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For The Dedicated Gay Gamer: Is A Projector Right For You?

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So you're upgrading, moving, or you just have money burning a hole in your pocket and you're going to remodel your living room/games room/den, or whatever you call it. (Just please don't use that god-awful word "man cave." You're gay. A) "Man cave" is too gauche for us homos, and B) You're gay. You'll never have a wife, so every room in your house, apartment or condo qualifies as a man cave - unless you live with your mom, in which case refer to point A.)

If you're like me, you've heard people bandy about the idea of getting a digital projector for their home theatre system. The idea of playing some Mario Galaxy or Uncharted on a big screen - you know, one measured in feet or metres, not puny little inches - sounds pretty good. In fact, it is. Playing on a projector varies between being cool to being face-meltingly awesome. So what should you do to make sure your investment pays off?

Well, there are a few key points to consider, and they may not be ones you'd think of right off the bat. Follow us after the jump to explore your options!


How Big Is Your Space?

Projectors need space; they are, after all, projecting the image. It's right there in the name. That means that there has to be unobstructed space between the projector's lens and the screen. This is all well and good if you live in some cavernous suburban home, but if you're rocking a pad in the city or a cute little cottage in the country chances are your living conditions will be a bit more cozy. Anyone who's tried to play Dance Central or Wii fit in some tiny little spot will understand what I'm driving at. The world inside the game may not have serious restrictions, but the world in your living room does.

When you're shopping for a projector keep in mind the distance between where you want to mount it and where you want your screen. In fact, measure it out before you buy, and make sure to figure out what your potential projector's minimum throw distance is - and how big the image will be at that distance. The closer the screen is to the projector the smaller the image will be, and while minimum throw distances are getting closer and closer, they're still significant.

How Much Light Do You Get?

You need some serious darkness to play on a projector at high noon. The light from even a small window can obliterate some finer detail from the image on the screen. You may want to put some money in to black-out curtains, consider a basement room, or just go nocturnal. Just remember, a projector's performance can heavily depend on the sun.

You'll also want to consider your potential projector's lumen output when considering how bright your gaming space will be. "Lumen" is the measurement of the amount of light your projector throws - if I remember my high school physics correctly, one lumen is the brightness of a single lit candle. So, 1000 lumens is pretty good for a small screen in a dark room, but the brighter your room or the bigger you scale your screen the more lumens you'll need to get out of your projector.

If you're having trouble with why you need more lumens for a bigger screen, think of it this way: The bulb provides a finite amount of light at any given time, and that light has to get spread out across the entire screen. The bigger the screen, the less light there is in any given square centimetre. It's much like paint. You can only spread X amount of paint on a surface so big. If the surface gets too big the paint will be thin and patchy.

How Handy Are You?

Sure, you could keep your projector in a closet and set it up on a table every time you want to use it, but trust me when I say that gets old fast. Plus, it means no one can sit between the projector and the screen. No, hang it from the ceiling, where it belongs. If you don't know how to do this you can hire help, but bear in mind that will affect your budget.

How Much Are You Willing To Spend?

Yeah, you can get pretty reasonable projectors for a pretty reasonable price now. There's a caveat to that, though, and that's bulb burn-out. Projectors have traditionally come with high-wattage bulbs (hence the fan noise that you may have noticed from digital projectors), and those bulbs have traditionally cost a pretty penny. So while a TV is a one-time expenditure, expect to spend money on replacement bulbs. Check out how much they cost before buying.

Alternatively, you can pick up an LED projector. They can be a little more initial outlay, and they come with their own array of issues, but they also come with their own benefits. It's worth comparison shopping.

How Motion Sick Do You Get?

Seriously. If you got sick from the shaky camera in Cloverfield you may want to reconsider getting a projector. Seriously. This warning isn't even about games that are basically guaranteed to give you motion sickness, though you do have to watch out for those. The first time I played video games on a projector was F Zero for the Nintendo 64 and everyone in the room but me got sick. Playing Mario Galaxy on a two-metre screen made my husband ill too. No surprise there. However, the bobbing and weaving in most FPS games can also get to be too much on such a big scale. You should probably try one out before you commit.

For Goodness Sakes Get A Real Screen.

For real. Don't use your wall - or, horror of horrors, a white sheet. Screens are designed to reflect nicely, and to reflect detail. A wall just doesn't work as well, and sheets actually let light go through them. Besides, if you're going to invest in the joy of gaming at such bombastic proportions, you clearly want the finest experience possible. Spring for a screen.

If you've got a tonne of money you could dump it in to one of the fancy remote-controlled ceiling-mounted units out there. They're slick, and bound to impress your friends. Of course, if you're reading this you're probably a homosexual, so you'll understand that going for élan and kitch are just as worthy pursuits as good old-fashioned conspicuous consumption. There's something both fun and satisfying to pulling down an old-fashioned 8mm projector screen. Even better, they can often be found cheap on line, and that 50s/60s utilitarian style really pops. Also, they can be wall-mounted or free-standing, so if you really do need to maximize the space you have you can take your screen down and stow it somewhere.

New Or Used?

Speaking of buying cheap online, the market is flooded with the inexpensive, gently-used digital projectors of yesterday. Universities, schools and businesses often find it cheaper to buy new rather than keep up their old projectors. Most of these units still work perfectly well, though you may have to spring for a new bulb in short order.

Regardless of what you buy, I strongly recommend that you become familiar with projector terminology; however, this is especially important if you're buying used. Check out reviews of what you might be putting your money in to, and see if the specs stack up to what modern HD consoles and computers require. You don't want to find out after the fact that your $20 projector can produce no better than 10 lumens and a 640x480 resolution.

