The PC gaming lows of the year

Samuel Roberts: RIP Lionhead

Lionhead closed this year, one of the UK's biggest developers. To PC players, that meant the death of the studio that created such ambitious, tonally distinct games as Black & White, The Movies and the Fable series (the best of which, the second, sadly never came to PC). The studio was deep into development on Fable Legends before Microsoft decided to close it. It's always sad to see people lose their jobs in any industry—in this case it was particularly galling because Lionhead is the sort of large-scale studio I can't ever see being replicated in any other form.

Their games had a very British identity that obviously resonated with players around the world. While Fable Legends might've been a bit of a left turn for the series from its action RPG roots, it's a real shame to me that Lionhead created such a high-fidelity version of that universe that will never see the light of day. I thought the art on that game looked phenomenal, and all that hard work has been wasted.

That sucked, and I wish the former staff there all the best in their future projects.

Tim Clark: The tell-tale fan

I find that I become easily fixated by what should otherwise be small problems which, once identified, I either have to solve or become completely consumed by. This year, that meant trying to work out what the rhythmic clacking sound coming from my PC was. Initially, I assumed it was the rear case fan, based largely on pressing my ear against the plastic window and trying to divine the clack’s location. Having procured a replacement, I set about making the change. One badly lit instructional YouTube video later and the new fan was spinning smoothly in situ. (By the way, whoever designed those rubber grommets needs to be lowered balls-first into a volcano.)

Minutes later, the sound had returned. Clack, clack, clackity clack. It wouldn’t be such an issue—hey Tim, let me introduce you to this cutting edge new technology called the “head” “phone”—but for the fact San Francisco rents mean we live in apartment smaller than a mid-sized car’s trunk. So the PC lives in the same room as the TV, and clacking in not conducive to any leisure activity outside of tap dancing. Having also ruled out the CPU fan and the plastic trolley we jauntily roll the PC around on as possible causes, I was close to giving gaming up to become a fruit picker. Ideally, one of the quieter fruits. But in a desperate last roll of the dice I hauled the machine into work in an Uber.

“Whatcha got there?” asked the driver. The PC was wrapped in a bin liner to protect it from the rain, and looked ominous balanced on my lap. I was tempted to answer: “Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, no tip for you.” Once at the office, Wes tried to diagnose the problem. He had helped build the PC, spilling his own actual blood onto the i7 after cutting his thumb during installation, perhaps triggering this voodoo nightmare. “Maybe that little loose wire is bouncing off the PSU fan when it spins up?” he said. Hmm. A small piece of Scotch tape applied, I finally found myself in a glorious clack-free universe. Which, if it’s my biggest gaming low, perhaps means 2016 hasn’t been a complete shuttle crash. Just kidding: it has!

Update: Since I wrote my low of the year the clack is back. So that’s 2017 ruined too.

Tyler Wilde: Lumbar support

An elementary school teacher once told me that if I continued to slouch my spine would fuse that way, and that when I got old I'd start to hunch over more and more until my torso stuck out straight forward. I was horrified enough then to remember the warning now, but not enough to take it to heart, because I was a kid and adults were liars and I felt great all the time anyway.

I still think adults are liars but I definitely don't feel great all the time anymore. After years of cheap office chairs and a cavalier approach to sitting that most closely mimics Eminem's body-length shrug seen here, something in my back gave. I went to urgent care in the middle of the night because I thought one of my kidneys must have exploded, but I was told I just had muscle pain, probably due to an injury acquired while lifting something.

I was given an anti-inflammatory shot and some muscle relaxants and sent home. I spent the following week unable to do much of anything, moving between couch and bed. It's better now in that I can carry a bag of groceries without grimacing, but I still feel pain in my back every day. I brought this on myself not through labor or sports or anything deserving sympathy, but by living as sedentary lump of bones for most of my adult life, ignoring every warning my flimsy spine was giving me.

Count me as one of the millions who's deciding that 2017 is the year they finally start working out again (despite all signs that it won't be). And heed the warning I didn't: posture and ergonomics are important. You don’t have to buy a $1,000 chair, but a decent one is worth the investment (unless you're going the standing desk route). If not one on our list of the best chairs, at least look for adjustable lumbar support and armrests. Make sure your display is at a comfortable height and distance so you don’t have to lean into it to read. Anything you can do to mitigate back pain and repetitive stress injuries is worth doing.

Joe Donnelly: Red Dead Redundancy

One of this year's biggest announcements came courtesy of Rockstar when it revealed Wild West open-world adventure Red Dead Redemption was in-line for a sequel. Surely, we thought, this one won't go the way of John Marsden's first console-exclusive outing and will this time hitch its wagon to personal computers. It didn't. At least, not for now.

Now, given the success of Grand Theft Auto 5's delayed PC release I find it hard to believe Red Dead Redemption 2 won't find its way onto our platform of choice at some point down the line—but as it stands we're forced to watch on from the sidelines as our console counterparts revel in trailers, teasing artwork, rumours of three playable characters, and of course that all important 'Fall 2017' launch window.

On the plus side, the introduction of streaming service PlayStation Now earlier this year means we can now sort-of play the original RDR on PC—assuming you're willing to sign up for Sony's on demand service, you have a fast enough internet connection, and you don't mind playing games via stream. It's far from perfect but it's all we've got. PS Now offers a seven-day free trial (with access to over 400 PS3 games) before it jumps to a £12.99/$19.99 per month subscription. 

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