Half-Life 2's Citadel as a 9-foot tall PC, and other awesome case mods from QuakeCon

Every year, thousands of PC gamers bring their machines, their monitors, and their largest energy drinks to QuakeCon in Dallas for the largest LAN party around. While there are some basic pixel-crunching workhorses and sturdy laptops around, the vast majority of these PCs are sleek, liquid cooled, and sexy as hell. We round up our favorite rigs from QuakeCon every year, and in the process we walk straight past lovely, high-powered machines that any gamer would be lucky to own.

These few, though, represent works of art, feats of engineering, or staggering wastes of money, and we love them all. These are our 13 favorite rigs from QuakeCon 2017.

Honorable Mention: Best Use of Carbon Fiber 

An otherwise ordinary rig, the use of rigid liquid cooling tubes, contrasting tube junctions, and carbon fiber everything made this shiny little fish tank stand out.

Honorable Mention: Best Use of Music and Magnets 

This year, the brightest lights on the networking command center belonged to this high-seas PC. A few modifications turned a limited edition boat-shaped case from Lian Li into this orange-lit jewel of the QuakeCon fleet. Plus, if you put a Lego man near the bow, a magnetic trigger starts to play that classic The Lonely Island song, I’m On A Boat.

Honorable Mention: Best Use of Questionable Liquid Coolant Colors 

We’re not color scientists, but there’s something magical about this case’s bright purple LED lights bouncing off of the soft pastel blues and greens in twin reservoir tubes. Seriously, what is in those things? They look like tubes of rejected Maalox flavors.

#10 All Blue 

There’s no gimmick on this case: it’s just a beast of a machine rigged with efficient liquid cooling lines and enough fans blow Hurricane Harvey back into the Gulf. Getting perfect bends in rigid coolant tubes is not easy, and this case gets every line in precisely the right place. A masterwork of great design and function.

#9: Clear Lego 

Lego PCs are actually not that uncommon on the QuakeCon BYOC tables, but they don’t usually look so damn good. They also almost always lay flat for stability and safety. Not satisfied with that, this builder built an entire upright tower out of Legos, including GPU backplates and fittings for the case fans. He even drilled into Lego blocks to screw in the motherboard stand-offs! The entire thing is built with clear bricks and jammed full of RGB LEDs that rotate through a gentle rainbow pattern.

#8: Local Multiplayer 

Custom built almost entirely out of acrylic panels, this PC is actually a two-rigs-in-one combo. An extra powerful motherboard and CPU support a second virtual machine that boots with its own dedicated GPU, its own monitor, and half of the machine’s eight CPU cores. Both monitors, themed blue and red for fire and ice, bolt onto the sides of the case itself.

#7: So Small and So Clean 

There’s not much to this build, and that’s kind of what I like about it. In a sea of flashy neon reds and garish blues, this Mini ITX stood out like a clean shirt at a gaming convention. Everything, including the coolant, is pure white, then lightly accented with programmable RGB LEDs throughout.

#6: Oh God Run It’s A Dragon 

We’ve really enjoyed seeing how 3D printing has changed the game for case-mods, and this build featuring a 3D-printed dragon coiling around a central coolant reservoir is a great example. Everything is flame-red, including the dragon’s light-up eyes. Press a button and the dragon breathes smoke, too, but we’ll bet you $1,000 you can’t manage to get a picture of a wisp of smoke in the dank blackness of the BYOC. Seriously, I tried everything to get that picture and I just couldn’t do it.

#5: The Gift Horse 

What do you do when you get sent a promo display box with an AMD Ryzen GPU inside? Most people would take out the GPU and install it in a computer, but not this guy, no sir. Instead he grabbed a whole PC and installed it into the box around the GPU. Laser-cutting the AMD Ryzen logo out of the top of the wooden box took some work, we’d imagine, but the end result is a PC in a convenient, handsome wooden gift box.

#4: Oh God Run It’s A Ghoul 

You may remember the incredible Nick Valentine case from last year’s QuakeCon roundup. Well apparently some of you rowdy troublemakers in the comment section (you know who you are, and shame on all of you) gave that PC’s creator a hard time. “Oh, it’s just a mannequin with a PC wired into the chest,” you said. “I could do that,” you lied. This time around, this poor guy sculpted a life-size Feral Ghoul out of clay, made moldings, then recast them in clear resin. He painted it, slaved over it, and then installed a computer into it just to make you monsters happy.

Oh, and there’s a PIPBoy showing that its owner was full crippled, irradiated, and dead by the time the ghoul tore his arm off. Are you not entertained?

#3: The Right Case In the Right Place 

Full disclosure: I walked past this damn thing at least 20 times before I realized it was a PC. It’s so massive, I thought it was holding up the ceiling of the convention center. The towering Citadel from Half-Life 2 is at least nine feet tall, with a central spire reinforced by carbon fiber and a ledge cut-out showing off the central GPU. A red-painted valve on the side serves as a power switch, and yes, its creator has already heard every Half Life 3 joke you can think of.

#2: Wood

The internal components of this PC are all bolted to an aluminum chassis. Why? Because the entire exterior is made of gorgeous, painstakingly joined hardwoods. It would be easy to walk past this case as just another retail case, but cases like this can’t be bought. The entire aluminum chassis slides out for easy maintenance.

#1: Tank Mode 

The Overwatch hero Bastion is a robot of many talents. Apparently, one of them is running video games. This huge sculpture of Bastion in his Tank configuration features two working tank tracks and remote control hardware that allow it to drive itself around. The entire PC is housed in the right-side track housing, which leaves plenty of room for a gigantic speaker that plays explosion noises through the gun barrell. Tragically, Bastion was driving himself into his place of glory for QuakeCon when someone tripped over him and crushed his gun turret. The creator spent the next two days repairing him in time for the show, because all art is suffering.