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A newcomer’s guide to PC-gaming to keep you busy in isolation

In these unprecedented times, it seems that almost every aspect of our lives is subject to near-constant uncertainty and change. There seems to be only one thing we can be truly certain of; for the coming weeks the vast majority of us are about to be spending a lot more of our time safely stowed indoors. Without access to the outside world, and much more free time, most of us are now struggling to find new ways to keep ourselves entertained.

The obvious solution is to incorporate video-games into our daily routines. Games provide essential mental stimulation which can keep your brain in gear over this period of prolonged inactivity, they can be of great educational value and even allow you to socialise with others in a fulfilling way which importantly runs no risk of breaking social distancing guidelines.

This guide aims to help make the wonderful world of PC video-games open to everyone and by following these simple steps you should be able to game like a pro in no time!

1. Find out which games you want to play

There are a huge variety of games available from countless genres. Although this may seem overwhelming at first, a quick web search can show you a long list of games per genre and below we have listed some of the more popular types of game to get you started.

Just a side note: for users who only have access to a laptop computer with a track-pad, I would highly recommend investing in a cheap USB mouse if you do not already have one. Most games simply require more precise control than what is offered by most track-pads.

Once you have a list of a few titles you want to try or even just a rough idea of the type of games you want to play, you can move on to the next step.

2. Check which games you can run

It’s a common misconception that you need a purpose built “gaming PC” to play any games. Although some gamers opt to build a customised computer from scratch, most mid-range systems bought directly from a high-street retailer are surprisingly powerful nowadays, and can play a decent range of titles out of the box.

The ‘Can you run it‘ tool from System Requirements Lab is an excellent resource in finding which games you can run on your machine, potentially saving you money on a wasted purchase. Users simply type the name of the game they want to play in the search bar and hit enter. After following the on-screen instructions you are told if your computer meets the “minimum” or “recommended” requirements.

Where you meet the “recommended” spec for a game, you can expect buttery smooth performance at the highest graphical settings. On the other hand, meeting only the “minimum” shows that you can run the game, but it may need some in-game options tweaking to run smoothly. Where you don’t meet either the “minimum” or “recommended” requirements, it’s unlikely the game will run properly, so it’s best to stay away!

If you’re having no luck and can’t meet the required specification for any of your selected titles, below we have some examples of popular games which are optimised to run on particularly low-spec machines. If any of these catch your eye, you can do a quick online search to find their official sites to find out more.

3. Download launchers and buy your games

Most games need a “launcher”; a unified hub which allows you to buy and run your games, collect achievements to monitor your progress and interact with other users over social features. The most popular video-game launcher is Steam, although there are alternatives such as Uplay, Origin, Battle.net and the Epic Games Store. Each launcher offers a slightly different experience and selection of games, although most carry similar basic features it is still worth checking whether the game you want is locked to a specific launcher to avoid wasting time downloading unnecessary programs.

All launchers require individual accounts, and it’s worth trying to make these accounts as secure as possible. Follow password length recommendations and make sure your accounts are tied to a secure email so that you can recover if necessary.

Once you have your launcher set up, you can navigate through digital storefronts and finally start buying your games!

4. Try free titles and look for giveaways

If you’re not keen on spending any money on games, the online gaming retailer GOG is generously offering a selection of classic games for free specifically to be enjoyed by individuals who are in isolation! Alternatively, you can keep your eye out for other free giveaways through the freegames subreddit; an online forum where users keep each other up to date on current game giveaways.

GOG’s selection of free games

If you’re willing to spend a little bit of cash, you can follow our up-to-date guide on how to find the very best deals on your games.

5. Above all else follow NHS advice – stay at home, save lives

Although for some it may feel like it, being told to stay at home is not a holiday. Be responsible and remember to check the changing NHS guidelines.

For your own well-being and the well-being of others, always follow the current government advice.

This advice was accurate as of 29/03/2020.

Arcadeberry.com is not responsible for the content of external sites. Follow links at your own risk.

How to download and set custom Steam game covers

If you’re like me you absolutely loved the new Steam UI overhaul.With games presented like boxes sleekly displayed on a Blockbuster rental shelf in the bygone days of yore, and a simple click pulling up slick new banner artwork and enhanced social statistics, the new game library is a perfect much needed modernisation of a previously antiquated system.

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In spite of the lovely new design however, some issues still persist. As outlined in this article, some games simply don’t have the required assets yet. Although Steam tries to make do with some auto generated placeholders, this lends itself to a library that looks stilted and uneven. Not to mention the fact that non-Steam games added to your library lack even these placeholders all together.

Luckily, the inclusion of a few key, and very much appreciated, features allows you to fix these annoying inconsistencies. Although it can be a bit of a faff, this simple guide aims to simplify and streamline the process as much as possible.


1: Head over to SteamGridDB and download your covers

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Much like the name would suggest, SteamGridDB is a site that aims to assist in customising your Steam games library (or grid). It contains a wide collection of user-made Steam game assets at your disposal. Some closely mirror their official counterparts, whilst others provide colourful alternatives if you want to give your library a bit of pizzazz.

