August 9th, 2010
When living overseas, we often have to make concessions for the comfort activities we enjoyed when at home. Maintaining our interest and hobbies is a way for us to re-connect with an identity that can sometimes feel suffocated by the new environment and its surrounding culture. Currently, I’m working abroad in China, so for me, playing video games is a way for me to temporarily relieve myself of my predetermined role as an outsider, a foreigner. Video games, as with long distance phone calls and family photos, are comfort food for the soul, and that’s pretty important. Maintaining a hobby like video games abroad is rather tricky though, so I’ve written a list of suggestions that may help others in their relocation overseas.
Bring a Portable Console
A no-brainer, huh? Personally, I chose to bring my original DS along since it can play both DS and GBA games and I have games on both console to complete. The carts are quite small, so the DS is a relatively low fuss option if you’re willing to drag the media itself overseas. I didn’t invest in a carry case for my gear (I play portable games at home), so snap-lock Glad bags have proven sufficient for storying my cartridges. The DSi has an online store for downloadable DSiWare games, so there’s incentive to bring the newer model overseas, if you’re not interested in GBA functionality. Whether the online store still works overseas I can’t say, so it may be a good idea to stock up on games prior to leaving.
The PSP is another option, but one which can be less favourable if you’re less willing to bust the firmware. The UMD discs are a tricky to cart around in comparison to the DS game cards and the open-faced system isn’t exactly portable-friendly. Fortunately, the PSP does allow you to install games onto the device, but with PSP games ranging from 500mbs to 1.6gb in size, the option isn’t so ideal for storing multiple games.
The PSPgo, on the other hand, is an ideal solution with its 16gb harddrive. Topped with PSN classics and PSP Minis and you’ve got yourself a handy travel companion without the need for excess baggage. There’s also travel software like the Passport to [Europe] series and Talkman [Asian and Europe].
In an email, Sony Australia believe that the Playstation Store should be accessible while in China (and thereby most countries), so long as there is no interference from the web filter (a VPN is an easy solution for the latter). I personally would recommend modding your PSP for back ups. However, tread carefully as modable PSP models are no longer in production and the majority of new PSPs floating around on eBay only support temporary modification in the flash memory which is extremely fiddly.
Your iPod/iPhone doubles as a Portable Games Console
The iPod is probably the most user-friendly device for playing games overseas. It’s ultra portable, games are cheap, but above all else, you can access any of the iTunes stores from any country in the world. If you already own an iPod or iPhone and have iTunes and a computer/a wireless connection for internet access, then there’s little reason for your life overseas to hinder your mobile gaming.
Laptop, rip isos, use steam, plain installs, patches
Like the iPod/iPhone, a laptop, even an older laptop, is a great way to stay in tune with gaming. My Macbook has a Windows XP partition which houses my Steam collection, games installed completely to the harddrive, isos of games which won’t run without the CD/DVD, games patched to run without a CD/DVD in the drive, files from Good Old Games, some emulators and games (my Amiga 500 video outputs are busted) and a hoist of indie games. All in all, I have roughly 30-40 games on my Windows partition, enough to last any one a long time.
For Steam, I recommend downloading your games at home and then setting the service to ‘offline mode’ just in case anyone at home decides to boot up Steam and you’re account is suspend etc.
Maybe you haven’t considered it, but there are literally bazillions of online games which can be enjoyed at home or in an internet cafe. NewGrounds and Kongregate are great sites for free flash games. Given everything else I’ve set up over here, I don’t often play browser-based games, but that’s by no means an assertion that they’re not worth your investment.
Since I’m living in China I’ve decided to secure my connection and avoid the internet filter by purchasing a year long membership to a virtual private network service. Depending on the country you’re living in, content may be filtered by the government and a popular target for internet filtering are games websites. Not just news and information websites like Kombo, but Flash game websites, websites for independent developers and general downloading sites which offer video game content.
Accept the Indie Scene
On my side of the fence, being away from home offers up the opportunity to try out games which might otherwise be forgotten when at home, and there’s something very rewarding about that. I’m not a big PC gamer and I’m not as invested in the indie scene as I’d like to be, so living abroad allows me to remedy these issue, and along with the comfort food games provide, there’s really no sacrifice to my gaming diet.