It’s not exactly summer camp on Antarctica. Long summer days where the sun literally never sets, and normal February temperatures are in the negative-twenties. And if you’re a researcher on one of the U.S. bases, like McMurdo Station or the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, Internet is only allowed if it doesn’t interfere with work. It’s the end of the world, not unlike being in space or the bottom of the ocean.
The stations are governed by the National Science Foundation, and you have to agree to the “Information System Rules of Behavior” in order to use the internet at all. But since the internet bandwidth is incredibly weak, and unless you want to be at risk of criminal prosecution—or worse, no internet at all— there is no Netflix, no online video games, no YouTube.
According to posts on r/Antarctica, a Reddit community dedicated to Antarctica residents and enthusiasts, people at US stations are trying everything from building an Oculus Rift by hand to bringing elaborate gaming PCs to make the best of it.
When user u/v100v asked r/antarctica if you can “game” in Antarctica, people working in Antarctica were eager to respond.
“I can only speak for the U.S. stations, but not really no,” replied user throwawayaustralis. “Besides being (to my understanding), a violation of the USAP user agreement which can result in getting your network privileges revoked, internet speeds are very slow, approach almost dial-up in high summer. The program has been taking steps to ensure equitable distribution of said limited bandwidth by blocking services like Steam and Spotify.”
But the LAN party is alive and well at the bottom of the earth: another user who claimed to be based in McMurdo said that there are, in fact, vibrant (offline) multi-player video game parties.
“There's weekly quake III sessions at Palmer that get incredible intense (I'm looking at you Judo guy!)” u/user_1729 wrote. “My roommate here in McMurdo has a high end gaming PC complete with 3D glasses and everything, but it's not connected to the internet. My last winter, I played a lot of 4 player COD. If you have the motivation, you can get a fancy gaming PC down here for sure.”
User AlwaysUpvoteDogs, who claimed to be based in the South Pole, said that he and a group of workers are trying to build a VR headset by hand.“One of the winterovers at Pole bought all the necessary components and we're waiting on them now,” they said. “We're going to build a gaming computer and set up an Oculus Rift.”
Virtual reality is already being used as exposure therapy for people with PTSD, phobias, and generalized anxiety. With reports of the Antarctican drinking scene being intense (and perhaps dangerous), perhaps virtual reality and 3D gaming offer healthier alternatives to the mental toll of being stationed at the end of the world.