Even fancier are the animated covers, which are saved in the aPNG (animated PNG) file format – effectively the PNG equivalent of a GIF – and can really help bring your favourite games to life. If you are downloading an aPNG cover the process is no different – so read on.


2: Download your required covers

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Type the title of the game you want to customise into the search bar and hit enter. This will pull up a selection of covers for you to browse. Pick whichever cover you like the best – although for best results we would recommend only using covers listed in the 600×900 resolution – and press the download button.

The cover should save as a simple four digit number. In the case of our Mirror’s Edge cover; “1553”.


3: Apply your selected cover

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Simply located and right click the existing cover you want to replace. Select “Manage” and then press “Set custom artwork”. This opens a windows dialogue box allowing you to choose a file. Navigate to your downloads folder and select the file you have just downloaded and just like that, you have a shiny new cover!

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This process can be used to customise as many games as you would like in your library, and even non-Steam games you have added as links.

Just one last thing to note is that any changes you make to your library artwork are sadly only stored locally. If you log in to Steam on another machine, or reset your operating system, you will lose all of your changes – so be careful!

How to download unlisted Steam games completely for free!

You may wonder where exactly digital games go when they die. The thing is, most of them don’t actually go anywhere at all. There are hudreds of games fully avaliable on Steam‘s servers but no longer listed on the store – theortically completely inaccessible. In some cases however, particurlarly with games that were once listed as free, it is possible to take a shot at download them following the guide below.

So why would you actually want to download unlisted Steam games? Although most hte titles below are mostly just defunct free-to-play games with their servers shut down there are a couple of single-player gems in there. Some of the online-only titles, such as the failed Age of Empires Online, have even been brought back to life through fan revival projects and thus fully playable.

If you’re interested in maybe uncovering a hidden gem, or just curious about games long past, we’ve put together this handy guide to walk you through the process of getting lost games.


1: The games themselves

Here is a list of all the games that we’ve found that can be downloaded by this method. Notice links to the right of the title and take note of the urls that correspond with the games you want to try – you will be needing them for the next step.

Age of Empires online - steam://install/105430
Arcane Saga Online - steam://install/238110
Arctic Combat - steam://install/212370
Arma 2:free version - steam://install/107400
Battle for Graxia - steam://install/90530
Brawl Busters - steam://install/109410
Bullet Run - steam://install/211880
Codename Gordon - steam://install/92
District 187 - steam://install/221080
Dungeon Fighter Online - steam://install/212220
F.E.A.R. Online - steam://install/223650
Fnaf world - steam://install/427920
Haunted Memories - steam://install/241640
Maple Story(US-version) - steam://install/216150
Pandora Saga - steam://install/106010
Renaissance Heroes - steam://install/221790
Rusty Hearts - steam://install/36630
Spacewar - steam://install/480
TERA - steam://install/389300
TERA EU - steam://install/323370
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes F2P - steam://install/218210
Wizardry Online - steam://install/22136
Forge - steam://install/223390
Warface - steam://install/291480
Vindictus - steam://install/212160
Bullet Run - steam://install/211880
Dirty Bomb - steam://install/333930
Dragon Nest - steam://install/11610
Arctic Combat - steam://install/212370
Metro Conflict - steam://install/356640
F.E.A.R. Online - steam://install/223650
Brick-Force - steam://install/272490
Fiesta Online NA - steam://install/300970
Atlantica Online - steam://install/212240
Sin of a Dark Age - steam://install/223390
DC Universe Online - steam://install/24200
Arcane Saga Online - steam://install/238110
Chaos Heroes Online - steam://install/290830
Quantum Rush Online - steam://install/304890
Rise of Incarnates - steam://install/258160
Dragon's Prophet - steam://install/259020
Age of Empires Online - steam://install/105430
Dead Island: Epidemic - steam://install/222900/
Dungeon Fighter Online - steam://install/212220
Zombies Monsters Robots - steam://install/306830
Heroes and Titans: Online - steam://install/407090
Ragnarok Online - steam://install/2507400

2: Opening Windows Run and downloading your gameCapture.PNG

Ensure Steam is open. Once you have Steam open, press the ‘Windows’ key and the ‘R’ key at the same time (⊞ Win + r). This will prompt the “Run” dialogue box, as pictured above, to open.

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The next step is very simple. Copy the url of the game you want from the list at the start of this guide, and paste it into the text input of the “Run” dialogue box . Finally, press “ok”. For the example pictured above we have chosen Codename Gordon a delightful little 2.5D Half-Life clone.


3: Enjoy your free games!

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After pressing “ok”, Steam should open the normal dialogue boxes associated with downloading a game. Click through them and voila! You have your game! To get more games, simply repeat steps 1-3 with a different url.

Our list of available games isn’t exhaustive either, if you find any other games that can be downloaded through this method make sure to comment them here and we’ll add them to our list!