Gaming for Theater Rooms, Plus Ça Change

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Gaming now occupies a place in end-users entertainment options that is as mainstream as a cable box. It’s entirely typical now for a media room or theater room install to incorporate at least one gaming console as a source and quite possibly more than one.

There’s some old school charm about adding a game console to a system by plugging the A/V into the front HDMI jack of the AVR and leaving the console lying on the floor. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have a client whose whole Media Room theme is a throwback to 1992.

However, most clients are paying you for elegant, sensible installations, so more effort is required.

The whole point of an integrated AV system is simple control of a complex system, and with gaming consoles, that objective can be a real mixed bag.

Amazingly, after all this time and multiple XBOX iterations, the XBOX ONE, like its predecessors, uses IR for its remote codes. IR may be kind of a grandfather technology at this point, but while it’s not cutting edge, in its defense it works, mostly.

Equally consistent as XBOX but with decidedly more hassle, Sony continues its frustrating tradition of making AV control of the Playstation 4 difficult by continuing to opt for Bluetooth not just for the gaming controllers, but for the media remote control as well. As in the past, AV pros who want to simplify control of media streaming via Playstation are dependent upon aftermarket IR to Bluetooth conversion dongles.

The good news is that there are a number of units in the marketplace to choose from. The bad news is that reviews of them are mixed, so some experimentation is in order to find one that you deem satisfactory.

To keep things interesting for your system programmer, gaming consoles aren’t just for gaming. When laying out the scope of control for the gaming-centric media room, the big question is: Where and on what is your client going to view streaming media?

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Clients can access streaming media not only on dedicated streaming boxes from Apple, Amazon, Roku, etc. but also on Blu-ray players, cable boxes (which contain, if not irony, a certain amount of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’), embedded in the big screen flat-panel TVs themselves and, of course, gaming consoles.

Frankly it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if I were to learn than someone, somewhere has built a toaster with Netflix built into it, but I digress.

Getting back on track here: With clients spoiled for choice, how do you decide from which source will your client access their streaming media options?

I don’t have a simple answer. My impulsive, some-is-good-more-is-better personality’s immediate reflex is “EVERYWHERE!” But then, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

My own home systems are probably fairly typical in that there are multiple options for accessing streaming media, but in reality the family only uses one choice in each system. Part of planning an effective scope of control in the client interviews should be to determine which source is the most straightforward and intuitive for the users to select. Maybe it will be the XBOX, maybe it won’t.

From a physical design perspective, while consoles now rely heavily on gaming downloads, gaming isn’t 100 percent cloud-based yet. So while it might seem obvious, it remains necessary to locate the consoles in a spot where it’s convenient for users to insert a disc: Somewhere in the room and neither too high nor too low.

For that matter, speaking of physical system design, consoles still run hot, so if they’re racked or otherwise enclosed, cooling hardware is mandatory.

Reviewing my notes about integrating gaming systems in years past, it’s notable how much has changed and yet quite a bit hasn’t. It makes you wonder what will happen next.