How to keep playing PC games in the post-apocalypse

Bulletproof PC cases, alternative power sources, and other tips for gaming after the end of the world.

There’s certainly no shortage of games that take place during the post-apocalypse, but what if I want to play those games during an actual post-apocalypse? I’m no doomsday prepper, but on the off chance the world does come tumbling down, it would be nice to be able to play Dying Light between bouts of actually fighting off zombies, or play Fallout 4 in the ruins of a real nuclear war.

Surviving the apocalypse will require some life adjustments, and I understand I won’t have quite as much time for gaming as I do now, but I still should be able to squeeze in a little each day. I figure my daily schedule will consist of:

  • Sleeping fearfully in the bathtub, cradling a weapon or dog: 6 hours
  • Scanning the radio dial for urgent, crackly voices: 4 hours
  • Turning shotguns into sawed off shotguns because that’s what people do in movies: 2 hours
  • Weeping: 3 hours
  • Making an ill-advised trip to an abandoned pharmacy that will probably get Todd killed: 1 hour
  • Staying quiet because someone or something is outside: 4 hours
  • Gaming: 4 hours

So, what do I need to accomplish those four hours of gaming? I decided to do a little “research” on the best way to continue to enjoy playing PC games even if the world comes to an end, and here’s what I came up with.


You’ll need a case for your PC that can handle the occasional errant shotgun blast.

Obviously, the biggest hurdle to playing games during the post-apocalypse is the power. When the world falls to ruin, whether it’s thanks to zombies, aliens, nukes, or some sort of government-sponsored plague, the power is always the first thing to go. You might eventually stumble across a town with working electricity, but it’s usually run by a leader who initially seems like he’s interested in rebuilding society but actually talks to his dead wife’s remains or has some sort of pit where he makes survivors fight to the death or calls himself The Viceroy and executes citizens for minor infractions like falling asleep on guard duty or eating more than their ration of peanut butter.

I wanted to measure how much power my PC uses but didn’t have time to buy a Kill A Watt meter because I didn’t start writing this piece until the day before it was due (a good sign that I’ll never personally survive the apocalypse—I never prepare for anything). Still, I did find this handy power calculator after Googling how to measure PC power consumption and coming across this handly PC Gamer article. Thanks, PC Gamer! I learned that my PC, while gaming, uses an estimated 307 watts, and 65 watts while idle.

To power a PC, gas generators are an obvious yet terrible choice. Raiders are always driving war machines all over the place to find gasoline to fill their war machines so they can drive their war machines all over the place to find gasoline, so you just won’t have enough to spare to run a generator. Also, you don’t want to make noise: noise attracts things, like the thing that bit Todd, necessitating that trip to the abandoned pharmacy.

Solar power is too dicey: depending on the apocalypse, the atmosphere may be filled with choking clouds of ash such as in the case of nukes, volcanoes, or the wrath of God. Wind power is risky as well, because nothing calls attention to a seemingly abandoned house like an enormous wind turbine spinning above it. Which leaves us with human power, provided you’re still human.

Enter the Team Dynamo, a stationary bike that generates power and stores it in a battery while you pedal. It’s clean, quieter than a generator, and the only fuel it needs is your muscles, which are powered by all the stress and anxiety of being one of the few people left on earth.

I contacted Mike Taggett, President and R&D Director of Human Dynamo, makers of the stationary bike, to ask if I could use the Dynamo to generate enough power for a gaming PC. He told me a few not super-hopeful things about powering my PC with my legs.

“100 watts electric is about 150 watts actual due to generation efficiency of 66% on average. A tour de France rider can sustain 300 watts for an hour. So, 200 watts electric,” he said.

That doesn’t bode well for my post-apocalyptic gaming plans, and Mike told me an average rider could only sustain about 75 watts. I’m distinctly below-average, so I either need to hope some desperate marathon riders stumble into my house, or ditch the PC and switch to a gaming laptop. Even then, I’m going to have to make a lot of room in my schedule for pedaling. I guess I can do it while weeping?

Mike also told me he once tried powering a small coffee maker with a Dynamo, and it took about a half-hour of constant pedaling to produce one cup of coffee.

News flash: I’m not going to make it.


The thing outside scratching at the door says it’s Todd but I don’t think it really is.

I won’t sugarcoat this: it’s the post-apocalypse, so from time to time you’re going to have to shoot someone. Scavengers, aliens, demons, a flesh-hungry infected Todd, whatever—at some point you’re going to have to fire a shotgun point blank into someone or something and then sit there dazed and panting with blood/brains/alien DNA/demon-innards splattered over your face while you ponder just what you have become. What have you become? Are you the real monster? Maybe the lucky ones were the first ones who died in the disaster, you’ll muse.

