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BOFH: Gaming rig for your home office? Yeah right

Choose your fighter. BLINK BLINK. It's your friendly operator here …

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 5 "Hello?" an unenthusiastic voice intones.

"Hi," I say, "is this Carl?"

"Yes?" Carl replies.

"Hi Carl, it's Simon from IT at work."


"So Carl, you asked for an upgrade to your laptop to enable you to 'work from home properly,' as you put it."

"Uh-huh," Carl grunts.

"OK, I've got this because your current work laptop is only … a year old … so I'm just trying to see what the problem is."

"I just can't do everything I need to."

"Everything you need to. Can you give me an idea of the problem?"

"Lots of things," Carl says, sounding a bit peeved I'm not trusting his functionality compass.

"Sure, sure," I say kindly. "Just help me out with the specifics."

"Colour depth," Carl says. "The colours aren't right."

"Mmmm …" I murmur.

"And there's not enough system memory," he continues.

"Memory. Right, right," I affirm. "Anything else?"

"The hard drive's too small, and the CPU's too slow."

"OK, I think that about covers it. And I see you've sent a link to the laptop you think you need."

"Yes," Carl says, "it's got all the features I need for my job."

"Fair enough," I agree. "Though I see it's a gaming laptop – not a business laptop."

"It's only called that because of the overclocking features of the CPU and the graphics card."

"OK then," I say. "So you need a laptop about three times the price of the laptops we normally buy for staff. What's your job, Carl, as it's not mentioned here?"

"I'm the new product design researcher."

"A new product design researcher," I say in hushed tones of awe. "And I guess that involves a lot of manipulation of products with a 3D rendering engine and I'm guessing some VR use – as you've also asked for a headset."

"It's a complex job," Carl replies.

"It must be – with so many false alarms too." 

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, Carl, that I've been here 20 years and I've only seen about seven new products. They execute dictators more often than that."

"A lot of them don't make it past the focus groups," he replies.

"Since you've been here, Carl, none of them have made it past the focus groups. In fact, until you got here, we didn't even have focus groups."

"The company would rather have quality than quantity," he explains.

"Yes, but if the quantity is zero, one has to wonder whether you're just feeding and watering a bunch of your mates on the company dime and then axing the product to spend more work time playing MMORPGs at home – instead of coming into work."

"I was diagnosed with WTS – that's wind turbine syndrome," Carl says, defensively.

"Yes. You started 13 months ago, we all spent 11 of those months in isolation and the last two you've been battling, um, WTS. I checked around and it turns out you've never actually visited the workplace. However, the good news is my medical focus group and I recently had a bunch of lagers (on the company dime) and reviewed your diagnosis."

"That's private!"

"Not when our company has a duty of care to its workers. We wouldn't want to be ignoring the health and wellbeing of our workforce – especially when they're not in the workplace for a friendly check-in. Anyway, we took a look at your symptoms over some drinks – paid for with your focus group money – and we feel you were misdiagnosed. What you thought was WTS was in fact 'nocebo malady'."

"What's that?"

"It's the new bastion of the workshy, Carl. Symptoms so nebulous that even people with electromagnetic hypersensitivity get jealous when they hear about them."

"It's a real thing!" Carl says.

"So real that I can see it takes all your work-time effort to play those MMORPG games for six hours continuously – before, no doubt, having a 'focus group meeting' and then playing for another six."

"How do you …"

"It's a work machine, Carl. We have to be able to check on it to make sure it's working safely and isn't handing out your private and personal information – which I think it may have started doing in the wee hours this morning. It may also have made some radical changes to your social media profile and even signed you up to host your mother's bridge club and offered to open up your garden to influencers' photo shoots.

"There's a giant, waterproof poster reading Live, Laugh, Love in comic sans font making its way down your street now. That's going to be what you look at every time you try to drink a beer.

"You've offered to hand out lemon waters as needed for the selfie-takers, by the way. #BLESSED."

"What the …"

"So perhaps you want to bring your current laptop in personally so that we can check it out? It could be that after us taking a look at it you might find it does suit your needs. Perhaps when you've been at work you'll realise what a safe environment it is?"

"I …"

"So much safer than home," I add.

"You can't!"

"I didn't! I think your machine did." 

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