Computing

How a MacBook Pro got me back into PC gaming

The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip seen from behind.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

I have fond memories of the old days of PC gaming. That is, the old days for me. Games like Starcraft and Elder Scrolls: Morrowind had a big impact — but honestly, it’s remembering the endless hours of Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn that ring my nostalgia bell the loudest.

But somewhere along the way, I more or less retired from regular gaming. Between reaching my mid-30s, getting some new hobbies, being married, buying a house, and having kids, I wasn’t finding a lot of time or energy for the old pastime. It sounds stereotypical, I know, but its sadly true.

Then a laptop came around called the M3 Max MacBook Pro, along with a little game called Baldur’s Gate 3. And bam — all of a sudden, I was 13 again, compelled by an expansive game world and a convenient means to easily get there.

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It’s all about convenience

A screenshot from Baldur's Gate 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Baldur’s Gate II came out in the year 2000. I’m not going to try and pretend I remember the details of all my experience with this game, but let’s just say I wasn’t a hardcore PC gamer at the age of 13. I played it on whatever computer my parents happened to have, which was primarily used to access AOL. It was the same beige computer on which I did homework assignments, chatted on AIM, and made my first MySpace account.

The metaphor isn’t perfect, but being drawn to Baldur’s Gate 3 on the M3 Max MacBook Pro felt a lot like that for me. These days, you’re not going to play AAA PC games by accident. You need some dedicated hardware to make those games work well, and most of it is targeted specifically at that demographic. That is, for the most part, has been a good thing. But that’s definitely not what the M3 Max MacBook Pro is. Even as it’s launched its own gaming service in Apple Arcade, Apple has always seemed to hold the PC gaming community at arm’s length. There are signs of that changing in the near future, but we’re still in the beginning stages.

I’ve been using the 14-inch M3 Max MacBook Pro for the past month or so, and wrote the initial review of it after it launched in November. The most notable thing about it is the huge boost in graphics with the M3 Max. The previous versions were powerful, but for the first time, the hardware here felt capable enough to handle many of the latest flagship PC games without sacrificing too much in settings. And hey — Baldur’s Gate 3 just so happens to be one of the big new titles to run natively on Macs.

A MacBook Pro on a table in front of a window.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

It’s not just the fact that it can handle a game like Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s that it handles it like a dream. Unlike almost every gaming laptop I’ve ever used, the temperature on the surface of the device never gets uncomfortably hot, and the fan noise doesn’t overpower the fantastic speakers. You can even play this game unplugged from the wall without a discernible drop in performance.

I have to mention the screen too. Gaming laptops are finally starting to catch up with some of the mini-LED displays out there, but the XDR display on the MacBook Pro is still unbeaten in terms of quality. The colorful and detailed world of Baldur’s Gate 3 looks gorgeous in HDR — a perfect match for the the MacBook Pro’s bright, bold screen. Throw in the ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate and the clarity of its glossy screen, and you have a visual feast accessible right at your fingertips. It’s even one of the few games you can comfortably play right on the trackpad, which is a huge convenience factor. I know that sounds crazy — but trust me, it works.

All of that means I have an incredible gaming experience on the same laptop that I’ve been composing articles on, writing emails, and taking Zoom calls. It’s right there, just like that beige box I used back in the early 2000s in my parent’s basement. And that accessibility has made it far easier to jump in here and there when I have the time.

Of course, a MacBook Pro alone isn’t enough to get me hooked on a game. I needed something that reached deep into my brain and tapped a nerve of pure nostalgia and joy. And for me, that’s exactly what Baldur’s Gate 3 offered.

Pure nostalgia

A player looting the gilded chest in Baldur's Gate 3.
Larian studios

I’m happy to admit that nostalgia plays such a big role in my connection to Baldur’s Gate 3. Like my resurged obsession with embarrassing 2000s-era pop punk, I should have known that the game to get me back into gaming would be something directly tied to my adolescence. Because that’s exactly what Baldur’s Gate 3 is — old school in all the best ways.

Rather than adopt a more modern storytelling style or updated combat mechanics, Baldur’s Gate 3 feels almost relentlessly determined to stay true to its roots as a Dungeons and Dragons tabletop adventure. The absorbing story doesn’t rely on extravagant cut scenes and cinematic drama, but instead on dialogue trees, digital dice rolling, and choices you make. It seems to revel in just how nerdy it is too — never wincing away at less dorky costumes, characters, and storylines. And that’s exactly what makes it so charming and unique.

Heck, for me, even the frustrating bits are nostalgia bait. It’s clunky at times, there are plenty of graphical glitches, and sometimes I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. If you spent time PC gaming in the early 2000s, all of that should be familiar territory.

In all my time trying out new devices and testing out games on them, I’ve never felt drawn to go beyond what I needed to properly evaluate the product. It’s not that there haven’t been games that intrigued me over the years. Of course not. A brief stint in Halo Infinite was the last time a game like this grabbed me, and it was for very similar reasons. But as life has gotten busier, the barrier of entry of time and convenience keeps getting higher and higher.

Being absorbed into a game like Baldur’s Gate 3 on a MacBook Pro somehow smashed its way through that barrier, and left me reminiscing about when PC games, technology, and life itself was a bit simpler.

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Courtesy by: Digital Trends

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