Gaming: it's what we love, isn't it? Everyone even remotely associated with this site, whether as staff or as readers, share this common hobby. It brings us joy, makes us experience a wide range of scenarios, and may even inspire us. Like film nuts, we wait anxiously for the release of the next game that we're interested in, waiting for a new experience. There's a good reason for that: games allow you access to other worlds unknown to us in reality. Whether you wanna trawl thorough dungeons in Skyrim, be on the frontline in Call of Duty, or have your mind split open by the latest brain-bending indie sensation, they offer novelty.
However, we'd be lying if we said that there aren't some things about our hobby that are difficult. For one, it's expensive. Not only in terms of games, but in terms of building a PC, buying peripherals, or keeping everything in order. How would you like to save money? I'm sure you'd appreciate a few extra bucks in your back pocket, right? In this article, we've pulled together a bunch of fascinating tips and lifehacks that can make your gaming experience even better, while saving you a heap of cash at the same time. Whether you want to make your own racing wheel, improve the look and feel of old games, give an old favorite console a new lease of life, or just keep your set up a bit more tidy, read on! We're sure you'll find something that can help you here.
30 Use Toilet Rolls To Store Cables
Keeping cables tidy when they're under your desk or behind your TV cabinet is one thing, but what about storing them? If you're into your hardware, you've likely got a big box of cables lying around, and while it's a tired stand-up observation to talk about them getting tangled, they do! There's an easy solution, put the cables in toilet roll holders before you store them away in a box. It stops them getting all tangled up, and will save you a huge deal of frustration next time you need a specific cable.
29 Get Yourself A Banana Stand To Hold Your Headset
Headsets have never lasted very long with me. While I don't throw them around like I used to as a teenager, I still don't treat them with the respect they probably deserve. If you want to give your headsets a little extra protection, don't just leave them lying on your desk or coffee table, where they can easily be broken. Instead, buy a hooked banana stand, and hang them from there instead. This gives them a little extra protection, plus looks pretty cool to boot. You can also hang an s-hook from the side of your desk, and attach them to that, if you'd prefer.
28 Wedging Down Buttons
Let's say that you're playing an Elder Scrolls game. I first heard about this tip for Oblivion, but it would work just as well in any of its other installments. You need to repeatedly do actions to level up the skill associated with said action, i.e. jumping for acrobatics, or running for athletics. If you want to level a bit more quickly, there's an easy solution. Wedge down the controls. For example, to level athletics quickly, wrap a rubber band around the left stick to make your character run, then go away and go about your day.
27 Turn On Game Mode On Your TV
If you've flicked open the menu on your TV, it's likely that you've spotted the option of Game Mode. You may have wondered what this does, and if it's any good. Well, the answer to the latter is yes! The former is slightly more complicated: it effectively tries to cut input lag, the lag between something happening in-game and it being displayed on screen. It does this by tweaking the screen's settings to allow for the input to be displayed quicker. Picture quality may go down very slightly, but it can give you an edge.
26 Play Classic Games On Your Phone
Did you know that you can play all your favorite classic games on your phone? It's true. The secret is the magic of emulation. If you want to get in on this, grab an emulator from the Android store, such as Retroarch or Matsu Emulator. Then all you need to do is get some game ROMs, and you're ready to play! The legality of emulation is something of a grey area, but we'll leave that up to you to research.
25 You Can Recharge Your PS4 Controller With A Phone Charger
In some ways, this is a no-brainer really, but it's definitely not something I'd thought about. You know how your PS4 controllers recharge via USB, with a USB cable connecting to their Micro USB port atop them? Yeah, you can charge them up without having to plug them into your PS4 at all. Instead, get your phone charger, plug one end into the controller, then the other end into the wall as normal. It'll likely charge quicker this way too.
24 Build A Cardboard Racing Wheel For Your Phone
As we discussed earlier, phones don't always lend themselves exceptionally well to gaming. Sure, they're perfectly capable of the task, technically, but not really mechanically. How would you like to be able to play your favorite racing games, but with a better control scheme? If you're interested, you can build yourself a cardboard racing wheel, which will hold your phone, allowing you to steer in a much more precise and immersive manner. It's easy, quick, and dirt cheap too. Find out more here.
23 Turn Any Retro Controller Into A USB Gamepad
When it comes to controllers, almost everyone has a favorite. Whether it's the original Dualshock, the Genesis controller, the SNES controller, or anything in between, you can still put it to good use. With a little skill, and the Teensy USB dev board, you can make a classic controller into something you can plug into your PC. All you need to do is crack open the controller, and solder a few connectors together. You can find the full guide here: get to it, and play modern games your way.
