Last night the world was mine. All but one city had been conquered. Soon humanity would be formed in my image, a civilization built from one tiny tribe into an all-powerful, happy, scientifically advanced society.
Just one more city to go. I launched my tank attack, positioned my bombers and arranged the infantry for the final push. It wouldn’t take long, I knew it, and as the dominoes fell, total victory would be mine.
And then Civilization V crashed.
Still, looking on the bright side, it could have far worse. All that happened was a game crashing, one that I would be able to return to. The hard disk drive remains intact, the computer’s hardware is still running reasonably well and all of my files and folders remain.
And yet, video game crashes are still extremely frustrating – especially as they really shouldn’t happen in this day and age. There are various factors that can determine why a crash has occurred, and these will tell you the eventual fix for the issue.
A Note About Overclocking
Many gamers overclock their systems, pushing the CPU to a faster speed in order to gain performance benefits. When coupled with good ventilation and cooling, this can reap great results.
However, it isn’t a 100% perfect method of increasing performance. Games can still crash.
If you’re overclocking your system, you should reset your processor (and GPU, if appropriate) to default settings for troubleshooting. Should this result in no improvement, then there is every chance that the issue is related to something else…
Is Your Hardware Up To the Task?
The first thing to check is the most obvious, yet people still omit to check whether or not their computer hardware is up to the task of running the “problem” game. I guess the existence of console games is partly to blame for this, but I don’t think it’s a good excuse. You wouldn’t buy diesel for a petrol-powered car, would you? So why buy a video game without checking that it will work?
On the back of a video game box at the bottom you’ll find the minimum and recommended system requirements. You’ll need to make sure that your PC meets these before installing and running the game, otherwise it is likely that you’ll experience problems with the title.
In fact, it’s worth looking into these specs online. Wikipedia is a great source of video game system specs, while the publisher’s website will also provide the same information. If you have any doubts or questions, you can check the game’s support or fan forums and do a search or ask a question.
Failure to be running the right hardware means one thing: you need to upgrade before you can play the game. This might mean anything from a whole new system to adding extra storage space to your computer.
For Windows computers, the Windows Experience Index is a good indicator of whether you have the best for gaming. A high score in this index means that your computer is more suited for gaming.
Graphics Cards and Power
One common reason for games crashing is a problem with the power supply unit. This is commonly linked to the graphics adapter demanding more power than is available, and can only be resolved by upgrading the PSU to a more powerful device, one capable of serving the entire computer with the energy needed to play the game.
Before swapping out the power supply unit, however, check that the graphics card (and indeed the rest of the computer) is clean and free from dust. Build-up of dust can increase the temperature inside a PC, a process that can put additional load on the CPU and video card. Greater load means a higher temperature… and so on. If dust is considerable and the fans are not sufficient for cooling, disaster will strike.
Is Your Operating System the Right One?
Something else that you will find on the back of your video game box as part of the system specification is the correct operating system and version that is required to run the title.
The vast majority of games will run on Windows XP SP3, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, although this isn’t necessarily true across the board. Making the right choice based on your OS is important, however.
Naturally, the issues of operating systems and hardware are closely linked. Older hardware running Windows XP is unlikely to be suitable for running the most up-to-date video games.
On a similar note, you may find that there is a compatibility issue between a 64 bit computer, the operating system and the game. In this situation, seek out the necessary Windows Updates to resolve the incompatibility. As far as Windows 7 and Windows 8 go, 64 bit compatibility issues are all but extinct.
The sensible option for resolving issues with hardware and your PC’s operating system is to upgrade. This can prove expensive, however – fortunately, there are several steps you can take before heading down this path.
Games can crash for reasons beyond (but not unrelated to) unsuitable hardware and operating systems. Video drivers, for instance, should be up to date, as should the game itself.
- To update your video drivers you should visit the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version of the driver. The installation may require your PC to be restarted.
- Once this has been done, you should also look for any patches and updated for the game in question. These will be available from the publisher’s website, and should be installed and applied before running. Some games will automatically check for updates and install them before they load.
- Run Windows Update to download any driver updates for devices such as network cards. Additional support for graphic card drivers can be found here.
If you are playing an online game, crashes can occur when network problems cause delays to the game client being updated by the remote server.
There are many reasons why this might happen, and you can get around it by making sure that your network speed is suitable for playing the game. You should also check your router and disable other Internet applications to ensure that only the game receives data.
Digital Rights Management
Another aspect that can cause performance issues in games is the dreaded digital rights management. I recently abandoned a nostalgic replay of Splinter Cell: Conviction due to persistent crashes caused by Ubisoft’s DRM (a problem that didn’t occur once when I played it previously).
Network issues can be to blame with DRM, but usually it is because of the resources of the DRM client or the status of the remote server that is causing your game to crash.
If an offline play option is available here you should take it. This will prevent the DRM from checking with the remote server for suspicious activity in the game or account. Otherwise, you’ll be left with no choice but to uninstall the game.
Read: DRM is most likely evil.
Conclusion: Get Your Games Working Right!
There is no sure-fire method to resolve problems with crashed games. However, among the solutions of upgrading storage, RAM, video adapter and even the motherboard and CPU, updates to the operating system and video drivers and patching the game itself, you should find the fix you need and start enjoying the game at last.
In my case, I simply needed to close down some background applications (the 53 tabs I had open in Waterfox were causing a problem.) If you’re not sure what is causing your game to crash, you can take advantage of the Windows Event Viewer tool to keep a log on what is happening to your PC when the game crashes. This can be used for diagnostic purposes.
It is also worth running demo versions of games before installing the full version, just to ensure that the title will play correctly on your PC. At the first opportunity with the full game, check online for patches that will improve stability.
Finally, keep a note of what you’ve done – not only will this help you next time you play or install the game, it may also prove useful for resolving problems with other games!