Double Agent
It's a setup! - February 18, 2002 - Erin Mehlos

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. What the hell happened to the other part...? Don't say we didn't warn you.

When I added the GameCube to my personal mass of wire, Biblical, serpentine pit as it is, I looked at my remaining input options and said "Shit. Provided I ever find that extra $300 in the gutter, where the hell will I go with the Xbox?" Nevermind the simple fact that, much-maligned physical size aside, there's just no room for the MS console in my apartment. With my decent-sized entertainment center (you know, those heavy particle board bastards from Wal-Mart) already sighing under the cluttered weight, the N64 has now been relegated to the floor. No room at the inn, sir.

But you guys -- you guys are freaks. Your console cabling, stacking and switching buries my own mean entertainment complex. With just the NES, SNES, PS2, N64 and GCN fed into my spartan student's 32" TV, compromising image quality with archaic RF switching and A\V patched through a shitty VCR, I've little to contribute to this discussion.

But let's go, just the same.

The SUV of plug-ins

Oi,

Cables all over the place. But for good reason: I'm always switching back and forth between the various systems, and it's just easier to have the cables in the open. Currently, I mostly play Smash Bros. Melee, but I dip back into Perfect Dark here and there, and I've *always* got a FF Tactics file going, whether I'm hardcore into it or not.

Plus, every couple of weeks I dig into the Old Dusty Cartridge Drawer. And I remember that I never got around to finishing Secret of Evermore, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Fester's Quest, or 1943. And I make a half-hearted attempt to get back into the game, and go emotionally numb within twenty minutes. Of course, buying a used game also warrants a scavenger hunt for old plastic boxes and plugs. (Speaking of tangled cords, I found a Hudson Multi-Tap for five bucks! Now if only my Secret-of-Mana-playing friends still lived in this state...)

I can live with the mess of wires. My main pet peeve is, of course, that old AC adaptors take up two to three plugs. Argh.

-Sanagi

Ah, yes. AC adapters. The SUV of plug-ins:

Ritual imasculation

Hey,

I guess this is my first time writing in. What's up? I hope you're having a truly malificent President's Day.

I think my system set up is pretty good, aside from the mess of wires. That's the most interesting part, though. There's have to be at least 3 or 4 extension cords of varing size and shape in there, and I'm guessing there are about 15 different things plugged into them. I blame it mostly on the clunky AC adapters on the older systems. They're like the SUV of plug-ins. You could seriously kill someone with those things.

The very best thing of all is, that in the summer, if I have air conditioning, I actually have to get one of those big ole orange extension cords and plug all my games into a different room of the house, or else 9 times out of 10 the fuse connected to my room will blow out. People might trip over the cord once in a while, but as long as I get to play Bad Dudes in a frosty cool room, I really don't care who gets hurt.

As for the general organization of my systems, it's pretty tidy and I have adorable clay animals I made next to my GameCube. It's a good way to remind myself not to be manly.

-Tails-

McFarlane figures wielding cocktail umbrellas take the place of clay animals, and absent-minded roommates inadvertently cutting the juice to my SUV-cluttered power strips in the middle of a boss battle replaces blowing fuses, but otherwise ... sounds a lot like the Agent's erstwhile set-up.

Duct tape and curbside shopping

Erin -

Right now, my room and living room are nice and organized. A while ago however...well, I'll start piece by piece.

Back in the day, I got my third SNES. My borthers had destroyed the previous two, but this one was ALL MINE. It started on a little 13 inch deal, but got upgraded to a 19 in a few months. After this, add a Genesis. Then a PSX. Then a Saturn. Then an NES.

That would be bad enough, considering that everything was piggybacked and there was probably enough interference emmanating from my room to disrupt air traffic. I know the cordless phone was a bitch.

Anyway, add to this a little reciever/amp I had found outside someone's house wiht a "free" sign on it. The thing was ancient, but it had a line in, and that's what I needed. I took this little piece of junk and two large speakers, wired it up to my current stereo and it's speakers, bringing the speaker total up to four. I then managed to run every game system into this surround sound beast, except for the SNES. I even got the Genesis in on the act.

