Gaming PC: The Money Pit

I’m staying in on Wednesday nights, and since I’m not ready to do much writing, I’m playing a lot of computer games. Thankfully, I’ve got a group of friends to play with, which is really helping me get through some tough times.

Just before Cyberpunk came out, I decided I needed a new gaming PC. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about it a little here. This was right before the 30X series of NVidia graphics cards came out, and right before it became ridiculously difficult to get a video card at all.

I started building the system in September 2020 and ultimately finished it in February 2021. I had most of it at the beginning of November, but I had to get a temporary video card while trying to get a 3080. When I did finally get a 3080, it came with a custom water block on it. Which meant I needed to learn how to do custom water cooling.

Honestly, this was great! I’ve always been a bit of a technophile and getting into water cooling expanded my enthusiasm for this already expensive hobby. I watched a lot of tutorials and then went relatively cheap on the radiator, pump, and tubing. I already had an AIO for the processor, so I had somewhat limited space in the case for cooling the video card. But I managed to get it working, and it was great! Even if it was a little bit ugly.

The pump was ridiculously loud, so I ordered another one. The new one worked pretty well for a little while, but then the cheap plastic filter inside broke down and filled the entire loop with floating bits of waste. The temps on the card went through the roof, and I was afraid I was going to ruin it if I didn’t do something. I temporarily switched to the old, noisy pump, long enough to limp along while I waited for a more expensive pump and reservoir combo to arrive.

With the new equipment, I was able to internalize the loop and suddenly, my gaming computer started to look a little bit more professional! But some of the fans were kind of loud. So I replaced all of those. Now they all match!

But now, the cheap reservoir I started with is starting to seem bad, and the flimsy tubing might be restricting water flow, so while the system is working, the temps are kind of high and the system is not performing as well as it should. Last night, I ordered hard tubing, a 360mm radiator to replace the 240mm, and all the fittings I should need to install fresh plumbing in my system.

What’s the lesson to learn here?

  1. Don’t go cheap unless you really know what you’re doing. I could have saved a lot of time and money and emotional stress if I’d paid a bit more from the beginning.
  2. If you care about something, be prepared to put the maintenance in. Just throwing the parts together and hoping for the best isn’t going to lead to a lasting solution.
  3. Expensive hobbies are expensive, so don’t be surprised when the money pit has no bottom.

I think there are parallels I can draw between the build of this system and a writing career. I keep considering self-publishing The Repossessed Ghost and I keep hesitating because I can’t shake the feeling that to do it right, I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of money. I’m going to want to hire an editor, a cover artist, and pay for some kind of advertising program in order to spread the word about the book. It’s starting a business, which itself is a money pit with no discernable bottom… at least at first. Money is supposed to flow to the writer, but sometimes the writer is a small business owner, which changes everything.

If you were wondering, my gaming system runs Cyberpunk really, really well. I play it at 4K, ultra settings, at just under 60FPS. When I get the radiator replaced and my cooling situation under control, I’ll probably get over 60FPS consistently. And maybe that’s the last parallel: whether it’s a gaming rig or a writing career, you have to decide what you’re willing to settle for. At this point, while I still have the will and patience to hold out, I’m not ready to settle for less than my dream.