I always take ages to think of birthday presents for people. I’m always reminded of my brother Matthew’s saying every year: “I buy you presents that I really want for myself that we can share!” I spend hours agonising over decisions while some presents literally come at the spur of the moment. However, for someone buying things for a PC gamer, this can be a really tricky subject, especially if said PC gamer is nerdy as well. So here follows a list of five things I would, as a PC gamer, buy for another PC gamer, because today’s my birthday and yet I can only think of what presents I want to get for other people.
Compressed air in a can with dust filters
As the owner of a PC that works day in and out slogging on with my sixty tabs, multiple e-mail windows and Gaben knows what else in the background, and given that it is summer time now, my fans work overtime to get cool air to my components. Along with the cool air to keep things from melting into goop, it also brings in dust and dust is the enemy of all computers over the world.
Dust gets attached to your rotor blades and weighs the blades down. Dust gets attached to heatsink fins and with time begins to stick to it. Dust gets into hard drives and causes heads to hit the platters, bringing with it catastrophic data loss. Dust coats capacitors in your power supply, insulating them and causing heat build-up. Dust in your PC when you’re living by the sea will cause rusting of vital components. In short, dust is a shitty thing to deal with because on a daily basis it works against you to kill your PC and often you can’t see it.
To combat this, I would buy a PC gamer some magnetic dust filters and a can of compressed air. Having the can of air helps because frequently people will use compressors which may have small amounts of water in the canister, or leaf blowers which could positively charge the air flowing through them.
A clamp-style multi-monitor mount
I moved to using two monitors back in 2010, a change that forever made my computer a different beast. Now, I can’t go back and having two monitors is not only a godsend, but a necessity for someone in my line of work. Having monitors sit on your desk with their stupidly awkward stands that are below is a pain in the ass for long periods of use, and it creates some extra eye strain, as well as indirectly make you lose your posture. Putting them up on a decent stand solves these problems pretty quickly.
To be able to use monitor mounts, however, you need to have specific requirements. The monitors themselves need to have VESA mounts on the back and the holes need to be either 75mm or 100mm apart diagonally. Monitors which are lighter use the smaller mount while the heavier ones need a bigger mount and a stronger base. Most solutions will support both, however, so all that’s left is to find screws that are the right length, width and thread. Check out the manual for the monitors you’re buying the stand for to see what screws they recommend.
If you’re looking for a good mounting solution, try opt for the clamping mounts as these free up space on the desktop and make it look much cleaner overall. Make sure the monitors altogether weigh less than the stand’s maximum supported weight as they could cause the stand’s frame to buckle and bend over time. The mount can be as flexible or inflexible as you may be able to afford, the important bit is to just allow for putting them at eye height and supporting rotating the display 90 degrees. To start off, Avara makes some of the cheaper and slightly more durable monitor mounts out there and the TC743 is a good start for a triple-display setup.
The original soundtrack (OST) to their favourite game
I typed up most of this while listening to the soundtrack of The Crew, which is quite soothing and epic in several parts. Some of my writing gets done while Destiny’s soundtrack is playing, while a lot of my thinking is spurred on while listening to Far Cry 3’s OST. Game soundtracks have an incredible amount of detail to them and fairly often the music is what makes or breaks a game. There are some specific parts of soundtracks that may be the only reason why I like any of it, like “Abigail Walker” from the Infamous: Second Son OST. If you’ve ever played Grand Theft Auto III around its launch, you might be nodding in agreement to how much the music of a game stays with you, often for years.
So, hit up their Steam/GoG/PSN/XBL profiles and music library and listen to what their favourite games are and how much they are engrossed by it. Chances are they like the music just as much, and it adds in a personal touch because it shows you’ve been listening to their ramblings on about staking out a cave and just shooting the monsters inside for hours to get more loot and experience.
A good, durable mechanical keyboard
I own a Cooler Master CMStorm Quickfire Pro with CherryMX Brown keys and the amount of abuse this thing has seen over the nearly two years I’ve owned it is astounding. I recently cleaned it out, washed all the keys and put it all back together and wouldn’t you know it – it made zero difference. Two year’s worth of dust and dirt and Gaben knows what else couldn’t bog it down. Ever since I opened the box for it and took it out for a test, it has performed in exactly the same way every day. That’s not the kind of reliability I expect from a membrane keyboard and certainly I don’t expect it to perform exactly the same two years later.
Mechanical keyboards, for the uninitiated, have a switch under each key that is composed of a spring, the key itself and the actual switch which comes into contact with the key. In some designs, most of them made and patented by CherryMX, there’s an audible click when pressing the key and in others there’s just a smooth action that no membrane keyboard can ever hope to mimic.
CherryMX Blacks are great for gaming because you know when you’re pressing the key properly and there’s no accidental key presses. Blues and Browns are good for typing on, while Browns are usually the most neutral of the bunch and are good at everything. The Red switches are super-fast and smooth, but they often lack the kind of feedback you find in other designs.
If you’re looking for a good mechanical keyboard to start your birthday geek off on, consider the Cooler Master Quickfire Storm XT. Its the successor to my Quickfire Pro, has slightly improved CherryMX Brown switches and is guaranteed to last you much longer than any membrane or rubber-dome keyboard out there.
Artwork of their favourite game, laminated or framed
As long as I’ve loved videogames, I’ve loved their artwork just as much. From Yoji Shinkawa’s take on Metal Gear Solid 2 and the game’s theme of the contrast of the real and virtual worlds, to the haunting depictions of a world gone wrong in The Last of Us, the look and feel of games are heavily influenced by the art direction, and sometimes all that is needed to create an appropriate atmosphere is good design. The collectors editions of games that have artwork books are a treasure trove of tiny details that will often be lost in the actual game, stuck in the source material forever.
Even if there’s no artwork that you can frame, you can look at laminating the maps that come with some videogames. I have an old copy of Getaway: Black Monday and on it is a scale map of London, with my notes and writing scrawled all over as to where interesting things are in the game (like the very rare TVR Tuscan 8). Its just relaxing looking at a map for a game and remembering where everything was in the virtual world and what you did there. You were there in Los Santos, those things did happen down by Mount Chilead, but they took place in a fictional world, a Neverland that gamers can always retreat to, to let off steam and relax.
So, convince your gamer friend/lover/spouse/sibling/parent/whatever to look the other way and take their old game maps for framing, or get their game art preserved so that they can have nostalgia kick in each time they see it, instead of letting it collect dust inside the jacket of an old game box that will never be opened because everything is digital now.