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Gaming On Top Of The World

The Point Thomson helideck.

Has it really been more than three months since my last blog? That was a rhetorical question, just in case you were wondering. The reason for my long (ok, not that long) absence from this wonderful community is due mostly to this thing called "life" getting in the way. I transitioned to a new job, and it puts me way up at the top of this country. The North Slope of Alaska, to be exact. It's only place in the US where polar bears outnumber game retailers by a considerable margin. As you can imagine, the internet is not great and there is no cell phone service (GASP!), so gaming can be quite an endeavor all on its own. It's been pretty trying to say the least.

Around the beginning of April, I started working for a company that placed me the farthest north I've ever been.  I won't get into the specifics of my work or the project as a whole to save you all the boring details you may not care about (you're welcome), but I won't go all secret squirrel on you if you ask me individually. Anyhow, I now find myself working two weeks straight at this remote location, and enjoy two weeks of freedom as a reward. This is pretty good from a gaming stance. While on the slope, I can spend my downtime gaming on my laptop. When I'm off for two weeks back home, I have all day to get some quality gaming time in. But gaming on the slope isn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Sunrise from my office on May 10th.

As it turns out, having the capability to obtain everything you want from a gaming standpoint via the internet is pretty amazing. I haven't really done much gaming on the PC in the last decade or so, which is why I found the numerous options quite fascinating. I heard of this "Steam" a time or two, so I figured I'd give it a shot. That is, I'd give it a shot after waiting an hour and a half for the download. You see, this project site I'm at has around 300-350 people at any given time at this point in the project. We all share the same internet server. Some folks love Netflix, others love their Skype, but all hate my need to download any type of file. While 3.79 mbps isn't terrible for a single person using the bandwidth, it's absolutely awful when you have 300 or more internet hogs online at the same time (285 kbps download speed according to Steam's real time progress bar). I know, first world problems, right?

So back to Steam. I was like a kid in a candy store when I first started perusing the plethora of games that were laid out before me. Given that my laptop is better suited for checking emails than it is for gaming (500MB of RAM, *SIGH*), I decided I would start with some older favorites that I didn't physically own, and maybe try some smaller indie titles that didn't require my laptop to somehow miraculously morph from Napoleon Dynamite to Superman.   Once I made up my mind to download KOTOR 2 (don't judge me), I hit "download" and waited for my laptop to glow with a glorious if not supernatural aura. That, of course, did not happen. Instead, I can swear I heard my laptop let out a hearty belly laugh at me for trying to download a game with the recourses I had to work with. The laugh was justifiable, as it took just over four and a half hours to download said game. Luckily, I didn't sit there the entire time, or I might have gone completely bananas and buried my laptop in a snowdrift out in the middle of the tundra.

Once my game finally decided to crawl its way onto my computer by its thumbs, I installed it and hit "play." In my head, trumpets sounded as victory would soon be mine, and I would have a game to play at last. False. I would instead get to watch my cursor strike its thinking pose, and then stop proceeded by absolutely nothing. A volcanic explosion took place in my skull. "What in blazes is it now?!?!" (I cleaned up the language a bit for your benefit) I scoured the Steam FAQs and troubleshooting tips for any possible way to fix this problem. One thing I will give the fine folks at Valve is that their step by step troubleshooting tips are pretty straight forward and they don't use a whole lot of confusing jargon to explain everything to you. In spite of this, I was still unable to solve my problem. After numerous attempts to update drivers, configure and reconfigure my background applications, and basically take apart and put back together my laptop, I was ready to give up. I emailed Steam's help desk, and resigned to waiting for some semblance of assistance.

I have two words for you GameFly, neither one I can type out on this site.

Patience was not with me that rotation, and I was itching to play a videogame. It had already been a couple weeks since I last played a game, so I continued my quest to find a way to "get my game on" while on the North Slope. I then discovered that GameFly had a similar downloadable client. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I decided to give it a chance. The download was about a half hour shorter than Steam's was, so I already was a lot happier. I went with a little game called Morrowind (perhaps you've heard of it), and immediately regretted it. Six hours (and a strong desire for a couple shots of whiskey) later, I dove straight into the game. I got about an hour or so into it before I had to quit, but I was really happy that I finally got a game to work. My plans for gaming on the North Slope were finally coming to fruition.

I wish I could end my griping and complaining here, but that would make this an uncharacteristically short blog, and I have more "airing of grievances" to get out of the way. With that being said, my next attempt to get into Morrowind was met with a frustrating frozen title screen. Once again, I sent out an email. GameFly was really quick to respond, and I was really starting to think that I made a mistake going with Steam first. Then I opened the email and read their attempt to win the "not my job" award. I was told to email Bethesda, as they weren't responsible for games that wouldn't work using THEIR CLIENT. Bethesda was also pretty quick to respond, but alas they were pretty unhelpful. Would I have to go buy a used system just to bring with me to the slope?

Just as I was ready to give up hope, the folks at Valve finally got off their thumbs and responded to me. While their direct advice didn't help, it did bring my attention to a checked box in the game's properties section. "Enable Steam Community In-Game" was checked and stuck out like a sore thumb. Why the heck would I want to enable the community for a single player game made last generation? One click later, I was gaming. I went ahead and downloaded some more games, and they all worked after unselecting the in-game community option. I finally had the solution to my gaming woes. I can finally say I'm catching up on the Half Life series (wow does the first one look ancient), and I'm pretty excited to start gaming on the PC once again (although at some point I need to upgrade this RAM).

So as you can see, while gaming on the North Slope can be an utter pain, it's not impossible. I already burned through my first play through on KOTOR2 and am about halfway through a second. On top of that, I'm working my way through the Half Life games. Any recommendations for games that don't have monster system requirements? I'm open to all suggestions.  Well, thanks for braving my long rant session.  And I also want to thank everyone who checked in on me to make sure I was alive (not unlike the old cat lady who rarely leaves her apartment), it really made my day to hear from you, even if I didn't reply to you right away (or at all, and I'm really sorry about that). I'm already getting started on some more blogs, and fortunately for you there's much less whining coming your way. Until next time friends.

 

 

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