22 You Can Use Your Console Controllers On PC
Do you flip-flop between gaming on your console and gaming on your PC? Maybe you're a console gamer looking to take your first steps into the world of PC gaming. Either way, don't feel that you have to get a new controller to play games on it! Whether it's a 360 controller, a PS4 controller, or an Xbone controller, you can pair it up with your PC. All of these controllers natively support PC gameplay, whether through wired or wireless connections. Get gaming!
21 Turn A Stool Into A Racing Wheel
Peripherals are an interesting subset of the gaming market. For some, they're a waste of time, with no real advantages over a controller. For others, they're crucial to immersion, and a key part of their gaming experience. What if you fall into the latter but don't have the money to get, say, a racing wheel? Get a stool, place your mouse on top of it, preferably secured to a desk or table. Tweak the sensitivity, and with every turn of the stool, you'll be able to turn your vehicle in-game.
20 Turn A Gum Wrapper Into A Trigger For Mobile Games
Mobile games have come a long way since the days of Snake. These days, it seems like every genre under the sun has found its way to mobile, with even PUBG getting in on the act. That being said, phones still have their flaws as gaming systems, with one of the main complains being control schemes. On-screen buttons are never going to have the right tactile feeling of a real controller, and in games where reactions matter, can sometimes just be in the wrong place for you to hit. Want to improve things? Well, a gum wrapper can help you.
19 Improve Your Posture
Breaking news: sitting still for long, long periods of time is not good for you. Not that you're not going to — I'm sure as heck going to carry on doing so. However, you should give your body what it needs, and one way to reduce harm is through good posture. When you're sat downplaying your games, try not to slouch, curving your spine. Instead, sit up straight, put your shoulders down, and tuck your chin. It might not seem like much now, but it can help prevent health issues as you age.
18 Turn Your NES Into A PC
Have you noticed how PCs are getting smaller? It seems like, these days, you can fit components into ever-decreasing spaces. How about giving your old NES a new lease of life by making it into a media center? Due to the small size of the NES' case, you'll need small components: an MITX board is essential, as is a laptop hard drive, and a tiny power supply. This isn't going to be a powerhouse, but it'll be perfectly adequate for a bit of streaming or web browsing, plus it's gonna be a major talking point among your gamer friends.
17 Use Your PS Vita As A Spare PS4 Controller
Ah, the PS Vita. I'm willing to bet that if you own one, you don't play on it regularly, right? Well, it has other uses. Let's say you invite a buddy round, and want to play a game on your PS4 with them, but don't have a spare controller. No worries! You can use your PS Vita as a controller. To do so, set up remote play on the Vita, then start up your other controller as normal. Voila, two controllers, and both of you are happy.
16 Use Zipties To Keep Wires Tidy
I need to take this entry on board myself, I will be honest. When I look under my desk, it's like looking into the snake pit from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Get yourself a few zipties, and you can tidy up all those dangling wires in no time at all. Instead of having a multitude of cables getting tangled together and making your life a misery anytime you want to, you know, take your systems anywhere, tidy it up. All you've gotta do is tie the wires together into nice, orderly bunches with zip-ties.
15 You Can Use Your Phone To Control Your PS4
First a PS Vita and now a phone? Is there anything that can't be used to control a PS4? I mean, you probably couldn't use, like, a fridge's control panel to control it, but regardless: phones can indeed be used. All you need to do is get the PS4 Second Screen app, and pair it up with your PS4. Then you can control basic input with your phone, and it will also allow you to enter text into your PS4 through it, as well as displaying stuff from compatible games on your phone. Pretty cool, huh?
14 You Can Use Your Wiimote As A Pointer
I'm willing to bet that your Wii is probably barely used these days. Maybe you drag it out for a family gathering, because Wii Sports here is still the great leveler, but how about you use your Wiimote for something more useful? Say you need to give a presentation but don't have a pointer: no drama, you can use your Wiimote. You can find the full guide, but it's surprisingly simple: all you need is a computer script, a Wiimote, and Bluetooth.
13 Use Rubber Bands To Grind (In Battlefront 2 And Others)
When Battlefront 2 came out, people discovered how tough it was to grind for credits in-game. While it's not as controversial a game as it was when it first came out, it's still not super popular, for a whole host of reasons. If you wanna get credits fast, there's an easy way to do that. Simply wrap a pair of rubber bands around your controller's sticks, secure them at the back, and your character will keep moving, meaning you won't be booted for being AFK, and can get credits while you do something more constructive.
12 Jailbreak Your Switch To Play Homebrew Games
Warning: doing this will void your Switch's warranty. The process is too detailed to fully explain in 100 words, but you can find a comprehensive guide here. The benefits are pretty numerous, however. Jailbreaking gives you access to a whole host of homebrew software, including games. These include a Chocolate Doom port, a port of the DOS game Tyrian, and a port of 2048. More to the point, it also gives you deeper control over the technical aspects of your Switch.
