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Sunday, April 14, 2024

A Lapboard Solves All Your Gaming Problems

I’m a relative newbie to playing video games. Sure, I played Duck Hunt and Mortal Kombat with my cousins growing up, and I’ve watched a lot of Halo, but it wasn’t until I started playing them myself that I became ensnared in a gear-related Gordian knot.

I got a Switch. Then I tried Stadia because the Switch doesn’t have enough processing power for bigger games. Then Stadia died. The problems seem never-ending: I want to play Call of Duty with a coworker, but he’s on a PlayStation, but I want to play first-person shooters with a keyboard and mouse! But I don’t want to spend even more time holed up in my office. I like playing in my living room, making myself a small nest of nacho crumbs on the sofa, yelling and drinking beer with my spouse.

I went around and around in my head for months, my oddly specific desires irritating everyone I knew as I ignored everyone who told me to get a PS4 and shut up about it. But then the answer came to me on a cold March night—specifically, in the form of a $200 Amazon link. Since March, I have played exclusively on a Roccat Sova lapboard in my living room.

All Things Are for Gaming

I settled on a gaming PC because, as my former colleague Cecilia D’Anastasio said, a console is basically a mini-PC. I liked the wide breadth of games and price points available on Steam, I wanted to play bigger and more graphics-heavy games, and after a year of humiliating myself with a controller, I wanted to finally be able to kill lots and lots of bots with my mouse.

I hooked it up to my television. At this point, even mid-tier TVs are basically giant gaming monitors. My Vizio OLED isn’t gaming-specific and it’s not particularly high-end, but it does have an HDMI 2.1 port and support for AMD’s FreeSync.

Roccat Sova Gaming Lapboard$210 at Amazon$200 at Newegg

First, I bought a dongle and two Bluetooth Xbox controllers. Then I thought about getting a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, which certainly would’ve made much less of a rat’s nest of cables in my living room. If you like story-based games, you might not even need a lapboard. You could probably just use those on a lap desk and call it a day.

However, if you’re worried about latency—in other words, if you want to play shooters with a keyboard and a mouse because you, like me, need all the help you can get—you probably want your keyboard to be plugged in. You can buy extenders, but the Roccat’s cable is more than long enough for me to sit and play on my couch, which is about 10 feet away from my television.

The Sova also has USB ports for your corded gaming mouse and your wired gaming headset. You can plug everything in and be done with it! I also really like the Sova’s breakaway cables. If you’re moving around and trip, it will quick-release rather than knock down your computer or wham the Sova onto the ground from your coffee table.

Meet Your Match

When I first started playing PUBG with a coworker, he found it amusing that I played in my living room, bouncing around and eating and occasionally throwing things. This is not, he explained, how people normally play. I’m new enough to gaming that I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t know that most of the time, PC gamers played … well, butts down, heads up.

Of course you had to have a good chair, a heavy-duty headset, multiple curved monitors, a webcam for streaming, and a massive PC with lights and a water cooling system humming along next to you. And of course it had to be in your own office or room, where you wouldn’t bother your other family members trying to watch TV shows, sleep, or otherwise live their lives without hearing you curse repeatedly at your 40th death in Disco Elysium.

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If this is your setup, and you’re happy, that’s great! But I didn’t want to sacrifice any of the aspects I liked about console gaming, either. To me, video games are inherently social. It’s okay for my kids to be obsessed with a series of aquatic unicorn comics and make me read them repeatedly. It’s okay for my spouse to make me watch the same documentary about salt makers in India three times. And yes, it is okay for me to take over the living room, crack open a beer, and invite my spouse to trade missions shooting robot dinosaurs with me in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Also, like a console, my gaming PC in the living room puts guardrails on what might become a self-destructive habit. As long as your console is in the living room, in full view of everyone eating dinner and doing homework, you can’t really plonk down on the couch and fire up Mass Effect when you’re supposed to be walking the dog or doing laundry or anything else that a working full-time mom of two young kids should be doing.

Having a gaming lapboard allows me to combine the best parts of PC gaming and the best parts of console gaming—the intense graphics and the ability to click and shoot with lightning speed, along with the ability to relax on the sofa, share these games with my spouse, and most notably, be within easy access of both the microwave and the fridge. 

There are still some times when I am sitting around with nothing better to do, though, like waiting rooms. Now I’m thinking about getting a Steam Deck

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