Headless Macs At The Gaming Table

A Headless Mac at Our Gaming Table

I inherited a not-terrible older MacBook Air from my wonderful father-in-law, after he upgraded his system. The system had only one teeny problem: The screen didn't work.

Admittedly, that's usually something of a dealbreaker for a laptop, and thus the device sat on my shelf for a while while I tried to think of a use case. I knew that I could get it to work as a quasi-desktop – by hooking up a keyboard, mouse/trackpad, and monitor – but that didn't wasn't useful to my daily life, since "working computers" already outnumber humans in our household by a concerning ratio.

But not too long ago, I realized that there might be a solution: Can I somehow remove the screen and still end up with a working laptop?

It turns out that, yes, you can totally do that, and about a billion other geeks have been me to the punch by years. I am not so much a "trendsetter" as a "trend observer."

The idea is this: By removing the screen, you maintain the use of the keyboard and the trackpad, only needing to hook it up to a monitor (and laptop power, if the battery isn't great or if you'll be using it for a while). This results in a "headless" computer that only requires an external display.

The actual process is beyond this post; if you search YouTube and the Internet for "headless Mac" (no quotes), you'll see a number of tutorials and guides. I'd never poked around inside a Mac laptop before, but this model was surprisingly straightforward. (Again, this isn't advice, you know your own skills better than I do, and don't poke lithium batteries with screwdrivers.)

Still, once I'd created it, I realized that this was a near-perfect tool for me as a gamer. More and more games need an online component, but they're a pain to set up in a way that everyone can view the info easily. And, lo, one headless Mac hooked up to our living-room television, and suddenly everyone can see the game's website in 55" hi-definition glory. (This particular game is Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, from Portal Games.) The setup worked great, and we're looking forward to trying it with future games.

-- Steven Marsh