You know the little headphone jack in the front of the Genesis? I simply took a CD car kit, ran from that into one of the dual tape decks on my stereo, and viola.

Needless to say, this was a mass of wires that even though all but the PSX is packed away, it's stll not sorted out and the assembly barely works. Plus my stereo fried. Sure, it's shit now, but back in the day, there was nothing like being surrounded by One Winged Angel as you defeat Sephiroth for the first time. Nothing at least, till Luna's Boat Song...

Peace,

Ray Stryker...wishes he had enough duct tape to reassemble the whole thing...

Ever a man after my own heart, Stryker, your brand of basement engineering is more my speed -- even more so your curbside shopping. There's nothing quite like the feeling of spending nothing or next to it and coming up with something eminently functional of your own device. Nothing ... except for maybe having all your consoles piped directly through a 9.1-channel surround sound system into your shiny new 40" WEGA. And of course, don't forget to neatly bind all those scruffy stray cables together with nice, neat loom....

Anally disturbed

Cables...mmm.

I've come to the conclusion that loom is the best stuff ever. Not only do you get your cables in convenient little bunches, but they look like ULTRA X100 SUPER SIZE cables to the untrained observer. And let's face it, the bigger your cables, the more badass your system is. I mean, that's just unarguable fact. Really. :)

With that said, I think my PC has no less than ten seperate cables running into/out of it. I think that's mildly impressive ... it certainly beats the two cables coming out of any console I can remember... but hey, loom is still the winner, even for just two cables. Especially if you have multiple consoles sitting atop/near/around one another...it's just a pain to move said consoles, so only do this if you don't plan on EVER selling that NES since its cables are buried in a loom bundle that you don't particularly want to take apart. :)

Yes, I guess I'm a mild neat freak. I even have rounded IDE cables inside my computer...I swear that was for airflow! Really! Don't take me away to the anal-retentive asylum!!!! nooo!!!

...err....

-Daedalus

And I suppose you were so mightily afeared of damaging said IDE cables you just folded to avoid cutting and bound them with zip ties color-coordinated with your comp case & mouse.

Trs sick, sir.

A lot of whining - check

Basically, I have a lot of whining to do about this.

There is almost no way to get a decent setup for a lot of consoles in a dorm room if you want to use high-quality video and audio. I have a 20" Toshiba flatscreen TV bought purely because it has component video inputs, and while they're beautiful, I've already killed one set of PS2 component cables having to manually alternate the damn things with my GameCube cables. I also get the dubious honor of being able to switch from my SNES/N64 (I have one S-Video cable I just move between the two) and GC audio cables manually -- at least I can just use the optical cable for my PS2 to my DD5.1 system, which creates an *obscene* mess of cables.

Either way, I'm babbling, but the fact of the matter is that everyone assumes that if you're in a dorm you'll just buy some cruddy 13" TV and a lot of RF switches. I'd rather be shot than deal with that video quality, so instead I have to make do with the fact that every TV only comes with one set of component inputs. I'm honestly frightened of what might happen if I get an Xbox, so I have three sets of component cables and two optical cables (ugh). Also, with all the damned top-loading Nintendo consoles, there's no way for me to stack them, so instead (as you can see) I just sort of have them sitting on top of each other haphazardly. When I finally get the NES I've been trying to track down I'm *screwed*.

So console makers, why the hell can't you people make it easier on dorm room gamers? Those of us who don't want to deal with only having one console basically get the shaft in this scenario, unless we want the absolutely horrifying video and audio quality of RF. And while the switch boards are fine if I'm just using composite cables, with component and optical cables they're freaking useless.

Does anyone have a better solution to this problem? I'd be happy to hear it, because the complexity of this crap is driving me insane.

-DU

Well, if composite cables and switch boxes are out of the question, my friend, Jennifer's veteran battle plan is hardly for you....

