Gaming takes the player to another world, but you can’t have a truly immersive gaming experience without a decent real-world setup.
n the game, the player assumes a new identity. They can be a warrior or an explorer. They can build a universe, move between dimensions, or design cities. In the virtual world, the limitations of our bodies are radically transformed. Wheelchair users can walk. Any of us can fly. But nobody can actually abandon their physical body. We just need to get them comfortable so we can forget about them for a while. That’s where interior design comes in.
Gaming is a fantasy experience, but it takes place in a real-world room.
The construction of a conducive environment for gaming lies at the interface of interior design and technology. The tech is more important, but spatial layout, lighting, and furniture all have a part to play. A strong and reliable internet connection is key. Likewise, a laptop, PC or console that’s up to the job.
Other factors are more design-related. Let’s start with the player. The stereotypical gamer is a young, introverted, headset-wearing male, playing from a bedroom in their parents’ house. The reality is much more nuanced. “Gaming is growing in Ireland to the extent that we now have a dedicated Games Hub in our stores,” says Sanjay Satheesan of Harvey Norman.
“During the pandemic, many companies gave their employees money to buy high-spec laptops for working from home. They’re buying laptops that they can use for work but also for gaming. I call them the invisible gamers. They are business people during the day and gamers by night.”
Invisible gamers are adult, employed, and include a significant minority of female players. They play on company laptops, rather than consoles, and generally use the same room for gaming as they do for work.
The part of the office that’s visible on video calls will look professional. So will the laptop, which may also be brought into the office. In the evening that same workhorse laptop, which secretly contains a powerful graphics card, transforms into a device for gaming. Plugged into a massive monitor with an RGB keyboard, backlit and programmable to create custom colours, it becomes a portal to another world.
“People spend a lot on the add-ons,” Satheesan says. For example, you might pay €109.90 for a Razer Blackwidow V3 Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard; €49.90 for a Razer Kraken X Wired On-Ear Gaming Headset; and €54.95 for Razer Basilisk X HyperSpeed Wireless Gaming Mouse from Harvey Norman. It all adds up.
If your object is to transform a home office into a gaming scenario, your best bet is to change the lighting. This is an area where hitherto expensive and fiddly technologies are rapidly emerging in the mainstream. The new Philips Hue Play gradient light strip is designed specifically for gaming. It attaches to the back of a monitor, like a bendy halo, producing multiple colours of light that flow into each other. The lights aren’t random, but can be programmed to synchronise with the action on-screen.
“We already have a gradient light strip,” says Giuliano Ghidini of Signify, the company that now produces lights under the Philips brand. “This one is tailored for gamers. Since Covid-19, most gamers work at the same PC that they use for their day jobs and lighting is a way to make the place where you work very different from the place where you’re having fun. It announces the gaming experience across the whole room.”
As with many new technologies, the PC Gaming light strip requires an app. In this case, the Hue Sync PC App allows it to synchronise with whatever is happening on-screen. If you have other Philips Hue products, they too can be programmed to synch with the game.
George Russell, a gamer who also works with Signify, explains how the PC light strip works in practice. “I was playing a game with a car chase and police lights, and all the lights in the room were flashing red and blue!”
The basic Philips Hue light strip range is widely available (€89.99 for a 2m light strip from Currys), the new PC Gaming light strip has been launched in the UK but is still forthcoming in Ireland. When it drops, expect to pay around €150 for a kit to fit a 24 to 27-inch monitor and approximately €195 for a starter kit including a Philips Hue Bridge, which enables you to connect and control multiple lights.
The basic requirements of desk and chair seem mundane in comparison to the giddying possibilities of synchronised lighting, but the entire set up depends on ergonomics.
“The biggest mistake people make is ignoring posture,” Russell adds. If your work station is doubling up as a gaming den, then it’s doubly important to have a decent desk, preferably height-adjustable, and the best chair you can afford.
His comes from Secretlab, a company that specialises in gaming chairs with convincing ergonomic credentials. Their bestsellers hover around the €500 mark, although you can pay up to €800 for a Secretlab Titan 2020 in leather. Some are themed for popular games, from Assassin’s Creed to Overwatch, which is fun but will surely give you away as an invisible gamer if your boss recognises the branding on a Zoom call. This aside, the ergonomic requirements for a work chair and a gaming chair are similar. The one chair will do for both.
On the accessible side, it’s a year since Ikea launched the Uppspel range of gaming furniture and accessories designed in collaboration with Republic of Gamers (ROG), a company that makes hardware for PC gaming. It includes a gaming desk, storage unit, pegboard and accessories, display cabinet and CPU stand with castors (€19).
The gaming desk (from €550) is height adjustable, plainly styled, and fit for purpose. It’s designed to co-ordinate with Ikea’s considerable offering for gamers, which includes several gaming chairs. As with all Ikea products, the best value is not necessarily the cheapest. The Matchspel gaming chair (€179) is their best seller and probably for good reason. It offers decent support and also looks the part.
Ikea also has some fun accessories including the Lånespelare ring light with phone holder (€40) for twitching (livestreaming yourself playing video games) and an accessories stand (€29) in the shape of an articulated robotic hand. Time will tell whether it’s ridiculous or iconic. I’m leaning towards iconic.
See harveynorman.ie, secretlab.eu, philips-hue.com, signify.com, ikea.com/ie