When gaming is a literal pain

It’s a good thing I don’t work in an office where I need to type all day. Oh, wait.

I have always been clumsy. I often joke that I was born without a sense of self-preservation. My injuries are the jokes of legends and are best told at the pub over a few drinks. But over the last few years, I’ve found that my mobility had gotten worse. I chalked it up to years of netball on hard-surfaced courts (parents: don’t let your kids do it – no matter how much they beg), and years of evolution trying to remove me from the gene pool in the most amusing way possible.

And then my memory started to go and I would forget words and forget what I was saying in the middle of a sentence, and I would get pain for no reason at all, and it all seemed to start out of nowhere and go on forever. 

All this fed into my depression and anxiety, which fed this random thing happening to my body, which fed the depression and anxiety – it was a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. But, we finally got a diagnosis – old mate Fibromyalgia. I didn’t realise this meant having to reassess how I entertain myself.

Video games aren’t just an important part of my career, they’re also an important part of my self-care. When I’m trying to recuperate after a tough mental health spell or escape the responsibility of being an adult for an hour or two, video games provide a vital portal for me to piece myself back together.

It recently dawned on me that this is going to be infinitely more difficult as my body goes through the ups and downs of fibro.

The fun thing about fibro is that it’s so random from patient to patient. The week I started writing this for example – I’ve had left wrist issues for no particular reason. This has made holding anything with my left hand really painful, including game controllers. Playing the PS4 with my partner was hard because I could only do short bursts before I had to have a rest. While he understands and is sympathetic, it’s frustrating for me and probably for him. I want to spend quality downtime with my fiance without having to have a rest every 20 minutes. 

Not to say there aren’t some amazing ways for people with restrictions to get more involved with video games.  I got to unbox an XAC (Xbox Adaptive Controller) while working at Trade Media. The XAC is one of the coolest pieces of technology in gaming, but not really fit for my purposes. I’m also a really big PC gamer and using WASD with my left hand has been hurting my wrist. 

So I went through my Steam list and looked at games I can play with just my mouse, or with my Xbox controller because happily, my Xbox controller hurts my wrists less than the PS4 controller. Probably because it’s a larger controller and feels better in my hands (that’s what she said?)

This means I’m rekindling my love with real-time and turn-based strategy games. Hello, Age of Empires. How are you, Civilisation? Welcome back, World of Goo. They’re also great if I haven’t been able to get into work, or do much work from home because of fibro fog – being able to engage my brain with games that require strategy give me a kickstart to get back into what I need to do.

Having this diagnosis means adjusting the way I approach certain tasks and taking better care of myself. I never thought it would mean that I had to adjust my approach to gaming. Something as natural as holding a controller, or using a keyboard and mouse is proving to be more difficult when I’m having a pain flare-up. I’m turning it into an opportunity to gamify my treatment – I’m levelling up my skill tree. The biggest thing I’m learning about this new diagnosis is that my body just works in different ways now. Not better, or worse – just different.

If you liked this piece, and think I should be writing more – think about supporting my Ko-Fi. Your support means I can keep running the website, buy material to review, and generally keep things going.

Rade Review: Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Dream Daddy is one of those indie cultural phenomenon games where everyone has heard about it, knows enough to make a reference or two, but maybe not everyone has played it. After Steam had discounted the price by 69% (nice), I picked it up. It also may have had something to do with the fact I met Dream Daddy developer Leighton Gray at Melbourne International Games Week last year and her being completely delightful.


Not at all…

The lies we tell ourselves

Dream Daddy is a visual novel where you, a single dad, date other dads. It seems like a pretty simple idea, but hidden underneath is some really grounded storytelling – especially around gender roles and norms, cis and homo relationships, and how parenthood changes the very fibre of who you are.

The character creation in Dream Daddy gives you a great selection of options to make your ultimate Dad date. I ended up modelling my Dream Dad after my fiance and launched him into the world.

Dream Daddy’s story is pretty basic: You’re a single dad, with your 18-year-old daughter who is soon to leave for college. You’re both moving into a quaint cul-de-sac where, what a coincidence, there are a bunch of other dads! Single dads, married dads, athletics dads, gothic dads, blast-from-the-past dads – It’s like a suburban cul-de-sac!