Day-glow

One of my spouses calls my console set up 'The Wiring System Called Mobius' after the short story about a convoluted subway system that became so complex it began to protrude into extradimensional spaces, trapping passengers in time and space.

I have a 54 inch Sony, and no less than 24 inputs to it. From my Atari 2600 to my Amiga, from the Genesis to the Saturn to the two flavors of Dreamcast (Japanese and American), the NES, SNES, and N64, the PS, PS2 and Gamecube.... just to mention a few. I have been collecting games and systems for some 16 years now.

So, with such a literal museum of consoles, the problem is obviously how to hook them all up to the one, lone screen. The answer? Switching boxes, arranged in series. You can get them at any store akin to a Radio Shack...they are AV boxes with a row of button on one side, and a mass-o-plug holes on the other. The secret is to label every button carefully, and arrange them in banks. One button always leads to the next bank.

In this way, done in series, potentially any number of systems can be jacked into one single output device...one television. It is a cheap, effective way to deal with the problem of being a serious game-otaku ubergeek. Of course, it does require a mild amount of paying attention...the VCR is not going to run if it is on 'box 2' say, and the pass-through button hasn't been pushed on 'box 1'. That is why big, colorful, easily read labels can be such a useful part of this kind of solution. I use day-glow labels with big friendly letters, and the pass-through button is marked with a big arrow and a cheery 'NEXT!'.

Another useful tip is to carefully bundle the several cables from any one console with a colorful band near the point where they jack into the switch boxes....a band of, say, tape, that has clear writing on it saying what system the cables come from, and even which cable is which...left speaker, right speaker, video, whatever. Should one have to move, or should the arrangement need to be, well, rearranged, this really makes things a great deal more manageable.

Lastly, a really good surge protector is a wise investment. It is much cheaper to replace one protector than several machines...worse, it may be impossible to replace a very old machine. Of course I mean the decent, battery back up type used to protect computers, not the cheap crappy power strips. Strips can, under some circumstances, actually increase the damage to machines.

Those are my main tips and my overall solution, to having many, many consoles.

Jennifer Diane Reitz

Otakuworld.com
UnicornJelly.com

What you've outlined is vaguely reminiscent of my father's setup, albeit better organized. The old man, having designed his very own fabulously complicated 8-speaker, 2-channel surround sound stereo system, was then faced with the task of routing two VCRs, an archaic turntable, an equally archaic studio-grade tape deck, two VCRs (because he insisted until about 2 years ago on keeping a functional Sony Betamax ready to go to better facilitate his wanton piracy of copy-guarded Disney films), a sattelite receiver, and whatever gaming consoles I may have had when I was still living at home. The resulting series of homemade switch-boxes was incomprehensible to all but him and me.

It's all about the day-glow labels. Day-glow labels with large, friendly letters.

And now ... a very special DA....

Hello there, GIA Agent.

I, myself, when the topic of console arrangement is mentioned, feel quite proud. Through the years, I have pretty much accumulated what me and my friends referr to as "the reactor". To properly play any of my consoles (PSX, PC-Engine, PS2, Snes), you have to turn on at least 3 switches and press other buttons. This due to the fact that they all have AV cables, but are connected to an old panasonic (1980) TV thru an old betamax VCR, and go to my old general electric turntable's auxiliary entry for sound (which has to be set to AUX). Electrically speaking, they all go to the same extension, creating a mass of electrical cables, adding that to the mass of AV cables behind my betamax and turntable. I can keep two of'em hooked up at once, usually the PS2 and the SNes. This makes access hard, but it's also quite an experience to turn on three or four machines to just fuggin' play Thunderforce or something. Even if it feels like a star trek episode to operate them, the systems look nifty, lined up in chronological order in my otherwise disorderly room.

Keep the Faith.

Prof. Xerdo Pwrko

Dad....? Is that you....?