Other Things To Watch Out For

Try to ensure your projector has good colour contrast. You're playing video games, after all, and the last thing you want is a muddy picture - even if all you play are grimcore gray-on-brown palette space marine/dystopian future operas. The thing is, trading colour and clarity for price is all well and good if you're just using your projector for business presentations, and that's what a lot of projectors, new and used, are designed for. This is not, however, what you want. You want something more nimble and more versatile than that.

Finally, be sure to double-check the maximum resolution your prospective projector can do. A lot of lower-end business models and used projectors have very limited resolutions - again, because they were only meant for PowerPoint presentations. You want something that is, at the very minimum, HD capable. To that end, always be careful when a cheaper projector says it can do "1080" pixels. You want 1080p - "p" for pro-scan. 1080i - "i" for interlace - is an older standard that is not nearly as pretty. For modern units 1080p is pretty standard, but keep an eye out anyway...especially with if you choose to buy used.

There's a lot more reading you can do before picking up a projector, but hopefully this guide can help point you in the right direction. Gaming with a projector can be an amazing experience, though, so don't let any of our warnings or suggestions dissuade you. However, as with any big purchase it's important to do your homework first.

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts or experiences below!

10 Comments

matty said:
(Just please don't use that god-awful word "man cave." You're gay. A) "Man cave" is too gauche for us homos, and B) You're gay. You'll never have a wife, so every room in your house, apartment or condo qualifies as a man cave - unless you live with your mom, in which case refer to point A.)

If, like me, the wall-o-text gets to be too daunting to read in one sitting, this is the most important thing to take away from the post xD

SealedSun said:

Cool article! I've always been wondering....
Thanks!

Goeleth said:

Unless, of course, you are a lesbian, bisexual, or somewhere else on the rainbow spectrum, in which case just see point A as well, because in no way is point B guaranteed to apply.

raindog469 said:

Even though my partner is a woman these days, my preferred term for "man-cave" is still "Lair of Arrested Development", or "LOAD". It makes for some awesomely uncomfortable turns of phrase, and when I win the lottery it'll be a great name for a party venue.

Thanks for the most comprehensive executive summary of home projector issues I've seen to date.

Gogoedward said:

Nothing is too gauche for this bromosexual. Man-caves are my life.

That being said, projectors have always been my favored method of viewing things. Size-king and all that.

hawkboi said:

I'm surprised you managed to play Super Mario Galaxy on a projector. The resolution was unwatchable when we tried.

Hopefully the Wii 2 would fair better..as the Nintendo's cutesy graphics with just a little upgrade would be awesome.

That stuff you said about getting a screen is rubbish!

NEVER NEVER NEVER USE AN UGLY SCREEN>
Who wants an ugly clunky mess like that in their room?

Screens are SUPER expensive, and hard to get one at a decent size. plus if you move you may have to change your projector set-up...screen may become useless!

USE YOUR WALL!!! JUST PREPARE IT PROPERLY!

Plenty of paint/pollyfiller options.
Will smooth out the wall and the colours can be matched/blended to the room. No hideous screen in sight. You can get away with white for a pitch black room...which is fine for the one in our bedroom.
In the living rooom where we still get some ambient light/ either a little grey or silver in the mix will throw/reflect more colour and brightness back.

At 1080p with an imaculate wall. Blu-ray content looks more like your looking through a window than at a projected picture....better than the cinema even!

throw 3D into the mix....Cheaper than the tv's option...and your onto a winner...we threw all our tv out.


TangeryneBear said:

this will be perfect for my man cave.

Ragnar said:

I used a projector for a few years and liked it a lot. There were some issues with ambient light, but being a creature of the night anyway I didn't really mind always having the curtains drawn. With the projector I had (some reasonably decent Optima) the picture was bright enough that so long as I was watching cartoons or something it would show up even with the curtains open. Things with lots of black didn't work so well.

The biggest issue I had with it was that pretty much everything assumes that your display will be one the same side of the room as all the rest of your electronics. That wasn't the case with the projector, which must be on the opposite side of the room from the surface you watch it on. It took some finagling to figure out how to get the Wii sensor bar cord to reach far enough (although I know they have the wireless ones now).

Also I totally agree with the person above who said, "Just use your wall." They're right; a white, matte painted wall works just fine. Glossy paint gives you glittery spots (no, not in a good way). There is that photographic 17% gray paint that's supposed to be the best thing to use, but it's crazy expensive and personally I never saw the need. I had images so crisp I could see the individual pixels when I got my head close to it. I had no problems with resolution making things un-look-at-able when playing anything Wii or PS2/3. I did try replaying Xenogears (PS1) at one point, and that was really hard to look at; the bad effects of that weird zigzaggy texturing thing the PS1 did were greatly magnified and things were too chunky to really blend, if that makes sense.

I stopped using a projector b/c I started running into a lot of dust issues and it would gunk up the color wheel. The combo of my infrequent cleaning habits and having a Siberian Husky just put too much crap into the air. Reason 2 was HD; it was older than the DRM bullshit so didn't know all the special handshaking codes to tell my devices that it wasn't attempting to copy anything.

In short: projectors are great if you get a good, HD-ready one, don't smoke, have a clean apartment with a dark-ish room (or good curtains), pets that don't shed too much, and a lot of your stuff is wireless. Otherwise, you're likely better off with a flatscreen TV.

Home theater industry experts condition that the most important consideration in setting up a home theater system is the size with the area wherever you can set up the home theater system and its layout. Also, the space acoustics for your home theater speakers to produce the most effective home theater surround.

The new mam said:

If you're still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you'll know which is right for you.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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