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September 5, 2013

Oculus Rift VR, Custom PCs, IE11 Atari Arcade and more at PAX Prime 2013

If you are into gaming, a PAX event is the place to be. If you enjoy PC games, console games, indie games, board games, or just about any other kind of game, you’ll find plenty of things to see and do at PAX Prime (Seattle) or PAX East (Boston). If you are interested in game development, PAX Dev is a must-do event. This year I had the opportunity to go to PAX Prime, and I thought I would share some of the cool things that I saw and experienced.

Oculus VR: A glimpse into the future of PC gaming

Wondering what’s next in the world of PC gaming? Attendees at PAX got to see what VR-based gaming will be like using Oculus Rift hardware, including prototype full-HD units. These Oculus Rift prototype units have a total resolution of 1920 x 1080 which is split in half yielding 960 x 1080 per-eye 3D resolution. Oculus VP Nate Mitchell gave me a brief Oculus Rift technology overview and then guided me through a couple of awesome demos.

In the picture below you can see my first experience with Oculus Rift playing Hawken. This demo utilizes Oculus Rift for 3D display and head tracking, stereo headphones for sound, and an Xbox controller to fly the mech.


The first thing that Nate had me do was to look directly behind me, where I saw the virtual seat that I was sitting in. Wild. Next, I flew the mech in Hawken while looking around by moving my head naturally. It took less than a minute to get comfortable with the setup, and I felt totally immersed in the virtual environment. It was exciting to say the least.

The next demo was a “passenger style” ride in an F1-style racing car using an app from Since I didn’t need to drive during this test lap I was free to look around inside and outside the car. What’s amazing about this experience is the feeling of speed and the natural ability to look over at other drivers and the track. It brings you into the racing experience in a way that a flat screen just can’t.

Since I have a background in sensor technology, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of the Oculus Rift units to dig deeper and experiment with it. Consumer PC gaming is certainly going to get more exciting with new technology like this! Want to know more? Check out

PC gaming to the max

If you want to experience the latest PC games, PAX offers massive PC gaming areas where you can get your game on.


Players in this area could choose from over 40 game titles including Left 4 dead 2, Half-Live 2 Deathmatch, League of Legends, and many more. There was an intense energy in the air while hundreds of PC gamers were heads-down in their games. These gaming areas provide a unique opportunity to test-drive many of the latest PC game titles.

Custom PCs

At PAX Prime there’s an entire room dedicated to BYOC (Bring Your Own Ccomputer) where you’ll find plenty of hardcore gamers and many custom PCs with all sorts of mods. One of these hardcore gamers and builders is Anthony Lackey who’s had multiple “cover shots” and features in CPU magazine. His most recent PC build is called “White Lightning”. This PC is gorgeous, and is running a unique 5-display setup connected to an AMD 7990 dual GPU card.


I couldn’t resist taking White Lightning for a quick test drive by firing up BF3 with the crazy 5×1 Eyefinity multi-display setup. With a total of 5,400 x 1,920 display resolution and each of the displays pointing directly at you, the gameplay experience is totally intense.


Anthony is looking at ways to minimize the “bezel separation” between these displays. One option he’s considering is to remove the displays from the frames which may shave off about 60% of the total bezel width between these displays. Can’t wait to see that.

I also ran into friend Jon Hansz in the BYOC area where he had some of this latest custom PC builds on display including “Triton” which was featured on the cover of CPU magazine. Just like with his previous Epidemic PC build, Jon’s sleeving and wire routing for Triton is amazing. It’s all about attention to detail.


While visiting the MSI booth, I saw another amazing custom PC put together by MSI and featuring an open layout. With its trellis-frame inspired exoskeleton case and classic red and black color scheme, the “G-Frame system” is one amazing looking PC!


This system also packs some punch, including a 1000W PSU, full Koolance water cooling system, Intel Core i7 processor, MSI N780 graphics card, In-Win D-Frame Case, and much more.

#atariarcade – IE + Atari

Since the early 80’s I’ve been a big fan of Atari (see prior story here), so I had to check out the IE11/Atari booth at PAX. Here PAX attendees played Centipede, Missile Command and Asteroids on Dell XPS all-in-one PCs in a competition to win prizes. Called “Arcade Battle Royale” this showcase was running on Windows 8.1 Preview in IE11. The overall winner received a trip for two to the Tokyo Game Show 2014! Jealous.


If you want to try out the games for yourself, you can go to the official website. This browser-based gaming showcase was just one of many examples of how gaming experiences and technology are moving forward. It’s all about more gaming experiences in more places on more devices.

PAX was both fun and surreal. It was lots of fun, and I’m certainly looking forward to the next PAX event. I only wish PAX Prime occurred more frequently!

Find me on twitter here: @GavinGear