Dec 2, 2007

Ann Tancio


Feature: Operation Freedom From Desks
Think PC gaming need be confined to the bedroom or study? Think again…


When console gamers are lounging around in their living rooms enjoying wireless gaming goodness on big TVs, why should it be that PC gamers are confined to their desks, hunched in front of a tiny screen that’s only any good from a few feet away? Even with most HDTVs offering a suitable alternative to PC monitors, anyone who has tried using a keyboard and mouse from the ‘comfort’ of a sofa will know that it just doesn’t work. Fortunately there’s a much better way, and it comes in the unlikely form of …a beanbag.

No, forget those stained corduroy monstrosities from the seventies that burst as soon as you sit on them; for our high-tech solution to the PC gamer’s curse, we needed an equally high-tech (and frankly less hideous) product. Enter the SUMO Omni. The Omni is billed as an adaptable seat made from space age material and durable beads, and this over-sized beanbag proved the final key in taking PC gaming from darkened bedrooms to bright and airy living rooms.

With Operation Freedom From Desks ready to commence, we assembled the necessary equipment, a list of which you can find below.

  • A high-definition television with DVI input (or a graphics card with HD output). We recommend 32-inches or bigger and 1:1 pixel mapping for maximum effect.
  • A wireless mouse and keyboard combo. We’ve gone with the Logitech Cordless Desktop as we rather liked the mouse that comes with it. Make sure you’ve also got a sturdy mouse mat or the setup won’t work.
  • A suitable place to sit. Our Omni was ideal for both console and PC use due to its large size and high degree of malleability.
  • Optional: A joypad controller and profile editor. We’re using an Xbox 360 Controller and Pinnacle Game Profiler for maximum compatibility and that authentic console feel.
  • A PC, legs, arms, eyes, etc.

As you can see, here I am playing Unreal Tournament III on the big screen long before the game comes out on consoles. I’m using the mouse and keyboard here, just to show how the setup works, but I’ve successfully configured the 360 controller to work with this and many other games (heathen that I am), including Quake Wars and Hellgate: London. The genius of SUMO’s product is that it’s big enough to move into different shapes and firm enough to keep them, so I was quite easily able to create a chair that had back support and a comfortably-placed mouse shelf.

In fact the only downside of the whole experiment is that the Logitech mouse would only operate within about one foot of the receiver, which was possibly due to the ridiculous number of wireless devices in the vicinity. With a controller in hand, such problems were quickly forgotten, and just for the sake of thoroughness I gave the setup several hours (actually several days) of ‘testing’. While there was only really one good way to use the mouse and keyboard, I found that with a joypad, the Omni’s customisable shapes came into play a lot more. Although that was in part due to the beanbag gradually sagging to one side over a long period of time, it was mostly just good practice to change position regularly for maximum comfort.

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Spot the difference: Console gaming on the left, PC gaming on the right.


Okay, so such a forward-thinking approach to PC gaming is not for everyone, but it just goes to show that anything console gamers can do, we can do better. Obviously there’s a lot of choice when it comes to the products that have been mentioned, and I’d be interested to see how other wireless mice compare to Logitech’s offering. The Omni itself proved very versatile and was surprisingly easy to store since it can be made to go more-or-less flat. At just under 80, it’s pricey, but a lot more reasonably priced than a similar-sized genuine leather beanbag we saw for 350. It might not boast such a classy covering, but there is a choice of 10 colours, with black probably being the safest ‘neutral’ bet – we might suggest SUMO rename the ‘Tangerine’ colouring to ‘Lifeboat Orange’!

The ultimate question is, will I continue to use this setup, and the answer is an unequivocal Yes. Desks are for office work, but gaming can and should be enjoyed anywhere in the home.

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