The height of summer is upon us, and for many places in the US, that means the proliferation of storms. From garden-variety showers to powerful blow-up storms, any rain shower with thunder and lightning can pose a threat to household electronics (not to mention life and other property). Just a few weeks ago, gaming news outlet Kotaku ran a story about a man in Florida who was shocked through his controller when lightning struck his house during a storm. A similar situation happened to pro Rocket League player and streamer karmaah, whose controller was fried while she was streaming. Lightning is no joke, people!
Despite these terrifying stories, a lot of people don’t take lightning and storms seriously. As the National Weather Service says, “When thunder roars, go indoors!” Even when you’re indoors, lightning and power surges can still hurt any electronics you may be using, like wired controllers, consoles, PCs, TVs, monitors, and more. Your PC and consoles may have already survived situations like this, but why take chances? When you hear thunder, protect your investment – and your save files! – by taking just a few simple steps.
This first tip is the easiest – if you hear loud thunder or see close lightning, unplug your stuff! Even if you have surge protectors equipped, unplugging your devices is the fastest and most simple way to keep them protected. This tip is especially useful if you live in an older house or apartment that might have exposed, brittle, or damaged wiring. Surge protectors can handle everyday power surges, but the force of a powerful bolt of lightning may still be too much. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
When I was in college, the girls on my dorm hall used to make fun of me because I wouldn’t take showers during thunderstorms. Our dorm was built in the 1970s, and it had a lot of exposed metal piping and wiring – there was no way I was going to take a risk like that. I apply the same mentality now to my gaming setup: when the alternative to spending hundreds of dollars on replacing your consoles and games is simply unplugging them before a storm arrives, the choice is easy.
If you’re bound and determined to keep raiding or battling during a storm, first make sure that you have a way to receive severe weather alerts on your phone or other device. (If you’re really old-fashioned, you might even have a weather radio in your basement.) In the moist, volatile atmosphere of summer, storms can form and become powerful very quickly. If a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning is issued for your area, you don’t want to miss it because you were busy becoming the next Apex Legends champion. (No, of course I’m not speaking from experience.)
While gaming in a storm, make sure that any part of the device that comes into contact with your skin isn’t plugged into an outlet. If you’re using a laptop, don’t plug it into the wall or try to charge it. If you’re using a console, use wireless controllers. For a full-size PC setup, try using a wireless mouse and keyboard; be aware, though, that if your wireless devices use a dongle that plugs into your tower and your PC is struck by lightning through its wiring, it may fry the components that the dongle uses to facilitate wireless connection.
Avoid the outdoors
This should be obvious, but when it’s storming, avoid meeting up with friends outside to game together or chasing Pokémon through parks in Pokémon Go. If you’re outside during a thunderstorm, you should be more concerned about your own safety than that of any electronic device you have on you, but the point still stands. Pokémon Go in particular has caused a fair amount of accidents because players aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. Don’t be one of those people who gives Trainers a bad name.
It should be mentioned too that you can be struck by lightning even if it’s not raining. Thunderstorms often take on what’s known as an “anvil” shape: they’re flat on the bottom where it’s raining, but farther up in the atmosphere, the top of the storm cloud actually extends horizontally beyond the area of rain. Lightning can and does come out of the end of the anvil, striking people even when the sun is out and it’s not raining. Even if the weather looks fine, if you hear thunder, it’s best to pack up any outdoor activity you might be doing and head for home.
No matter what you’re doing in a game, if a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado warning is issued for your area, you should stop immediately and heed the advice of the National Weather Service. If you need to take shelter or get out of the way of a storm, that takes precedence over the raid you’re participating in or the multiplayer match that gives you a penalty for leaving early. Even if your account gets a strike or a penalty, keeping yourself and your stuff safe always takes precedence. If you need to take shelter, don’t bother trying to bring your console or PC with you. (I will admit, though, that I always grabbed my Nintendo DS on the way to our family basement when storms struck.) The biggest reason why people get injured or killed in thunderstorms is because they aren’t following the advice of watches and warnings.
It might seem like a trivial thing to get upset over, but the power of nature is no joke. Lightning and thunderstorms should always be taken seriously, particularly if you live in an area where they’re less common and you might not have proper protection against them. Technology is expensive, and things like save files can be impossible to replace, particularly with older consoles that don’t use cloud saves. With a little bit of forethought and planning, you can make sure that your setup – and you! – stay safe during thunderstorms.