Van Gamers

There’s a long-running assumption that video games are incompatible with an outdoorsy lifestyle, but I beg to differ. I recently packed up my apartment in the city to live out of a van doing seasonal work, and found myself unwilling to part with something that I’d consider a part of my identity. Gaming has long been a source of coping and decompression for me, so I found a way to keep gaming even while living on the go.

Here’s a basic rundown of how that looks for me:

Power

Outlets

My van has two main batteries. The front battery only charges when the van is in motion and shouldn’t be used to plug in devices when the van is stationary. I’ve charged and used my Switch while on long drives in the passenger seat with no problems. 

The second battery requires an exterior plug-in for charging. This battery can last for about two weeks, so long as I’m not constantly plugged in and using it to recharge spent devices I plan on using soon. If the van stays plugged in, I can plug in my laptop or anything else that I want indefinitely.

I have to stay strategic on the move. Whenever I take a break from the road and stay a night in a motel, I’ll take in all of my devices and plug into every outlet I can find. If I find myself at a café or restaurant, I’m not above plugging a phone or Game Boy into the wall while I enjoy my coffee. 

The van has a generator that it came with (a very loud and gas-guzzling 1999 model) but I won’t even turn it on. Keeping the batteries charged has given me as much power as I need. If some day in the future I require longer segments than around two weeks, I might look into upgrading the generator. 

Many other vans have fancier setups, with solar panels to catch the rays. To install such devices, I’d have to tinker with the interior wiring, which would be a last resort. There are smaller fold-out solar panels that can be set on a picnic table so I can spend a sunny afternoon charging a handheld battery pack. I’ve used one and it’s pretty clutch. 

Devices

Nintendo Switch

Unfortunately, having a full-scale gaming computer and big-screen TVs is a big no for vans, so be prepared to kiss those things goodbye. I had to pack up my PS4 and other auxiliary consoles due to their bulkiness and electric consumption. 

Get yourself a gaming laptop if you intend to use resource-intensive games in your van. I run everything I need off my laptop, but I’m usually unable to run anything on high graphic settings. My partner uses a Mac and can’t run games such as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (which is a decade old at this point) for example. 

I ended up taking a lot of handhelds into the van with me. Nintendo is the MVP here. A Game Boy without a light-up screen saves a little energy. My partner and I brought a DS and a 3DS with us for options. It’s nice to alternate when there is limited power in the van.

The Switch has been the favorite of gaming devices we have been able to keep in the van. It’s small, can act like a console, and offers both a solid offline experience, as well as online whenever WiFi graces your presence. 

WiFi

Wi-Fi

When I lived in an apartment, I relied on a stationary router for all my online gaming needs. Living in the van has drastically changed the way I look at WiFi.

When I park my van at campgrounds, there’s always a chance for free internet but few out there are good enough for streaming. Mobile games and messaging are usually fine, but streaming and major downloads are a big fat no.

Libraries and cafés are nice for streaming and downloading games. However, most spots like these don’t take kindly to shouting or talking on mics if you’re a more vocal gamer. 

Having an unlimited data plan on your phone with the ability to set it up as a mobile hotspot is absolutely your best bet if you’re looking for online play. Make sure to get a far-reaching network so you don’t suddenly find yourself out of service.

Bottom line on WiFi: You may find it here or there for free, but it’ll either be very limited or in public spaces where talking to your mates for hours might be seen as rude to other guests. Take the time to research phone plans before you get in your van to ensure you have what you need for any online play you will want to take part in.

Conclusion

Van Gamers

Just because you’re a gamer obviously doesn’t mean you’re a stereotypical never-leaves-the-house kind. There are plenty who also enjoy a hiking or rugged lifestyle as well. I am always learning. If you have any tips on how to improve either my experience gaming in my van or questions please leave them in the comments! 

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Nick
Nick
1 month ago

Love all the information here! This is an inspiring and encouraging read.
I’m curious, with the Switch, have you run into any JoyCon drift while traveling? I love my Switch, but have stuck almost exclusively to my 8BitDo Pro Controller, due to drift issues in the past.

Kory Anders
Kory Anders
18 days ago
Reply to  Nick

I do run into a drift issue, it’s happened to every one of them I’ve owned. Does the 8BitDo Pro use batteries or does it require charging?

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