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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A Steam Deck Reignited My Love for Homebrew PCs

Building your own PC comes with unique thrills. Sure, it can be frustrating as all hell—there’s a reason it’s a lot easier to buy a fully cooked PC than go homebrew. If you haven’t had the joy of putting together your own PC, it’s not as simple as just throwing the components in a tower, connecting them, and booting it up. There can be so many compatibility issues you’ve never even thought of, from your processor to your motherboard to your graphics card. Are you going to overclock your processor? Does your system need liquid cooling? Can it even support liquid cooling?

I used to live this geek life on the edge. I’d look for sales on components, swap out graphics cards to get the best performance, stare blankly at my monitor during a BIOS flash, and just hope for the best. My PC was a source of endless frustration, but there was also so much joy when I held my breath, booted things up, and everything just worked.

It’s honestly a lifestyle—one I left behind more than a decade ago. I finally decided that I preferred console gaming because it usually wasn’t much more involved than turning on the console. I was tired of tinkering, of trying to get things to work. I wanted simplicity, and I haven’t regretted it since. Honestly, I haven’t even missed it.

That is, until I got my hands on a Steam Deck. I’ve written about this incredible little piece of technology quite a bit. When I first got it, I didn’t think I’d do much experimenting with it. I was just going to use Steam to catch up on some of the PC games I’d missed.

But then, I saw someone talking about how they’d managed to get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate working on their Steam Deck. And let me tell you, it felt like a beacon in the night. That innocuous little post blew my mind. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was figure out how to access as many different platforms’ worth of games on my Steam Deck as possible.

I have a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, thanks to my husband, and I have a PlayStation 5. So I got to Googling. I know next to nothing about Linux, but I knew next to nothing about Windows when I first started building my own PCs, and I made that work.

Before I tell you how to do this (or at least, link to the sources that instructed me because I am not tech-savvy enough to figure this out on my own), let me caveat with this: If you’re super particular about FPS, response time, and graphics quality, or if lagging in general makes you mad, don’t bother with this. The games will run, sure, but don’t expect super high quality or high frame rate gaming. I’m honestly shocked I haven’t had many issues, considering how experimental all of this is, but it’s also possible my FrankenSteam could break at a moment’s notice. Also, get a mouse and keyboard for your Deck. It makes this whole process a lot easier.

Setting up Xbox Game Pass Ultimate was simple because Microsoft provides the instructions directly. It’s a beta version of course, but it worked well for me even when I was traveling and had a relatively slow internet connection. I played through most of Star Wars: Squadrons with no noticeable lag or other issues.

PlayStation Remote Play was a bit more complicated, and it’s important to note that it doesn’t work outside of my local network. Here’s a great instruction post from Reddit user mintcu7000. The only thing I’d add to this is to make sure to run the PSN Account ID Base64 script on your Deck and copy and paste it into Chiaki. (I tried to run it on my computer and type it in, and I got errors every time.) I’ve played about four hours of Stray this way, and it works so much better than PS streaming to my iPad (which is choppy, laggy, and mostly unusable).

What struck me is how much I enjoyed the process of this—almost as much as the end result. It’s so nice to be able to play the bulk of my game library on my Steam Deck, but it’s also so satisfying to tinker in the back end of the system and just make it work. There’s a sense of pride every time I use one of these features because I made it happen.

Now all I can think about is what I’m going to figure out next. Does anyone know how to remote play into a Switch?

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