Imagine this scenario…

You’re engaged in your favorite online multi-player game. You’re part of a team that has been painstakingly working its way up the game’s leader boards and you finally have a shot to take over the number one spot, if you can manage to take out a member of the top, elite team. You’ve invested serious time into your pursuit, finally catching a high-ranked player by complete surprise, lining him up in your crosshairs, ready to brag to all your friends about taking that top spot, then ZAP! Unfortunately, that zap wasn’t you claiming your online victory. It was from a nearby lightning strike that entered your home’s AC wiring, traveled into your Internet-connected gaming console and turned it into a rather expensive paperweight. Lights out. Game over.

No Second Chances

Video game systems (PC or console-based) are very susceptible to damage as the result of utility power disturbances. These power fluctuations can be quite a commonplace. Aside from lightning, the simple turning on and off of such everyday home appliances as an air conditioner, washer/dryer or a power tool can cause a damaging surge or spike to occur. A surge can also be created when power is restored after a power outage. These disturbances at the very least shorten the lifespan of your system, but in all likelihood will result in the permanent destruction of not only your gaming system, but quite possibly your entire home entertainment system as well. The scary thing isn’t just that this happens, but that it can happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere.

No Time to Save!

While not causing permanent damage, power blackouts and brownouts (low voltage), on the other hand, will cause your game system to reboot or shutoff resulting in the loss of progress and/or letting your online teammates down in the heat of battle. Of all power problems, a brownout, or ‘sag’, is the most common occurring type of disturbance. A typical source of brownouts is the utility company itself as they work to balance and manage the demand for power especially during the summer when air conditioners across the country are working overtime. The summer is also when we see the greatest amount of thunderstorm activity that often correlates to an increase in power outages and spikes. It only takes a small power flicker for you to lose all the time and energy you have invested to win.

Know Thy Enemy!

Given the widespread growth of broadband connectivity and game consoles with built-in Internet connectivity, online gaming is definitely growing in popularity. Connecting a PC or console to any network, however, significantly increases its vulnerability to damage as the result of a power disturbance. Surges very often travel over modem, network, or Cable TV lines. These surges then enter the gaming console or PC through the modem or network interface card resulting in permanent damage. Protecting all power paths into your gaming system is key if you truly want to “bulletproof” your gaming system.

Protection Strategies

It should be clear now that your gaming system is at serious risk from a host of threats you may never have considered before. So how do you protect yourself? Well, perhaps the least expensive method is to use a surge protector. A good surge protector will protect your system’s hardware from physical damage as the result of power surges, spikes, and even lightning. When purchasing a good surge protector, look for one that has a low (at least <330V) Let-Through Voltage rating, enough outlets to protect your entire entertainment system, and data line surge protection jacks. These should match how your equipment is connected to the Internet whether it is via a standard phone line or COAX. A more complete power protection solution, however, is a Battery Backup know as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). A good UPS will not only protect your gaming hardware, it will also provide backup power in the event of a power blackout or brownout allowing you to keep right on playing. This gives you time to save a game or reach the next level. There are many different models in the marketplace, but they primarily differ in how much battery backup time they can provide, how much equipment you can plug in (a large plasma TV, for example, requires a bigger UPS), and what types of data line surge protection jacks they have. With pricing starting as low as $9.99 for a surge protector or $39.99 for a UPS, good surge protectors and UPS units offer gamers a fantastic value. You can think of it as affordable insurance that gives you peace of mind to focus on gaming.