Your car-guy dad probably spent – or spends – hundreds of hours
tinkering with his ride, customizing every last detail to his
These days, there’s a new object of obsessive
tweaking and tuning. If you’re into computers, especially
high-powered gaming machines, you might also be into “case modding,”
tricking out the container that holds your PC’s guts and brains.
Inventive case modders around the world are turning
their backs on drab assembly-line beige computer boxes in favor of
their own creations.
Whether by design or accident, case modders borrow
some terminology from car enthusiasts.
“They actually use the terminology ‘soup up
their rig,’” said Jason “sight|i|picture” Harper, co-owner of
LAN Party Northwest (www.LANPartyNW.com),
which organizes events for gamers so they can compete against each
other, connected in a Local Area Network. “And they’re not talking
about their car or their truck. They’re gonna soup up their gaming
Harper, a Sumner High School graduate who lives in
Marysville, has seen a range of case mods. When the craze began
several years ago, a mod might have consisted of a clear box with
lighted tubes and fans. More recently, modders have found
unconventional containers for their rigs.
“One person brought in a (radio-controlled) Hummer
to one of our 60-Man LAN parties,” Harper said. “The very next LAN
party, he brought that Hummer and a Mini Cooper.”
Marc “LaughinJack” Gilbert is the modder who
built those rigs. The 35-year-old Bothell resident said he spent about
three weeks building the Hummer, a computer he drives through the
front doors of LAN parties he attends.
“I stripped the insides and mounted the
motherboard,” Gilbert said. “After that, it’s really just a
matter of putting the power supply and the fans in.”
Gilbert is one of several modders who have shown off
their creations at gaming events hosted by LAN Party Northwest.
Modders will make PC cases out of just about
anything they can get their hands on.
There are beer-keg PCs, fish-tank PCs, coffee-maker
PCs, engine-block PCs, microwave-oven PCs, sports-themed PCs,
hamster-cage PCs. And, at a LAN Party Northwest event, at least one PC
was housed in a Mirage Casino-themed shell alongside Macintosh
A German modder did away with cases altogether and
simply sprayed polyurethane foam on naked computer parts. The bulbous
and bubbly end result could float but wasn’t 100 percent watertight.
A recent issue of the quarterly Make magazine
featured a guide for turning your old Atari 2600 console into a
high-end gaming computer.
Troy Fryfogle, 36, runs the Web site www.casemodgod.com
out of his home in rural Michigan. A husband, father and
meat-department manager at a grocery store, Fryfogle started modding
by putting a window and colored light tubes in a computer case.
His most recent creation is a little more radical.
“I’ve got a Hannibal Lecter mask, so I’m going
to fix him up like Hannibal Lecter and wheel him into QuakeCon,”
Fryfogle said of the rig he finished a few weeks ago, a gaming machine
installed in a mannequin. (QuakeCon is a huge four-day celebration in
Dallas of all things id Software, the company that makes the Doom,
Quake and Castle Wolfenstein games, among others.)
Fryfogle’s statue PC rolls its eyes, which are
controlled by a button on Fryfogle’s keyboard. Another button makes
red lights shoot out of the mannequin’s head, a nod to Fryfogle’s
motto: “Mod it ’til it bleeds.”
“I think it’ll turn some heads,” Fryfogle said
of the machine that cost him about $1,800 and half a year of
off-and-on tinkering to create.
Getting started is just a matter of overcoming your
fear of cracking your PC box, he said.
“It’s more intimidating than difficult,” he
said. “If you’re intimidated by opening your computer in the first
place, don’t mod. But if you don’t mind cracking it open and doing
a little poking around, you’ll probably enjoy modding.”
Fryfogle has about 40 do-it-yourself guides posted
on his Web site.
Modding can become an obsession.
Look at the cars parked at Harper’s home for
monthly LAN Party Northwest gaming nights, and then look at the
players’ computers. “You can tell where their money is going,”
LAN Party Northwest hosts monthly “gLAN” gaming
events (so called because they take place in Harper’s renovated
garage) as well as two large LAN events each year in Everett. Gamers
from all over the country have shown up at their 400-Man LAN events.
The next one is Sept. 2-4, and Harper said he expects to see some wild
case mods entered in the event’s case-mod contest.
While outrageous design is appreciated, so is clean
organization and smart problem solving. Many gamers “overclock”
their systems, pushing their rigs’ brains to the limits. The extra
activity tends to heat up computer innards, so some modders have gone
as far as installing radiator-like water cooling systems in their
computers, Harper said.
Mod it up
Want to mod? Look for helpful guides and galleries
at www.casemodgod.com. Got