Play your games in borderless windows
Back when I played WoW, I used to run it in “fullscreen windowed” mode as opposed to regular fullscreen. This meant it was running as if it was in windowed mode, but lacked the taskbar and the normal title bar and borders of a window. It was fantastic for tabbing out a lot (like reading raiding guides or waiting for loading screens) and has been known to improve FPS in certain cases. I’ve even had problems before where alt-tabbing just once can make it harder to get back into the game (I’m looking at you, Skyrim). Which makes it unfortunate when games don’t have this option.
In this case, I came across this problem with The Sims 3 in fullscreen mode. I’d often switch to my browser to look up guides or information, or just to read something while there was a loading screen or my Sims were sleeping. The problem is that the game automatically pauses while you’re tabbed out, even if you’re on a loading screen. I tried windowed mode but the title bar and window borders would push part of the game off the screen. And running the game at a smaller resolution is just wrong.
It took some searching before I discovered what I was looking for was called “borderless windows”. There’s actually a couple of small programs that let you do this with just about any game or program:
I haven’t tested out ShiftWindow but I have tried the other two on The Sims 3. They do quite a good job, although there is still a slight border left (only a few pixels on each side). Borderless Gaming has a slightly easier to use interface, but it uses up more memory than Windowed Borderless Gaming (about 15 MB compared to 5MB). Chances are any gaming computer has a lot of RAM so memory usage probably isn’t a big deal for you. Windowed Borderless Gaming says that this makes it easier to stream gameplay so these programs might be of interest to those of you who use Twitch.tv regularly.
If you do decide to try borderless windows, let me know in the comments how it turns out! It would be interesting to see which games it works with and if it improves your experience.