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.

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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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Steam Challenge 2.0 – Get in Marty, we’re going back!

A few years ago I embarked on a mission which, in hindsight, was a bad idea. This year, I refuse to learn from my mistakes and try it again.

I am of course, referring to the Steam Challenge.

The idea is pretty self-explanatory, the execution can be a little more difficult. My Steam list consists of about 140 games, give or take a few betas and demos, and some of those games are multiplayer-only with no real story mode (Let’s Starve Together for example), or VR games (for which, I don’t currently own a headset.)

I’ve decided to approach the challenge with the same gusto I had when I approached the Steam challenge from last year which I failed to complete, but this time, I’ve got Math and ScienceTM on my side – and by that, I mean I have a spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is a new addition as it’ll be my way of keeping track of what games I’ve started, how far into them I am, and what I’ve finished. I hope that being able to properly keep tabs on this information will keep me motivated to continue with the challenge without getting horrendously burnt out.

Burnout is something I need to be aware of too. While I have just under 150 games, I get tired of things easily and revert back to old comforts (I’m looking at you, 600+ hours in Borderlands 2) where I can get almost instantaneous satisfaction.

My biggest issue with my Steam list is working out how long to spend on those games that don’t really have a definitive end. Some games have a great list of achievements I can use to use as goals to set as “finish points”, because other games could probably use 10-15 hours to be completed or even longer. But I’m also one of those people who likes to spend some time with a game (see Borderlands 2 play time above) and if I really get into something, I might just accidentally lose half a day in a single game alone.

But to take a lot of the indecisiveness out of the challenge, I’ll be using the rules I found on the Geek Bomb forums. They read as such:

1.You must beat every single player game from start to finish on any difficulty.
1a. With large RPG/Sand box games like Skyrim, you must complete the main story line and the main story line in all DLC expansions you own (ie. Dawngaurd).
1b. In games where there is no ending or main story line (ex. Terraia and Sim City). You must play at least 10 hours.
1c. If a game is far too difficult for you to complete (Super Meat Boy) you must complete 15 hours before rule 1 is satisfied.

2.You must play at least 7 hours of PvP multiplayer or complete every single co-op mission (ie. Left 4 Dead).
2a. If a game has both you can either play one or the other (ie. Team Fortress 2).

3. You can either start from ascending or descending order; you are allowed to skip games if they follow a few exceptions.

3a. You can skip a game if playing a game have become impossible in situations like the following:
.Banned from multiplayer (if the game has single player, you must play single player component)
.An online game (like a MMO) is no longer supported.
.Your machine is not powerful enough to run the game.
.Your OS or chipset is not supported.
.Unresolvable issues that make installation or running the game impossible.
3b. If you already have satisfied rules 1 and 2 on any game then playing that game is optional.
3c. You may skip a game if there are essentially duplicates in your library (ex. You have both Half-Life and Half-Life: Source), but you must play one or the other. This includes Beta clients (ex. Team Fortress 2 Beta)
3d. If it is in your library, you have to play Amnesia to the end you fucking baby. Nut up man, it’s just pixels.

In order to keep this entertaining, I’ll be streaming and recording as much as possible – especially in games like Amnesia and F.E.A.R where I know watching me scream like a huge baby will be rewarding to everyone involved. I’m also trying to get my friends involved to keep me motivated.

I’ll be started the challenge on Saturday 1st, April. I’m not sure what game just yet, but be sure to check my Twitch channel to watch it all kick off and to see me succeed! (Or fail miserable – YMMV)

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