You get introduced to all the dads through various interactions with the world, and then you’re already planning which dad you’re doing to date. Your daughter, Amanda, is a force to be reckoned with and sets you up with DadBook. I like the DadBook aspect. It makes managing the characters in the game easier – my memory is rubbish with people I know in real life, let alone game characters. Each character has their own profile, with their likes and dislikes, making it easier for you to score those precious eggplant emojis with your favourite Dad.

What I think is the big draw in Dream Daddy is the writing. I was raised by a single parent (shout-out to Mumma Rade!) and playing the role of both parents can be hard. The Dad’s in this game are vessels for how hard parenting can be, how hard it can be to be true to yourself while still trying to conform to social norms, and the differences and similarities between hetero and queer relationships. 

The biggest flaw with this game is me, in all honesty – I’m not a visual novels kind of girl and I easily play favourites. I would replay Dream Daddy over and over again, but it would be hard not to run back to the warmth of Damien and the My Chemical Romance backdrop that is his life (don’t @ me). I wouldn’t say I got bored with Dream Daddy, but I found myself speed reading through dialogue to get to the action (not that) because my twitchy FPS brain can’t sit still long enough in a video game, which is more of a disservice to the game on my behalf.

Dream Daddy has a nostalgic colour scheme which lures you into thinking you’re playing a light-hearted dating sim, but you get caught by well-written, funny, and diverse characters, fun minigames and an adorable corgi wearing a bandana. It’s the kind of fun you can pick up and put down when you need to feel some happiness and watch a bunch of dads get enthusiastic about cheese and wine – which are things I can definitely get excited about.


Review: Dell G7 15″ laptop

Dell has an “If it’s not broken, just make minor improvements and don’t break it” approach to their gaming laptop series. While there are still some improvements that could be made, the Dell G7 15″ laptop is a good example of this ethos at a decent pricepoint.

I’ve previously mentioned that the one thing I’ve really gotten tired of in gaming laptops is the standard black/red colour scheme – it’s interchangeable with a lot of other gaming laptops on the market. But not this time. Unpacking the Dell G7 15” was a delightful change. It was blue! Well, it was black with gorgeous metallic blue accents.

And this wasn’t the only colour option available. Dell also has the G7 15″ available in “Arctic White” with the blue accents, which sounds like a nightmare to keep clean but it’s a refreshing change from the usual colour options.

Yes, I am that excited about a colour change shut up.

Performance-wise, it handled perfectly. Since I work with a limited internet usage cap each month (thanks, Australia!), I network transferred games across to the G7 laptop and installed them easily. Games like Borderlands 2, Fallout 4, and Civilisation 4 were easily played at their highest settings.

The 15″ anti-glare screen works as intended, but like the last Dell laptop I reviewed, the bezel around the screen is obnoxiously large and doesn’t sit flush with the screen. My current laptop (a Dell XPS 13″ from 2013) has a larger bezel around with screen, but it’s glass-fronted, meaning it doesn’t distract from the experience. The FHD screen is nice, but there’s so much more screen potential hidden behind a large border.

My biggest issues with gaming laptops are always space – especially with games like big triple-A titles, I’ve got vanilla games that hit 100GB and that won’t get smaller over time. Dell has attempted to remedy this with a variety of storage options ranging from a straight 1TB drive to SSD and mechanical drives, or a 512GB PCIe SSD. Dell’s big draw is their customisation abilities, so you’ll be able to find something to work with what you want.

Another issue with gaming laptops and where they’re going is the battery life. The G7 has a 4-cell integrated battery, which won’t support long-term gaming and I understand that it isn’t meant to, but superusers, or even just heavy users, will find that the battery will drain sooner than they like. Everyday users will find the battery life to be perfect for their usage, but if you’re looking to run something a little more resource heavy, you’re going to find that the 4-cell battery doesn’t quite cut it. It sounds obvious, but if you’re someone like me who likes listening to Netflix in the background and runs a few programs at a time, you might need to adjust the power settings to find that sweet spot between energy saving and power mode. It’s not a huge issue, but just something worth noting.