These are all terrible cliches passing through your mind, but I’ll let you have them. It’s been a rough day.

At any rate, you’ll need a case for your PC that can handle the occasional errant shotgun blast. After taking out some threat you don’t want to turn back to your paused game of Super Meat Boy and find only a blank screen because your PC is now a smoldering ruin. Luckily, I found a case that can survive multiple shotgun blasts, made by a company called Fractal Design.

I contacted Fractal’s Design’s tech support line to ask about the Define XL, the case shown in the video, and was told it is unfortunately no longer in production. However, they told me they currently make a version call the Define XL R2.

“And is that similar in design to where it can be shot with a shotgun and continue to function?” I asked.

“Um,” the tech support person said. Then there was a very long pause. “Yeah,” he eventually said. “As long as you’re using the same shot Josh was in the video.” Which was birdshot from twenty or thirty yards away.

“So probably not a close-quarter...up close… shotgun…” I half-asked.

“Probably not… maybe close-quarter, but it’s not going to stop a slug or something.”

I asked if any of their customers ever bought the Define XL and then called tech support after blasting it with a shotgun, either to report a successful test or ask for help with their destroyed computer. There was another long pause. “Not that I’m aware of.”


Shotguns aside, a big activity during the post-apocalypse is using items that are not weapons as weapons. In a perfect world, when you need to cave in the head of a desperate scavenger, irradiated monster, or self-appointed warlord, you’d always have an axe or sword or other suitable weapon at the ready. Life just isn’t like that, and you’ll often have to improvise. When choosing a graphics card for gaming you’ll probably be interested in things like performance, fidelity, frame rates, and price, but if you’re planning for the end of the world, you’ll also want to consider that if you’re attacked while gaming, you may need to grab* your graphics card and beat someone to death with it.

I asked Jarred, our GPU expert, what the heaviest GPU was and he recommended Zotac’s Amp! Extreme line of cards. I couldn’t find a lot of information on actual weight, but shipping weight for the  ZOTAC GeForce GTX 980Ti AMP! Extreme 6GB is listed at 5.29 pounds, more than the others in the line. In other words, if you’re going to beat someone to death with a graphics card, this is the one Jarred Walton recommends. He said so, look:

*Note: by grab, I mean power off your PC, undo the thumbscrews on the case, remove the side panel, make sure you are properly grounded by wearing an electrostatic wriststrap, use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the screw or screws securing the card to the case, unplug the cables connected to the card, undo the latch holding the card in the slot, and carefully pull the card out of the slot. And then use the card to beat someone to death.


You’re going to die, and pretty soon, too.

Naturally, among the other problems you’ll have in the post-apocalypse (the thing outside scratching at the door says it’s Todd but I don’t think it really is, Todd never smiled like that thing is smiling and its eyes are so black), you still have to worry about your typical PC problems, like overheating. Fans can sometimes be noisy—again, noise attracts attention—so you’ll want some liquid cooling. Water in the post-apocalypse is just as precious as gasoline, if not moreso, so you may wind up using the fluid in your cooling system for something else, like putting out the fire that started when Todd was thrashing  and screaming earlier (before you put him outside) and knocked over all those lit candles.

So, you’ll need to replace your coolant with something. I was curious if you could use urine to replace the coolant—you'll be using urine for a few things in the post-apocalypse—so I asked another of our resident PC experts, Tuan.

I would say, in a pinch, go ahead and pee into your liquid cooling system. It’s not good for your PC, but I’m about to tell you why that doesn’t really matter.

Data protection

Let’s face it, you won’t be happily holed up in your shack pedaling your Dynamo and peeing into your cooling system and playing games and beating people to death with your GPU (like Jarred told you to) forever. It’s the post-apocalypse. You’re going to die, and pretty soon, too, especially if you’ve followed the advice found here. When the end comes, remember to think about your videogame collection, and how you can take it with you.

Because frankly, when what used to be Todd leads a horribly grinning mutant army to your door and they tear you apart, you don’t want to give them the satisfaction of being able to enjoy your games, or any of the data on your PC. You want a built-in killswitch to ensure that once you’re dead, your games library will die with you. Good news! Comparatively good news, I mean. RunCore makes an SSD with a special button that will physically destroy the drive.

In the video above, you can see how it works. Simply press the button (shown at 2:30) and stand back! Well, you don’t have to stand back, there’s just sort of a little wisp of smoke. Perhaps that’s not as dramatic as your PC exploding and taking out the entire room, and all of Todd’s followers.

But maybe a subtle ending is best. The world has already ended. Dramatically, you’re not going to top that. 


The first PC game Chris owned was Choplifter in 1982, and since then our staff writer has played at least three other games. He has a love/hate relationship with Early Access survival games and an odd fascination with the lives of NPCs.


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