The Nightmares of Hardware Failure

Gaming is far from a low maintenance entertainment, it costs its fair share of our pennies and it requires a sizable quantity of high-tech equipment. Whether it's a handheld, a fragile console or a high spec and easily overheated PC, gaming is expensive before you even buy the games and this can be a problem when these important bits of tech go horribly wrong. Naturally, given the associated costs of our hobby, few things can be as disheartening as a broken, overheating or entirely fried piece of gaming equipment. Depending on circumstances this can mean anything from a period of gaming drought while you wait for the warranty to finish processing to a pricey replacement. No one wants to have to deal with this sort of problem but occasionally these things do happen and as technology has advanced problems have only become more common. So what are some of the worst and most notorious gaming disasters that we can face?

Heat Wave

The most pervasive and problematic cause of equipment failure in gaming is heat. Whether it's a console with a bad position for venting heat or a faulty fan in a PC gaming rig, heat is always there, waiting for a chance to spoil our day. Thankfully there are some preventative countermeasures we can take to try and keep this silent assassin of consoles and PCs alike at bay. First, positioning of your equipment can't be overstressed as an important means for keeping technology cool. Consoles, especially modern consoles, are seemingly claustrophobic and it's always good to adhere to the various guidelines as to how much room they need around them to operate optimally. The same is also true of PCs, of course, and it's wise to not clutter them in an enclosed place. In the same vein, keep an eye on fan vents and make sure they're free. It's oh so easy to forget these important rules when moving consoles around, especially when carting one around to a friend's house or repositioning a console in the home- so keep your eyes open for carpets and other nasty, squishy things waiting to block your air vents. A measure open to PC owners in particular (but not to be completely overlooked by a diligent console gamer) is custom cooling technology. Consoles can be modified with additional fans but this is often unnecessary so long as the console is properly positioned and one should always be careful in researching plug in fans to ensure they are indeed beneficial. PCs, however, are another matter and one can never have too much cooling for a gaming rig- extra fans, a chassis with a fan system and liquid cooling are all viable options.

Computing Conundrums

There are a great many issues to watch out for as a PC gamer and they can catch you when you're least expecting them. Heat, as mentioned above, is the big one to watch out for and there are a few PC specific measures that can ward off this threat. Fans are the obvious solution to overheating in a gaming rig, lots of lots of fans. Some chassis come prepared with a cooling system made up of several fans (and you're likely to need them if you go for a powerful system). It's important to ensure the graphics card and the CPU are both equipped with decent fans. Another solution to PC overheating issues is the more expensive liquid cooling solution. Often this can be as expensive to set up as any replacement you may buy but it runs almost silently and guarantees a cool system (and it looks pretty). Heat can be dangerous for the graphics card, especially when overclocking (pushing your hardware beyond its limits) so it's crucial to have a good fan on your card. Finally, from time to time, and especially when overclocking or trying a particularly demanding game, it can be wise to download a temperature monitor and have a look at the internal temperature of each of your system components. Heat isn't the only issue facing PC gamers though. Disasters come in software varieties as well and many of these are very much specific to the PC audience- who's ever heard of a virus for the 360? It is important to guard against malicious viruses and software; a free antiviral program coupled with a decent firewall has become essential for PC owners. Other software issues to look out for can come from an unlikely source- the developers. What can be more disappointing than finally finishing a sizable installation only to find that there is an incompatibility in the game with your OS or a part of your computer? Even worse is finding that the game hasn't been properly optimised for a wide array of system setups and that your computer is one of the unfortunate specimens that won't run the game properly (Black Ops is still fresh in the minds of the PC gaming community as a bit of a disaster until the patch last December). There's plenty to watch out for on the PC, but it's certainly not the only platform to suffer from gaming nightmares.

The Red Ring of Death

Well, technically it's not a ring- it's a semicircle. But, whatever shape it is, it's the bane of 360 gamers everywhere. The three red lights on the front of your 360 signify a general hardware failure and that a key component of the system isn't working properly. This usually means that the 360 needs to be sent off for repair- a painful break in gaming time to endure. There are certain telltale signs that a red ring of death is impending; you'll see graphical glitches, freeze ups and other errors before the system finally gives up. The red ring of death became notorious for a time as the problem occurred so often that Microsoft was forced to reconsider their warranty. Eventually the warranty for the 360 was extended to three years but only for issues related to general hardware failure and the red ring of death. Today, the problem is less common but it's still an issue, especially considering that Microsoft have withdrawn the extended warranty in the case of the new "slim" 360s.

Collateral Damage

Microsoft isn't the only company that had to deal with unexpected hardware issues after launch; in Nintendo's case, however, it wasn't their hardware that was at risk of damage. Shortly after the release of the Wii stories began to emerge of Wiimote projectiles and smashed television screens. It was revealed that, despite the wrist strap provided with Wiimotes, the controller was all too often escaping the grip of gamers and flying in unfortunate directions. As a result of this issue Nintendo stepped up and offered a free and improved wrist strap to replace the more feeble ones that were released with the Wii initially. In addition to this, Nintendo have also offered free rubber jackets for Wiimotes in order to improve on the rather lacking grip offered by the smooth controls. All Nintendo games come with a warning about using the wrist strap; it may seem like a killjoy but it's somewhat less disruptive than a broken screen.

Play Safe

For many of us gaming has become a complicated hobby; technologies advance and seemingly become more fragile and prone to melting, exploding, failing or otherwise ruining our day. Even the most casual players need to stay aware of the chance that hardware will fail. Beyond the dangers of overheating or damaged components there is compatibility, software issues and airborne controllers. Mobile gamers have all this to worry about and more- the woe of a missing DS or a scratched PSP screen is similarly disruptive to our enjoyment. In this case just being careful and looking after our portable pastimes is the best method of ensuring we don't have to fork out for a replacement. For most of us the best defence is superior cooling, careful thought in console placement and prayer to whatever deities of gaming we feel will interfere on our behalf. Thankfully these small disasters only tend to occur from time to time and with the measures mentioned above, we can minimise the chance of trouble.