11 Overclock Your Hardware
While overclocking your PC used to involve ridiculous stuff like drawing on your CPU with a ceramic pencil, these days, it's way easier. If you want to overclock your CPU, all you need to do is get into the BIOS and change your clock speed by tweaking the CPU's multiplier, which controls how its cores work. You can also overclock other aspects of your PC, including RAM speed, and your graphics card. Just be careful to take it slowly, and watch your components' temperatures. Too much too fast can fry the chip, leaving you with an expensive paperweight.
10 Keep Your Case On
This is kind of a follow-up on the previous entry. When you're watching your CPU temperatures, and thinking about ways you could eke out a little more performance, if only you could cool it down a little, you may consider taking the side off your case. Don't do that! While it may seem counterintuitive, PCs run cooler with a well-designed case, as they maximize the airflow around components, keeping them cool. If you really want to cool things down, look into water cooling.
9 Check Your Framerates
There aren't a whole lot of issues in gaming that are more contentious than framerates. Some people swear that they can't tell the difference between 30 and 60fps, some need 60fps otherwise they feel like their eyes will explode. If you've not got an expert eye and are intrigued to learn what kind of framerates you're getting from your PC games, there's an easy solution to that. While many games offer benchmarks, if you just want to see what they're like during general gameplay, get FRAPS. This program will monitor your framerate, displaying your fps in the corner of your screen.
8 Don’t Neglect Mods
Let me tell you about an issue I had the other day. I wanted to play Morrowind, but I could not abide by the graphics and gameplay that do not remotely hold up today. They're antiquated. You know what can fix that? Mods. Mods are wonderful things, edits to the game made by players who want to improve things. I grabbed a couple of mods that made the combat Oblivion standard, and also improved the graphics. Now, I can play the game without feeling like the jagged edges aren't going to take my eyes out.
7 Build Your Own Arcade Cabinet
Do you long for the days of your misspent youth, when you wandered the arcades perusing electronic delights? Maybe you missed out on all that, but want to experience that. If you've got some skills, you could do worse than building your own cabinet. The basic jist of this is that you take a PC running the arcade emulator MAME, and a selection of ROMs, and cram it into an old arcade cabinet, fitted with a new screen. The result is incredible, if done well, offering an unlimited selection of arcade games rendered authentically in their natural habitat.
6 Give Your Old Console A New Lease Of Life
The $35 computer, the Raspberry Pi, may not seem like much, but it is perfectly suited to the task of emulation. What's more, it's absolutely tiny, so can fit into the case of any old console you could care to name. Combine these two things, and you have a recipe for a fantastic project. The program you want is called EmulationStation, and is capable of emulating a whole ton of consoles. It also supports various gamepads, making set up a breeze. You can find the full guide here.
5 Protect Cables With Split-Loom Tubes
Cables are easily damaged. If they're all neatly organized, as we showed you how to do earlier, that shouldn't be an issue. Sometimes, however, you need to have your cables out and about, which, unfortunately, exposes them to all kinds of potential damage. There is an easy solution, however. This solution is split-loom tubing, the same stuff that's used to protect electrical cables. They provide a sturdy, unintrusive method of protection for your cables, whether you're running ethernet across a room or simply need to hook your laptop up to your TV's HDMI port.
4 Schedule Automatic Updates
There's not a lot that feels more annoying than sitting down to play a game, only to be told you need to update. You can, and should make use of the ability to automatically update your games and firmware while you're away. To allow automatic updates on your PS4, go into your settings, then system, then automatic downloads. This will allow your PS4 to automatically update whenever it's left on, or, if you're a PlayStation Plus member, when it's in rest mode, which will also save you power.
3 Play 4K Blu-Rays On Your Xbox One
Do you remember the whole Blu-Ray v HD DVD battle? A more low-key version of the VHS v Betamax wars, this pitted the PS3, which included a Blu-Ray player, against the Xbox 360, which had an HD DVD peripheral, which cost a hair-raising amount of cash. Ironically, the PlayStation 4 (yes, even the PS4 Pro) can't play 4K blu-rays, but the Xbox One S and Xbox One X can — weird how things change.
2 Remap Your Xbox One Buttons
Remapping your controls has been something of a mainstay in PC gaming for years now, but it's only just starting to be available on consoles. If you want to remap your controls, so, say, when you hit the B button, the X button is registered instead, you can do that. You can even swap your sticks, if you like. Launch the Xbox Accessories app, and hit configure. Choose button mapping, and tinker to your heart's content! If you mess up, you can also restore the defaults from here.
1 Keep Track Of Data Usage
While its thankfully becoming rarer, some people are still stuck with an ISP who caps their data usage. If you're one of them, you need to keep track of your data usage. Luckily, the Xbox One makes this pretty easy. To find out how much data its eaten lately, go to settings, then "all settings," "network," "network settings," and finally, "bandwidth usage." This screen will give you an estimate of how much data the console has used over the past 12 hours, and an overview of how much has been used over the past 10 months.