If you’re using the G7 as your dedicated gaming machine and you’re going to be plugged in directly to the wall, run this baby in performance mode because you’ll want to get the best out of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 10 series. They’re standard through a lot of laptops now, but there’s a good reason for it – they just work. The highest end of the spectrum will see you get a GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5 video memory which should handle everything you throw at it and you should find it enduring through several years worth of games. Even the lower end GTX 1050 and GTX 1050Ti will faithfully see you through for at least the next 4-5 years.

Reviewing laptops has become kind of a second nature at this point. I’ve had the opportunity to play around with a lot of different models from a lot of different manufacturers and Dell seem to make the ones I like. While there are elements I come back to that I don’t like, they’re always overshadowed by the things I do like. Their customisation options mean you’re getting to make it a bit more of your machine, instead of fitting your needs within a rigid mould. There are sacrifices you’ll have to make, but they can be made up for in other areas. If you’re considering a tidy machine for your gaming needs, which can double as your everyday carry – consider Dell and definitely consider the G7.

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Rade Reviews: State of Decay 2 (PC Version)

I was pretty excited to hear about a sequel to my favourite game of 2014 – State of Decay. I was so dedicated to saving my local town, that I accidentally played for 10 hours straight. By all accounts, I was pretty happy. State of Decay 2 is currently available on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service, and with a 14-day free trial, I thought “What do I have to lose?”

Currently, State of Decay 2 (SoD2) is only available through the Microsoft Store (although rumours of a Steam release for later this year are rife). I struggled a bit to find the correct area to download SoD2 without it trying to charge me for it.. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to find the correct link to download State of Decay 2 using my Game Pass since I couldn’t do it through the Microsoft Store app on my PC for some reason. Once I figured it out, it was a fairly smooth operation – minus the snail pace of my internet connection.

This is where I started to encounter issues. It took 4 attempts for SoD2 to make it past the main menu / splash screen where I would push a key to start, and it would crash to desktop. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – it happened repeatedly. After lamenting this on Facebook, it highlighted a larger issue with people trying to play the game with little to no luck.

Once I was able to finally get into the gameplay, it was a new, but familiar scene. You select which character pair you’d like to play with and you’re thrown into the post-apocalyptic world. State of Decay 2 attempts to flesh out the opening characters with some story, but I was more interested in their base stats which are vital to their survival. You pick up characters pretty quickly into the game and start establishing your home base. It’s similar gameplay from the previous games, in the way scavenging works, but the UI has been updated. It’s more user-friendly, and yet not. I think I’ve played so much of the original SoD that I have muscle memory for the previous controls, but certain elements just don’t make sense. Things like silent takedowns, and final kills were executed by press ‘Z’ in the previous game, but now it’s a combination of left CTRL + a button or mouse click which is distracting and means I got chomped on more than once.

There’s a new type of zombie to deal with, and a new style of infestation to go along with our undead friends, and all the other zombies have had a facelift – along with the rest of the game. Everything definitely looks more modern, but is still suffering from a mildly outdated look. It isn’t distracting, and doesn’t take away from the game at all, but if you’re a hardcore graphics fiend, you might complain.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I got to play. There was a large (20GB!) patch to fix the launch bugs which meant that I had to wait another day to play (Thanks NBN!) When I started up the game, I was faced with a working splash screen, but the following image.

A friend of mine had a similar issue. A part of the patch had failed to download correctly. But since this isn’t as easy as steam verifying files and downloading the necessary bits it needs, it meant the whole 20GB patch needed to be downloaded. Again. I’ve spent more time downloading State of Decay 2 than actually playing it – and I’m so disappointed.

Because I’m on ADSL (thanks again, NBN!), I have a small monthly allowance to use between two heavy users (netflix, downloading, etc) which means that downloading 40GB of data has chewed through just under a quarter of my allowance for the month. This might sound like a rare issue for some gamers, but since the state of Australian internet means that there is a huge portion of people in the same boat as myself.

Two days and a huge chunk of data later, and I’m reconsidering my decision to buy it later this month.

