind. It has put new life back into games I gave up on if for only because I really dislike sitting hunched in my office playing games. I’ve now returned to a quest to find PC games that I can enjoy and revisiting ones I had since forgotten.

Old favorites like Torus Trooper have new life on a such a big screen. And my favorite arcade genre, shmups, now live large and in-charge. Freeware PC shmups like Blue Wish and one I recently discovered, ChoRenSha 68k, are now worth playing and replaying thanks to being able to play them from the comfort of my couch. And it’s only going to get better from here.

Being able to see bullets is a good thing
Being able to see bullets is a good thing

More cords, but its worth it

Our one laptop is a few years old now so it doesn’t have any HDMI output, so only the video is getting to our fancy TV. Sound is still coming out of the crappy laptop speakers and I fear that even with a new laptop, corded USB controllers will still be a requirement…but that is a small price to pay to have such a wealth of gaming readily available. Maybe the Xbox or Playstation is enough for many, but I’m afraid it isn’t for me. I love games. When I come across a game that looks like fun, I want to play it, whether it be on a console or the PC. I can know have the best of both worlds and still be comfortable.

A friend recently told me he found it funny that I use the newest technology to play the oldest games, speaking specifically about my Wii being nothing more than a retro console emulator. His point was valid but one I’m not ashamed of…and frankly, the only reason the Wii became an emulator box is because it would hook up to the old TV. Now with the laptop being an option, the Wii has pretty much obsolete in my mind (anyone want to buy it?).

The result of this brief trip is that I’m now rethinking my living room and that’s a lot of fun to think about. I’ve spent so much time collecting and organizing in multiple locations that finally having one drop zone for everything will be a true joy. And yes, I know that I’m at where you were probably 3 years ago. You had it first, big deal. I’ll enjoy mine more.

3 Comments

  1. Juano Juano October 27, 2010

    Did you see this already? I tried to get my wiimotes to work via bluetooth, but apparently it’s more complicated than searching for devices. Maybe that adapter will work.

    The one thing I wish emulators could do is add a multiplayer component via internet. If they can do that, i’ve completely missed it.

  2. Brian Brian October 28, 2010

    That wireless receiver looks interesting. I’ll have to read more about that and check it out.

    I’ve come across a few emulators that claim to support online play. There is a version of MAME that does work, although it didn’t work that well for me. It’s not like there is a lobby or anything, so unless you have someone else coordinating with you, it’s tough to find another player.

    There was a NES emulator that claimed online multiplay too and I had it working over my LAN but it failed to work over the internet. I think it was the old Nesticle emulator.

  3. Brian Brian November 6, 2010

    I did get a new laptop to further our dependence on our giant TV and video entertainment. It’s an Acer 5251. It has a lower end AMD chip but it’s plenty fast for what I’m doing and the video is crazy smooth. With an HDMI output, YouTube and other internet video plays wonderfully, even full screen. And all for less than $400 – so no complaints here.

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