Just lucky, I guess

I'm lucky in that I've got one of the now-scarce ASCII selectors, those ever-so-wonderful switchboxes that include six AV/S-Video inputs. And I prevailed upon my parents to get me a nice iron foldable shelf (from Pier 1 of all places) to stack them upon. So right now on the bottom layer, my Dreamcast sits atop the NES; on the middle layer my SNES is somewhat precariously balanced on the Xbox, and my GameCube rules the roost from its perch on the two stacked PS2s (one import, one domestic). Switching between them is pretty easy thanks to this, although I do have to go and physically change out the power cable and S-Video cords between the PS2s whenever I need to play a game from a different region.

That said, it could probably be a little better. All those consoles in the same place results in a rat's nest of video, power, and controller cords, and on the rare occasion I need to swap out a system (if I wanted to play some Pokemon Puzzle League, say) it can be a nightmare to hack my way through the underbrush. And my collection of games isn't nearly as nattily arranged, scattered as they are throughout my tiny dorm room's drawers and shelves. Maybe someday, when I have a Real House, I can even stop throwing away my jewel cases in favor of space-saving CD wallets ...

The last unfortunate aspect of this kind of arrangement is that not only do I have all these systems routed through the switchbox, the output channel on that baby has the video going to my PC TV tuner card for capturing purposes (I don't even own a real TV) and the audio going to my Onkyo tuner, which shares receiving duties with my 100-disc CD changer. The upshot of this is that every summer when I move my stuff into the dorm room, since virtually every piece of electronic equipment I own is inextricably linked this way, and I have to set up the stereo stuff first for layout reasons ... I have to set up my PC and video games concurrently. And once that's done, I'm pretty much assured of living out of suitcases and laundry hampers for the next couple of days as I try to avoid any sort of strenuous effort in the August sun in favor of vegging out and playing games.

-Nich Maragos

And what, Nich? You expect us to feel sorry for you? You'll get no sympathy from us, pretty boy.

He's not bitter, dammit

Sup,

My gaming setup is rather.... messy, to say the least. I don't really believe in putting consoles in the closet with the intent of busting them out down the road so I can bask in the nostalgia. Instead, every system I've ever owned is plugged in and always waiting for me whenever I get home from school or work. I have two bookcases that stand on either side of my 20 inch TV. Currently I have an SNES, NES, PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo 64, GameCube and an age old Atari 2600 all sitting on one of three shelves in one bookcase, while all of their games sit on the other side of my TV on the other bookcase. It's a nice setup, although it can get rather messy behind the TV and the bookshelves, as all of them are already hooked up to a power source, and are all connected to either an A/V selector or daisy-chained via RF Switches to the back of the TV.

However, it's rather impressive whenever I have friends or family over. They always gawk about how I have so many games, or how I'm still just a kid inside. Which is fine by me. Hell, if remaining a kid means that I get to play all these kickass games, then I hope I never grow up.

I'm tempted to attempt to start up a topic for tomorrow, so I guess I'll take a shot at it. Hell, it can't hurt to try, right? I noticed that a bunch of people in yesterday's DA have been bitching a lot about how Miyamoto was "flushing so many profitable franchises down the shitter", yet all we have to go on that statement are a couple of trailers that are a minute or so in length. Now my question is, would gamers rather have ongoing coverage of upcoming games, or would they rather be kept in the dark for the most part? I mean, I know NOTHING about either Zelda or Mario Sunshine, but man, I am much more excited about playing those two games than I ever was about any Square RPG, primarily because I knew a hell of a lot about a game such as FFX before I played it than I did about Zelda: OoT. I thought it made the game a lot more memorable to me because of that fact. Even though I hated Raiden, that whole turn of events in MGS2 was just so cool because it literally came out of nowhere. Kojima did a hell of a job keeping that under wraps, and it would've been totally lame if I had known about it beforehand.

Andrew Alfonso

Sounds like a topic to me.

Closing Comments:

You heard Andrew. Ever miss the blissful ignorance that preceded the internet and its rigorous coverage of every dot of dust on every blossom of clover? Ever want for the days when we marched into battle free of cynical preconceptions, having already seen 250+ minorly spoiling screenshots?

- Erin Mehlos

 
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