I can’t comment on the storyline, the development of character relationships, the gameplay, or anything else vital to games review because I haven’t been able to play it. The rare times I got it to work, it was great – but not enough to make a definite comment. It looks like something I’d love to spend time investing in, but I’m spending more time trying to make it work and I just can’t be bothered.

I wanted to like this game. I wanted to love it. I wanted something that would continue the same style of game I loved in the first State of Decay, but make it feel like a more desperate attempt for survival and I got a game that barely works. I can only hope it’s an issue with the PC distribution platform and not the Xbox One download because the series is a great spin on zombie survival horror, but I think I’ll just wait until State of Decay 2 drops on Steam, or run it through my Xbox One because it’s not a happy experience on the Microsoft Store.

Review showdown: Inspiron 15 7000 (7567) 2016 VS Inspiron 15 7000 (7577)

Editor’s note: this review will be a little different to the regular format. I’ll be discussing key changes between the Inspiron 15 7000 (7567) 2016 model and the Inspiron 15 7000 (7577) 2017 model. If you missed the original review, catch up here and follow along.

Earlier in the year, I reviewed the Dell XPS 15” Inspiron gaming laptop and apart from some minor complaints (storage mostly), I thought it was a pretty solid laptop. Recently, an improved version of this laptop was released, and while there are some changes under the hood – overall it’s still a great gaming laptop for your on-the-go gamer.

At first glance, the aesthetic changes between the 2016 and 2017 models are minor – if there were any at all. Sleek, black laptops with pops of colour to accent logos and WASD keys are fairly standard through gaming laptops and it’s nothing that needs to be changed for the sake of updating.

The thing I did notice about the 2017 model was the bezel around the screen. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the 2016 model to notice the size, but the 2017 model seemed to have the screen surrounded by a thick, black border. I showed this to a friend of mine and he noticed as well, noting that it seemed to take away from the actual display – which I completely agree with. The screen on the Inspiron 15 7000 series of devices is beautiful, and capable of playing video and games in 4k. The border around the screen seemed to be less of a edge to define the screen, and more like an eyesore to distract the user.

The major change that Dell incorporated into their latest iteration are the options available for your GPU. The 2016 model wasn’t underpowered by any means, but the 2017 model includes the ability to upgrade your NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 to 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5 to a NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5. While the changes may seem minor on the outside, greater processing power means an overall better experience while gaming. Along with more dedicated RAM to help improve textures and frame rate.

It also means your games won’t become obsolete as quickly – It’s only a series apart, but the 1060 seems to be the goto requirement for a lot new games.

What’s disappointing about the upgrade in graphical prowess is the downgrade to actual power. Moving away from an integrated 74 WHr, 6-Cell Battery to a integrated Quick-charge 56 WHr, 4-Cell Battery means your battery won’t last quite as long away from the wall. The quick-charge is a nice addition, meaning you’ll be on the move to your latest LAN in shorter time, but as someone who likes to move around with her device and not always to somewhere with a plug, the smaller battery is a disheartening. However, the change in battery may have been more to do with actual space than anything else.

The last major change is the addition of a Thunderbolt™ 3 port. This ties into the quick-charging battery, but also allows for lightning fast data transfer and a move into the new normal. USB 3 / Thunderbolt™ is quickly becoming the universal adaptor for phones and computers. The problem is that it only includes one because of the traditional USB ports – but that’s more of a general consumer dependence on traditional USB products.

Dell have taken a lot of consideration in how they update the Inspiron 15 series of computers. While sacrifices to battery were made, they were to improve space and power and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Happily, the updates mean that you’re getting better value and a better experience from your Inspiron 15 laptop. It’s still a sleek device that’ll keep up with a mid-level gaming rig, with the bonus feature of portability – so you’ll always be able to game with your friends at home, or at a LAN.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.


Rade Reviews: Dell XPS 13″ 2-in-1 laptop


Portability is one of the most important features for any on-the-go freelancer. Trying to balance power, battery life, and size tends to mean sacrificing one in favour of the others. Want something with a lot of power? It’s not going to last long without a power point. Need a long battery life? Prepare for that sucker to weigh a tonne. The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 balances the trio well without sacrificing too much to deliver a lightweight device.

