Adapt > Engage > Dominate

Gaming PCs vs Consoles

There is so much misinformation floating around the Internet about the cons of going the PC route for gaming.  It’s maddening, because it’s usually garbage.  Let’s go over a few misconceptions:

  1. PC gaming is expensive.
  2. PC gaming requires constant upgrades to be able to run games.
  3. PC gaming requires the gamer to know way more than they should have to about computers.
  4. PC gaming requires the gamer to constantly update stuff.
  5. PC graphics are only marginally better than console graphics.
  6. PC gaming requires gamers’ computers to meet wildly varying requirements.
  7. PC games don’t keep their value/can’t be played as long as console games.

1.  PC gaming is NOT expensive.  Sure, on the surface, it appears to be expensive.  You have to buy a $3000 PC, constantly upgrade it with $500 graphics cards, etc.  Think again.  You can build your own gaming PC for about $700-1500, depending on what stuff you want to spring for (that range includes purchasing a monitor, speakers, etc.).  Ok, that’s cheaper than $3000, but it’s still way more expensive than $300 for a console, you say.

Uh huh.  Let’s see, taking the 360 Slim as an example: console – 300, additional controller (for friends/family) – 40 + endless batteries (say $10 for now), HDTV – 500 (there are cheaper ones and more expensive ones, of course, but let’s just take that as a round figure), Live Gold subscription – 60.  Let’s add that up…$910.  Wow, look at that.  Just about the same as a PC!  Btw, every console game is usually $10 more than its PC counterpart.  Just saying.

Now, if you have a big shiny TV already, you don’t need to buy one, but you’re still going to get set back about $410.  If you think you’re too stupid or “don’t have the time” (one of the worst excuses I’ve ever heard) to figure out how to build a computer and what parts you need to get, it’s called researching.  In a few days, anyone with marginal intelligence can figure out how to do it.  Note that this does NOT mean buying the most expensive components–that defeats the purpose.

There’s more to this than the dollar value though.  Think about what you can do on these two systems.  On a PC, you can do EVERYTHING.  Game, work, watch videos, surf the Web, edit video, develop software, check your RSS feeds, IM, check email, etc. etc. etc.  On an Xbox, you can play games, watch movies, download content (which is locked to your console btw), usual social networking stuff, and…apart from a few other things which I may have missed, that’s about it.  Remember–you’re probably reading this post on a PC.  If you had chosen a moderately good machine when you bought it, you wouldn’t have had to blow hundreds of extra dollars buying that console and all those accessories.

2.  PC do NOT require constant upgrades to play games.  The computer I’m writing from will soon be four years old. 4.  And it can still run every single game I throw at it, from Bad Company 2 to Crysis to Starcraft 2.  Guess what–I’ve made exactly one “upgrade”–my graphics card.  The only reason I had to get a new one was because my previous card failed.  Otherwise, I’d have made no upgrades and would still be playing the latest games with ease.  If you get a DECENT CPU, a DECENT amount of memory, and a DECENT graphics card, you are set.  That’s all there is to it.  If you get the cheapest, most pathetic computer on sale and expect it to play games well for years, you are officially a fool.

3.  PC gaming does NOT require a substantial amount of computer knowledge.  You need to know how to insert a DVD, click OK, and click the shortcut for your game.  It’s pretty hard.  While that is a simplification, you honestly aren’t doing anything that different from a console.  Yes, of course, sometimes weird stuff happens and you have to look it up online or call tech support.  However, IN GENERAL, there is very little required of PC gamers besides clicking some buttons.  This is by design.  Companies know that their customers are, for the most part, lazy and idiotic.

4.  PC gaming does NOT require you to constantly update things.  DirectX gets installed by the games themselves, you don’t even have to do anything.  Yeah, but what about drivers, you say.  Haha, you got me!  No, actually you didn’t.  I can’t even remember the last time I updated my graphics, audio, etc. drivers.  You know what?  Nothing bad happened.  My games still run fine.   A nice rule of thumb is that you don’t need to bother updating driver unless something goes wrong.  While it is true that you can get better performance out of some games and that updated drivers fix issues, most of the time it isn’t a problem.  Game updates are now simpler than ever.  Most games nowadays have some big button that says “CLICK TO UPDATE” when you run the game.  Or it simply updates itself before letting you play.  Sounds pretty simple to me, but what do I know.

Btw, you might be interested to know that updating stuff like this in Linux is drop-dead simple.  You–that’s right–click a button to update everything, unlike Windows.

5.  PC graphics are WAY better than console graphics.  Seriously, it’s not even a contest.  When you’re really involved in a game, it probably won’t matter, but still–looking at fuzzy, 5+ year old graphics coming out of a console compared to crystal clear graphics pouring from a PC is like night and day.  Of course, this is a matter of taste–if you don’t mind, then it’s not a deal breaker.

6.  PC game requirements do NOT require you to set up Excel spreadsheets for comparison and make upgrades.  Check the boxes carefully.  Most games probably only require you to: a) have a computer not from the Stone Age b) be connected to the Internet.  This means a recent version of Windows (easily met) in a half decent PC (see #2), most likely with broadband access (which you need for consoles, too).  Hitting the recommended requirements works pretty much the same–if you have a half decent PC, you’re good to go.  I don’t even look at requirements anymore, because my PC always “passes.”

7.  PC games keep their value and can be played LONG after the matching console has died and/or become unsupported.  I’m still playing Age of Empires II, which came out in 1999.  That’s over 10 years ago.  12 to be exact.  Let me ask you, do you think you’ll still be able to play your console games in a supported environment in 12+ years?  Nowadays, the answer might actually be yes, but when the company pulls the plug on support for the console and stops making their future units backward compatible, you are dead.  Unless your unit still works.  Or unless you can find another one if yours doesn’t.  All those delicious games will just be collecting dust.

I realize that anyone who finds this post and tries reading it probably gave up before they got to #1 due to ADD, but if you made it this far, congratulations.  You’ve hopefully now seen that most of the myths floating around about PC gaming are false and that it can be a great platform upon which to play games.

Don’t think that I hate consoles, however.  I think they are marvelous pieces of technology, not just the hardware, but the software as well (matchmaking, friend network, content delivery, etc.).  I think it’s great to be able to play games on your couch or your bed looking at a gigantic, crystal clear screen on the wall in high definition.  As a programmer, I really appreciate the fact that they are all the same (fewer configurations to check) and are more challenging to code for (really tight memory requirements, for example).  However, I think it is very silly for gamers–or anyone else–to discredit PCs as one of the best platforms for playing games.


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