Unboxing the XPS laptop was a new experience for me when I was presented with a tiny 13” laptop in sleek silver exterior. The laptops I normally unbox are 15”+ monoliths encased in black and red details which don’t really suit being an everyday carry. Weighing in at 1.24kgs, the XPS 13” is the perfect size to slip into your backpack, handbag, or satchel and jet off to your next meeting. I took it out with me several times, and it even came on an excursion to paintball training where I was helping my team with some social and sponsorship deals.

Working with the laptop on the go is a fairly painless experience, if not a tiny bit terrifying. I’ve never used a convertible laptop before, so bending the screen backwards was an anxious experience the first time, but provides a whole new way to work. It can feel a little awkward if you’re using the laptop as a tablet, as you’re pressing keys on the exposed keyboard but a quick readjustment of your hands sorts that out. However, it feels clunky in the converted mode, and not just because of the keyboard. Despite this laptop measuring in at 13.7mm thick, it doesn’t feel as slim while in tablet mode – possibly because I’m used to tablets being paper thin.

The size of the keyboard isn’t an issue, however. While it takes a moment to adjust to the size of a smaller keyboard when you’re used to using a full-sized desktop but it’s a comfortable adjustment. It’s a quick keyboard and makes it easy to type up short or long documents with the short keystrokes and smallish-keys. The only issue I had was bumping the touch pad which would send the cursor into a mysterious position, but this is definitely a PEBKEC issue because I do it with every laptop ever. Also, for those who are into this kind of thing – the keyboard is quiet, so you won’t annoy the people around you with the constant tak-tak-tak of furious typing.

Opening the device can be difficult at times. The 13” XPS has a 5.2mm InfinityEdge bezel with a Corning® Gorilla® Glass NBT™ screen which means there’s no notch in the edge to separate the screen from the keyboard. It’s really fiddly to open and I often needed two hands to hold the laptop steady while I tried to pry it apart. But when you do, the screen is bright and displays colours fantastically. You get a bit of glare from sunlight on the glass, so it’s not a laptop I’d recommend to use in the sun – find a shady spot close to Wi-Fi and go nuts. It’s a great screen to watch or stream videos and doing some minor image editing on.

My major issue with the screen is that it marks so easily. Because the XPS 13” is marketed as a touch screen device, you can use it as a tablet (as mentioned above), but I hope you don’t mind fingerprints and smears all over the glass. It turned me off using it as a touch screen device because I didn’t want to spend 20 minutes every few hours cleaning off marks to keep using the screen.

The other test I put this neat little device through was some gaming (obviously). While it isn’t a dedicated gaming machine, the basic specifications would give you enough variety for some on-the-go time wasters. I also tried streaming games through Steam. This seems like the better option if you’ve got a good connection as you’re able to play games in full-spec while away from your rig. Since streaming isn’t as resource heavy as playing games directly off the hardware, you won’t need to worry about pushing the little laptop to the limits.

Battery life won’t be an issue either. I managed to get a few days of life from the battery when I was using it on my travels. You’ll supposedly get just over 8 hours of battery life for everyday use, and a little over 7 hours for your Netflix binge sessions. Even at home while I was using it as a dedicated media screen while working on projects, the battery was consistent and didn’t need too many settings adjusted to really get all the juice out of it.

It uses a Thunderbolt™ 3 connection for the AC adapter which is great for a quick charge and keeps the frame of the laptop as thin as possible. You’ve also got a MicroSD slot, USB-C ports, fingerprint scanner and all the other basic necessities you’d expect. The power button is hidden away on the side which took a bit of getting used to, but again, it’s all designed to keep the size down.

Like all current generation laptops, it comes preloaded with Windows 10 and a range of software options available. To me, retail installs of Windows 10 feel a little bloaty. You can have a range of storage options on the XPS 13” (up to 1TB), but you’re going to spend some time uninstalling the software you’re not going to use. There’s also no optical media drive which isn’t a huge surprise for a device which prides itself on its side – if you’re worried about this, USB optical drives are cheap and portable too.

The Dell XPS 13” 2-in-1 is a tidy machine. It stands up to the quality expected of Dell in their XPS line and balances portability, power and weight nicely. I’m still not sold on convertible devices as they tend to feel chunky and not as nice as dedicated tablets (something I’ve felt from years of working in tech retail). But, if you can overlook a messy screen and sometimes clunky feel from tablet mode, the XPS will fit right into your life. It’s stylish, lightweight and easy to use as an everyday carry.


And now for something completely different… Gamer Diaries updates coming soon

The website is celebrating it’s 7th birthday this year! Thank you to everyone who reads, shares, comments, and subscribes to this crazy little website; you make it worth it. And a big thank you to the companies who provide me the sweet toys and games I get to review – it’s great to be working with companies who believe in building a community with smaller sites.

Since going solo and hosting my site, I’ve been using the same look and it’s starting to look a little dated. I’m in the process of redesigning things and giving Rade’s Gamer Diaries a new look, a new logo, and a whole new feel.

Over the next few months, you’ll start to see those changes appear. Firstly, I’m branching into topics outside of gaming which are going to include cosplay and convention guides, announcements, and rundowns – you probably noticed my Convention Calendar post a few months back, which ties in nicely with the PAX guides I write every year.

A new review series called “And now for something completely different” is going to be introduced later this year with these reviews focusing on non-gaming tech. I’ve already got something lined up for it, so keep your eyes open for that. (Yes, I’m a huge Monty Python fan)

I’m also going to start streaming on my Twitch channel a lot more and be more alive (so to speak) than ever before.

There’s also going to be a huge overhaul of the website as far as design goes. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re getting a little long in the tooth, so it’s a fantastic time to bring in a new look. I don’t have an exact time frame on this, but it’s happening I swear.

All this should happen before the end of the year, so we’re going to be hitting the ground hard and fast to get everything into place. If you’ve got any suggestions on what you’d like to see, hit me up on Facebook or leave a comment below. Again, thank you for making the last 7 years awesome. Let’s make the next 7 even better.

Review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming Laptop

My first laptop was a Dell XPS M1530. It was a monster of a thing that stood up to a lot of hardcore gaming, university and an month-long overseas trip. Ultimately, it was the overseas trip that killed my precious laptop, but it served me well. It’s the gaming laptop that I hold all laptops up to as my standard – despite its age, and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop held a pretty good candle to my ol’ faithful.

Unpacking the Inspiron 15, the first thing that struck me was the matte black finish on the laptop, with the red Dell logo standing proudly in the centre. The edge of the keyboard has a red metallic pattern which brings just enough colour into the picture without being overpowering. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I like the look of more understated laptops with a minimalist feel. The other option you’ve got for the lid cover is matte red with a black logo – so at least you’ve got some choice in the design.

Since gaming laptops are made for gaming on the go, I carried this thing around with and sat down where ever my legs decided – it feels deceptively light. I stuck it in a backpack and carried it around in my arms, and it wasn’t ever uncomfortable, even while carrying around extra weight with the charging pack, a mouse and a few other bits and bobs. While it’s one of the bigger laptops I’ve reviewed, it carries the weight well.

But like all these laptops, it’s about how good they are to game on. The Inspiron 15 holds a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti as standard – you know it’s going to take everything you throw at it in stride. The only time I had an issue was with State of Decay where the whole operation thing crashed – although, I think that had more to do with the optimisation of the game, more than the laptop itself. Other than that minor trip up, everything I played ran beautifully – and can be played up to a 4K resolution. Like I’ve said in earlier reviews, 4K Gaming isn’t really my bag but if you’re into that, you’re going to be very happy. However, the screen can take some getting used to and can sometimes look a little lacklustre when you’re looking for real exuberance – especially in 4K.

Big exhaust vents on the rear of the laptop make sure that you’re not going to see spikes and dips because of the hardware shutting down. The only time I really noticed any uncomfortable heat was while I was working in bed and had the laptop sitting on my lap against the quilt – but even this was a minor issue.

I also loved the fact that I could get a good few hours out of the Inspiron 15 while I was working. Not having to rely on the power pack and an available plug means that you could easily take it to university or to your favourite spot and work without a worry. I can’t say the same for a hardcore gaming session, but when you’re running your resources at full speed, battery life is the trade off.

Since I’m a writer, that was another big test. I was working on a few other commissions on Inspiron 15 and the keyboard was comfortable and easy to use. The touch pad gave me the most issues – it’s very touchy. Although, since I’m used to typing on standalone keyboards and spend half the time adjusting my cursor on my everyday laptop because I’ve accidentally knocked the touch pad with my palm, I’m not sure if that’s an issue with the pad or me. Probably me.

The thing that urks me the most is the lack of an optical drive. Call me old-fashioned, but I like having the option – especially if I was to run older programs that aren’t easily downloaded. Although, there are 3x 3.0 USB ports, 1x HDMI and a media card reader to keep you happy if you need to load something on the laptop – If you’ve got the space.

Dell are big on being able to customise your laptop with various options available through their range. Their base laptop only has a 256GB solid state drive which isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things. Game downloads are getting bigger and bigger (60GB+ downloads are a regular thing), you would have to be very selective about what games you install on your hard drive if you end up purchasing the entry-level laptop. Spending the extra $400AUD to move to the middle-tier doubles your RAM and gives you an extra 1TB of space – although the compromise is downsizing your SSD to 128GB.

Overall, it’s a good-looking quality laptop for a decent price if you’re looking to get into the gaming laptop market. Some of the faults (HDD space and screen) can be frustrating but don’t make the Inspiron 15 unusable. It’s compact, pretty and packs enough power to get you through whatever you need to do without breaking the bank – although it’s probably worth throwing a few extra bucks towards the second tier laptop if you’re looking to load your entire Steam list.

Laptop provided by Dell for consideration.

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Review: ASUS ROG Strix GL502

I’m starting to become a seasoned pro when it comes to reviewing laptops – and I’m starting to notice the things I really like and dislike about the humble gaming laptop, as I’ve used more and more of them. Since I’ve only ever actually owned two laptops in my life (and one was a gaming laptop), getting my hands on other kinds of tech is fun.

ASUS were kind enough to send me a ROG GL502 laptop to play around with and I’m pretty sure this is my favourite one out of the bunch – with one caveat.

To really give the GL502 a run for its money, I essentially replaced my gaming rig/work PC with it since I had a bunch of work to do while reviewing. Two birds, one stone.

The GL502 laptop is a lightweight, compact laptop, designed for the more mobile gamer. It weighs in at just 2.2kgs (4.8lbs) which means that being able pack it up and take it with you won’t break your back. It’s also incredibly slim for what you’re getting. It packs a 15” screen that can display games in either Full HD or UHD, meaning that 4K gaming isn’t out of your reach. Although, my opinion on 4K gaming is similar to 4K TVs – just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s necessary. I don’t really have any wish to play games in 4K because I don’t think it’s really worth it. However, if you’re one of those people who likes to crank everything to 60+ FPS and see every miniscule details, the option is there.

ASUS continue their red and black colour scheme across the GL502 laptop, but it’s far less overbearing than in their other laptops, and that’s something that makes me endlessly happy. The GL502 detailing is scaled back and more subtle, which makes it more pleasing to look at in my mind. It’s not as “Cockpit of a fighter jet” as the other laptops I’ve reviewed, it’s far more sleek and refined which makes me think I’d be happier to show it off on a desk. The red has changed slightly to a more orange undertone which is a little off-putting on the black background, but the accent colour doesn’t dominate the entire laptop, making it easier on the eyes.

Let’s talk about my favourite and least part of this laptop – the keyboard. The keyboard is amazing to type on. I wrote several articles for my freelance gig, plus a few for myself and a bunch of other work stuff I’ve had going on in the background and it handled like a dream. The laptop keys only travel 1.6mm each keystroke so you can be quicker in-game and in real life. The WASD keys are highlighted in the orangey-red tone to give you the impression that this is a gaming laptop and your hands sit nicely atop them.

The thing I hated, and this is no-fault with the series – but the review laptop I got, was that my keyboard was French. If you’ve never used a French keyboard before, it’s in AZERTY format and not QWERTY – however, the GL502 was in English mode so everything was where it should be. This made writing on the laptop a nightmare. While it felt amazing to type on, if I concentrated too hard on what I was doing and didn’t let the muscle memory of touch-typing take over, my brain would confuse my hands and everything was a mess. But that’s a problem for the editors – it doesn’t take away how the GL502 laptop feels in a general sense.

Gaming on this laptop was really nice. Everything I threw at this game from Prison Architect, to Borderlands 2 and everything in between was handled without a fault. The Full HD screen displayed games without missing a beat and it was easy enough to adjust in low light and sunlight without struggling to see what I was doing.

The downside to hardcore gaming sessions on this laptop is the battery life leaves a little to be desired. While the GL502 worked well as an everyday laptop for my freelancing work, any long gaming sessions I wanted to do required a closeby powerpoint so that the battery wouldn’t drain after a few hours. However, if you’re planning on taking it to a LAN, you’re not going to be up and wandering around with it, are you?

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is definitely an investment with the RRP sitting above the $2000AUD mark, but you’re paying for portability and style which isn’t something you can get with a standard PC rig or some other gaming laptops on the market. The particular review model I was sent had 32GB DDR4 RAM installed, along with a NVIDIA GeForce 1070 and a 1TB hard drive. And as I mentioned before, it’s incredibly light for a gaming laptop.

The ASUS ROG Strix GL502 is probably my favourite ASUS laptop that I’ve been able to review (minus the French keyboard). It’s compact and light, which is perfect for taking it on the go, but it packs enough power and hardware to be able to stand up to anything you can throw at it. It’ll age well, which is something a lot of computers don’t do in the current era of gaming, it’s great for your everyday projects, and it’s not exactly bad to look at. This is the laptop you want to consider if you’re looking to upgrade.

Laptop provided by ASUS for consideration.

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CheckPoint launches a new Kickstarter to fight stigma around mental illness

Trigger warning: This post discusses mental health, including depression, anxiety and suicide. If you are risk or know someone who could be at risk, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or use the links below.

Mental health and mental illness carries a huge stigma of weakness and loneliness for those who suffer, despite depression topping WHO’s list of ill health and disability worldwide – an increase of 18% in 2017.

This issue is something that the gaming and wider geek community has taken very seriously for quite a while, and with recent studies exploring how video games may actually improve symptoms of depression, an Australian non-profit organisation is creating a new Kickstarter to help produce a web series to assist gamers with their mental health.

CheckPoint is an organisation which revolves around mental health and video games. Their service provides chill-out spaces at conventions, resources for different mental health issues and information for gamers and game developers to improve their mental health. Their latest endeavour is The CHECKPOINT Series which aims to “raise awareness about mental health issues and helping those affected, using the power of video games.”[sic]

CheckPoint have an early target of AUD$55,000 to produce a 16-episode web-series aimed at gamers using evidence-based information which could previously have been out of reach for individuals and their families about mental health.

Divided into two seasons, the first season will focus on what CheckPoint calls the “Mental Health Essentials”, which contain education about different types of mental illness (depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, drugs, alcohol, and addiction, and well-being for the games industry) with the goal of raising awareness around these illnesses.

Season two focuses on breaking down the stigma around mental health, which stops a lot of people seeking the help they need, and how videogames can be used for therapy, as well as how the industry can improve representation around mental health in healthy and effective ways.

Mental health is something that impacts pretty much everyone – whether you suffer or you know someone who suffers. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety (GAD) since I was in my teen years and it’s not something that’s easy to admit to yourself, your family, your friends and it’s definitely nothing something that I’m comfortable openly admitting to in a professional sense, but the important message that The CHECKPOINT series aims to tell is that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help.

The Kickstarter officially launches May 4th, 2017 (that’s today!) and provides a great range of incentives for backers for participating and providing valuable funds for such a vital service. If you’re interested in checking out the Kickstarter, or anything that CheckPoint do, you can check it out here.

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